In 2016, the Scottsdale City Council in Arizona prevented The Satanic Temple from delivering an invocation at one of their meetings. The reason they gave at the time was that the Temple had no presence in the city — the chapter was based in Tucson, not Scottsdale — even though they never asked about that during the application process. So why did that issue come up only after the Satanists had been given a green light to speak?
Seemed like a fair question.
The Satanic Temple, months later, sent a letter to the council warning them against further discrimination. This time, they had some proof that the council members were actively trying to silence them and that the whole “where are you based?” question was nothing more than a distraction.
Mayor [Jim] Lane and Councilwoman [Suzanne] Klapp made various anti-Satanic comments to the media that indicate that they wish to use the county’s invocation practice exactly for such “impermissible government purpose[s]”… For example, Mayor Lane stated: “In Scottsdale, we’ve decided to keep our traditional invocations and we’ve decided to send this Satanist sideshow elsewhere.” Lane For Scottsdale 2016 [link]: He went on to say, “not on my watch. Not in the best city in America. We’re telling the Satanists, hell no.”
It didn’t stop there. Mayor Jim Lane was up for re-election, and one of his campaign flyers included a line about how he was proudly discriminating against Satanists.
That circled bit says Lane “Stopped so called ‘Satanists’ from mocking City Hall traditions with a ‘prayer.’”
At this point, the city council had two choices: Take back their words and allow the Satanists to speak… or get hit with a discrimination lawsuit.
The city never took that threat seriously, but the Satanists did, and in February of 2018, they hit the city with a lawsuit over what they claimed was a violation of the Establishment Clause.
The Satanists (including member Michelle Shortt) alleged that in the eight years prior to their invocation request, “every invocation given was of the Judeo-Christian faith.” After the Satanists’ request was made, one council member, Kathy Littlefield, told her constituents that she did “NOT want the Satanists” speaking and considered their invitation “taking equality too far.”
The lawsuit also pointed out that Lane told his constituents that the invocations were diverse as is, and to prove it, he referred to the “respectful and thoughtful messages from Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and countless other faiths.” That was quite a statement considering that, according to the complaint, “At no time have members of the Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindus faith given an invocation before the Scottsdale City Council.”
The implication was clear: No matter what these people said, they only wanted Christian speakers. Satanists weren’t allowed. It was clear-cut discrimination against a belief system that the council members didn’t like. That’s why The Satanic Temple called it a violation of the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause as well as a violation of the “Toleration of Religious Sentiment” clause of the Arizona Constitution.
Both sides are heading to court this Tuesday.
Meanwhile, two other Arizona cities have added invocations to their meetings: Surprise and Nogales. Both are aware Satanists may want to be included in the mix of speakers. Both say they’re prepared for that:
Asked if the Satanic Temple would be welcome at a Nogales City Council meeting, [Nogales Mayor Arturo] Garino said that he “wouldn’t even imagine what they would want to pray, but, I mean… if you’re going to open it up, it’s got to be open to everybody.”
In Surprise, City Attorney Robert Wingo advised the Surprise City Council as to what type of policies have held up in court. Mostly, he said, the city shouldn’t deny requests based on religion, and the invocation should be kept separate from council business.
“We can’t get into the business of determining whose beliefs are legitimate,” Wingo said.
It’s possible that the lawsuit in Scottsdale didn’t stop invocations elsewhere in the state, but everyone is aware that having invocations means they must be open to everyone. In that sense, the Satanists have already won. And given the facts in the Scottsdale case, they’re well on their way to winning that one, too.
(Top screenshot via Fox 10. Large portions of this article were published earlier)