The city of Scottsdale, Arizona wants even more taxpayer money — to the tune of $130,000 — in order to block Satanists from being able to deliver an invocation before city council meetings.
According to a paywalled article at the Arizona Republic, the city council plans to vote this week in favor of spending another $130,000 to fight the Satanists in court. That’s in addition to the $46,093 they’ve already spent on legal representation so far.
All of this dates back to 2016, when the city council 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 went to court last July. Attorney Stu de Haan explained that the city filed two motions to dismiss the case entirely, but both were denied. Other attempts to resolve the situation via summary judgment — since there were no facts in dispute — were also unsuccessful. The judge then said this case must go to trial.
De Haan pointed out to me that this entire (expensive) controversy concerns nothing more than a “90-second invocation.”
Whatever money the city council wants to use, it’s bound to be a waste considering the law is on the side of the Satanists. If there are invocation prayers at all, they must be open to everyone who wants to participate. Government officials can’t say no simply because they don’t take a particular belief seriously.
Taxpayers in Scottsdale should be furious at how their representatives are just burning up all this cash.
(Top screenshot via Fox 10. Large portions of this article were published earlier)