In a post a few days ago, I wrote about how The Satanic Temple had applied to deliver the opening prayer at a meeting of the Phoenix, AZ city council. The council had been having opening prayers for over sixty years but the 2014 Greece v Galloway decision by the US Supreme Court had required government entities that offered such prayers to open it up to all groups and thus avoid the appearance of endorsing specific viewpoints.
The Satanists had booked the February 17th slot but this clearly did not please some members and they planned to introduce a motion that would only allow prayers by a group that had been invited by an elected official, no doubt thinking that it would take a very courageous elected official, even if a freethinker, to issue such an invitation to a group that seems to advocate satanic worship, even though that group actually promotes science and reason and opposes superstition. The Satanists promptly declared that they would sue the city council if they went ahead.
At a packed city council meeting yesterday, the city attorney informed the council that changing the rules by which people were allowed to give prayers to disallow people already scheduled to do so would leave the city on weak legal grounds. This issue was debated for several hours and finally a motion to replace the prayer altogether with a moment of silence was narrowly passed by a 5-4 vote, with the mayor breaking a 4-4 split.
Of course, some religious people on the council and the audience were not pleased even though they can still use that moment to pray silently. They want to praise Jesus loud and clear because their god apparently cannot hear silent prayer.
“This is not going to stop tonight if we lose this vote,” [Councilman Sal] DiCiccio said, explaining his belief that the city attorney “rigged the presentation.” He said he has heard from numerous residents of his district, all saying they want to keep the 65-year tradition of prayer in the City Council.
DiCiccio said he plans to take the issue to the public so they can vote on whether prayer will be banned or allowed in the City Council. He had a letter to that effect in his hand and planned to submit it pending the outcome of the vote and explained that he had already secured the support of the Valley’s religious community.
“I’m submitting the letter right for you folks to know for the election,” he said, holding up the letter right after the vote as City Council took a short break before wrapping up the items on its agenda.
DiCiccio said he would like the City Council to call for a public vote and put the issue on the May ballot. If that does not happen, he said supporters will start gathering the signatures necessary to put it on a future ballot.
Michelle Shortt, the Satanist who was due to give the invocation at the meeting on the 17th, posted what she would have said.
“Let us stand now, unbowed and unfettered by arcane doctrines born of fearful minds in darkened times. Let us embrace the Luciferian impulse to eat of the Tree of Knowledge and dissipate our blissful and comforting delusions of old. Let us demand that individuals be judged for their concrete actions, not their fealty to arbitrary social norms and illusory categorizations. Let us reason our solutions with agnosticism in all things, holding fast only to that which is demonstrably true. Let us stand firm against any and all arbitrary authority that threatens the personal sovereignty of One or All. That which will not bend must break, and that which can be destroyed by truth should never be spared its demise. It is Done. Hail Satan.”
Seems harmless to me.
The Satanists advocate for a secular public sphere or at least a pluralist one where all viewpoints are respected by the government. They have struck a blow for that in Phoenix.