On the heels of Phoenix's eliminating the opening prayer at City Council meetings rather than cave to a demand by Satanists, a member of the Satanic Temple now is scheduled to give the invocation at a Scottsdale City Council meeting in April.
"The Satanic Temple requested to deliver an invocation at a City Council meeting, and are now scheduled to do so at the April 5 Scottsdale City Council meeting," city spokesman Kelly Corsette said today in an e-mail, adding that April 5 was the next available spot.
This comes just a week after the Phoenix City Council action, in which members voted to replace the opening prayer with a moment of silence as a way to prevent a Satanic Temple member from delivering the invocation, which it was scheduled to do at the February 17 council meeting.
Stu de Haan, a member of the Satanic Temple in Tucson, submitted the request to give the invocation in Phoenix and now also in Scottsdale, though he said the April 5 date is still tentative because his group might not be able to attend that day. He said the temple is requesting other dates.
De Haan said today that his group wants to give the opening prayer because "we want to participate, have our voice be heard, and let people know we won’t be disenfranchised.” De Haan added that he was surprised by the controversy that was generated by the request in Phoenix and doesn't know if they'll get the same reaction in Scottsdale.
“We have no idea what's going to happen," he said. “I doubt we’ll change their entire policy, but I just don’t know. We could do that, or they could just let us get in there, do our two minutes, and get out, which is all we’re intending on doing in the first place.”
The vote in Phoenix last week produced protests from residents and some council members who said having a moment of silence is equivalent to silencing prayer. Councilman Sal DiCiccio, one of the most vocal opponents, said he saw the vote as a victory for members of the Satanic Temple.
“This is what that Satanist group wants,” he said. “A moment of silence is basically a banning of prayer.”
De Haan said the goal of the Satanic Temple is not to replace prayer with a moment of silence. But, he said, "If that’s the way they want to equalize all the religions by not having anyone speak, that’s satisfactory to us because that is not disenfranchising us and not discriminating against us in particular.”
“The thing that’s bothering us is why should someone who believes in a supernatural God get more First Amendment rights than we have,” he said. “We are a religion and we have the same First Amendment rights that every other religion has and that every other person has.”
The Satanist group also has filed a request to give the invocation at other city council meetings, including in Chandler and in Tucson. De Haan said it looks like his group will be allowed to give the opening prayer at the council meeting in Sahuarita, a town south of Tucson. This haven't been scheduled yet, but the Satanists' request has been placed on a rotating list of faith groups waiting their turn to give the opening invocation.
Explaining Satanism, de Haan said it is a religion that promotes agnosticism and uses Satan as a metaphor for rebellion against autocratic institutions.
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“We’re not deists. We don’t believe in any higher power, so to speak. We don’t believe in God," he said. "We don’t believe Satan is an actual being, but we do live by a set of tenets that are kind of like commandments or guiding principles that other religious have."
Meanwhile, at the Arizona Legislature, House Majority Leader Steve Montenegro released a memo saying those who wish to give the opening prayer on the House of Representatives floor must include “a solemn request for guidance and help from God.” The memo was released January 27, the same day the Satanic Temple sent out a press release announcing it was scheduled to deliver the invocation at the Phoenix City Council meeting on February 17.
In the memo, Montenegro also wrote that members who want to “observe a moment of silence, recite a poem, express personal sentiments, or speak rather than pray” can do so but during time normally reserved for them to speak on the House floor. He also included other conditions, such as requiring individuals giving the prayer to do so in a solemn and respectful tone.