After local members of The Satanic Temple announced they were chosen to kick off a Phoenix City Council meeting next month by delivering the public invocation, one of the council’s more outspoken conservative members, Sal DiCiccio, began a social media firestorm by blasting off a tweet criticizing the city for decision.
“Another dumb idea by the city of [Phoenix],” he wrote. “Satanists are set to deliver the invocation at the Feb 17th Council meeting.”
The response by those who believe in religious freedom?
To put it simply: “Game on.”
“Good thing we have Councilman [Sal DiCiccio] telling us what we mean, and what our intentions really are, despite what we might say or think,” TST spokesman Lucien Greaves wrote in another tweet.
While DiCiccio refrained from tweeting back at his critics, other city leaders said they wouldn't (and couldn't) fight the group's plan to deliver the invocation.
In a written statement, the city's attorney, Brad Holm, explained that "consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s direction, the city cannot dictate religious viewpoints or the content of a prayer. In addition, government may not exclude a denomination or a religion from praying under these circumstances."
Mayor Greg Stanton said he wouldn't fight the issue because "the Constitution demands equal treatment under the law," although, he added, he disagrees with the group's message — interestingly, the whole point of the stunt is to "ensure that plurality is respected" because the group says it believes "the City Council’s typical opening prayer constitutes a breach of Church-State separation."
For those not familiar with TST, its members say it isn’t a devil-worshiping cult but rather a civic-minded group dedicated to “[facilitating] the communication and mobilization of politically aware Satanists, secularists, and advocates for individual liberty.”
As the Village Voice wrote in a 2014 cover story about TST, while its “leaders envisioned the Temple as the poison pill in the church-state debate . . .it’s evolved into much more. We're putting forward the notion of our right not to be marginalized and, literally, a demonized group," explains its spokesman.
According to the group’s website, its mission “is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will.”
But if social media is any indication, it’s also out to give DiCiccio and other critics a big ol’ — and hilarious — U.S. civics lesson.
There really are just too many great reactions to list them all, but here are a few favorites:
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"There’s certainly no novelty at all to a Christian invocations, and nobody is at a loss to find Christian houses of worship, if they so choose. Satanism, on the other hand, is still largely a mystery to the general public," Greaves says in a written statement.
"When public forums allow for religious displays or performances, they do so to our advantage. We’re grateful for Phoenix’s public platform for Satanists, and I believe the people of Phoenix can expect us to be regular contributors to their religious milieu — thanks, in part, to their City Council.”