The Satanic Temple Vows Lawsuit If Not Allowed to Deliver Phoenix City Council Invocation

In a bizarre twist to the already bizarre story of Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio’s die-hard determination to prevent the Satanic Temple from exercising its constitutional right to deliver the invocation at a council meeting later this month, DiCiccio — along with his council colleagues Jim Waring, Bill Gates, and Michael Nowakowski — have begun a campaign to fight “diversity and inclusivity.”

The Temple promptly and strongly responded that it would not back down and would take the fight to court if need be:

“To be clear,” Temple spokesman Lucien Greaves says in a written statement, “If the City of Phoenix blocks us from delivering our invocation, we will file suit.”

The Satanic Temple is prepared to take the city to court as part of its ongoing mission to get religion out of politics, he stresses, while city councilmembers openly are willing to violate the law to prevent a group of people from speaking at their open public meeting.

As New Times wrote last week, the group, which considers itself a religion but doesn’t actually worship the devil or Satan or any other evil mythical creature, says 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.”

In fact, the entire reason it fought for the invocation slot was to point out that the practice was a flagrant breach of the separation of church and state and to spark a discussion about ending it.

But then DiCiccio took to Twitter, turning the situation into one that has, according to Greaves, “very quickly and effectively revealed the lack of legal savvy, constitutional ignorance, and self-serving audacity of some city officials in Phoenix.”
While Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, City Councilwoman Kate Gallego, and City Attorney Brad Holm have publicly stated that every religious group has the right to take a turn delivering the invocation, other members introduced two “emergency measures” Friday designed to block this ability. One measure would allow only Phoenix residents can deliver the invocation, and the other would make the invocation honor available by council invitation only.

“We understand that [the Phoenix City Council] held an emergency session. Not to deal with lead in the water, or a wildfire consuming the city, or an impending drought, but to deal with the contentious issue of prayers,” the Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote in a letter to the council. The letter went on to call the action religious discrimination.
Oddly, DiCiccio responded by framing the entire situation as a leftist conspiracy: “This satanic prayer was a deliberate attempt by some Phoenix politicians pushing ‘diversity and inclusivity.’ Phoenix would have been the only city in the nation allowing a satanic prayer,” he writes on his website.

The “politically correct politicians [are] about to get pushed back,” he adds. 

New Times can find no evidence supporting his claim that this was done deliberately by council members.

The two emergency measures are scheduled to be discussed and voted on at Wednesday's city council meeting. 

“Hopefully, the upshot of all the chaos and outrage that our forthcoming invocation is now causing will be a hard fast lesson in Constitutional Law for our bloated, puzzled, and mentally atrophied theocrats,” Greaves says of the situation. 

“We’ll leave it to journalists to determine the level of irony in the notion that our impending invocation might constitute an ‘emergency’ when weighed against other items of local importance. However, we can assure you: there is no legal option for discrimination,” he added.

“We are Satanists, and we consider ourselves invited every time the public square is opened to religious expression…That is the very definition of Religious Liberty, and that is the nature of pluralism.”
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Miriam is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Miriam Wasser