Satanic Temple sues Arizona city to lead city council prayer

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — A group that invokes the name Satan as a metaphor for opposing religious tyranny has sued the well-off Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale, accusing officials of discrimination after being denied an opportunity to give the opening prayer at a City Council meeting.

Michelle Shortt of the Satanic Temple of Tucson was scheduled to preside over the council’s invocation in July 2016. But the city cancelled it, saying it would keep with tradition in allowing prayer only from groups with substantial ties to Scottsdale.

According to the lawsuit filed this week in federal district court in Arizona, the Satanic Temple wasn’t asked about community ties when it applied by phone to give the prayer. The group is asking a judge to find the city in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment right to free speech and to prevent the city from denying prayer opportunities to non-Christian religious groups.

Kelly Corsette, a spokeswoman for Scottsdale, said the mayor’s office asks that prayers be non-denominational, kept under three minutes, and encourage wisdom and guidance in City Council deliberations. She said the temple wasn’t turned away for its religious affiliation but because it did not have close ties with Scottsdale.

“We believe the city’s practice meets all constitutional requirements,” she said.

The Satanic Temple is a national group with chapters in several states, including Arizona, that doesn’t worship Satan or any deities. It has sought to start after-school Satan programs in protest of what it says is the erosion of the separation of church and state, install statues of Satan outside state capitols to counter Ten Commandments monuments and give opening prayers at City Council meetings.

The Phoenix City Council effectively blocked the Satanic Temple from delivering an opening prayer in February 2016 by opting for silent prayer instead. It later restored spoken prayers before meetings on the condition they be given exclusively by fire or police department chaplains.

The group has threatened to sue cities before for the same right to pray as dominant religious groups, but it said the lawsuit against Scottsdale is the first in Arizona.

Emails outlined in the lawsuit show that defendants have referred to the group as a “sideshow” and said Satanists are trying to mock City Hall traditions.

In a February 2016 email, one city councilwoman told constituents she likes the opening prayers but said allowing Satanists to say them would be “taking equality too far.”

Just Posted

WATCH: Hundreds come to Red Deer Rebels Fan Fest

The Red Deer Rebels met with hundreds of fans just a couple… Continue reading

Red Deer GoodLife no longer installing pool

Red Deer GoodLife Fitness members itching to swim will need to find… Continue reading

Hwy 2 detour Friday

Traffic detoured between Gaetz Avenue and Taylor Drive

Red Deer students are fighting subtle discrimination to help build a culture of tolerance

‘Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination’ marked at local high school

WATCH: Red Deerians can have a say about crime fighting

Municipality will poll citizens about policing priorities

Facebook crisis-management lesson: What not to do

NEW YORK — The crisis-management playbook is pretty simple: Get ahead of… Continue reading

Calgary remains interested in 2026 bid, but awaits word from feds, province

Calgary city council approved a slate of moves towards a possible bid… Continue reading

Online threat to U.S. high school traced to girl, 14, in Canada, police say

American authorities say a 14-year-old girl in Canada has been charged with… Continue reading

Comedian Mike MacDonald remembered for gut-busting mental health advocacy

If laughter is the best medicine, then standup veteran Mike MacDonald was… Continue reading

The Weeknd, Bruno Mars to headline Lollapalooza in Chicago

CHICAGO — The Weeknd, Bruno Mars, Jack White and Arctic Monkeys will… Continue reading

No rest for the retired: Opioid crisis fills empty nests as grandparents step up

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — She is a Newfoundland woman who worked hard… Continue reading

Duclos defends gender-neutral language amid criticism from opposition

MONTREAL — Families Minister Jean-Yves Duclos defended Service Canada’s decision to ask… Continue reading

Lawyer and negotiator: Thomas Molloy is new Saskatchewan lieutenant-governor

REGINA — Lawyer and negotiator Thomas Molloy has been sworn in as… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month