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

Is the fate of Red Deer’s Parsons House solely in the hands of the province?

Demolition of old police station next door to begin this fall

Fundraiser to help keep kids warm in Blackfalds

Community Warmth Fall Fundraiser

Piper Creek Foundation gets a new name

Red Deer subsidized housing program for seniors

Reveen returns to Red Deer

Presented by Friends of Red Deer Regional Hospital

2019 Winter Games will transform Red Deer: Olympic organizer

Team leader behind 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics provides inspirational pep talk

WATCH: Red Deer students take part in annual run

Dawe/St. Pat’s Run reaches 40th anniversary

Smile Cookie fundraiser campaign for Reading College kicks off

Fundraising campaign runs Sept. 12-18 for program that helps children improve their reading

‘Nightmare that won’t end’: Storm evacuees can’t return yet

WILMINGTON, N.C. — Hundreds of people waited in long lines for water… Continue reading

New bridge collapses into river in rural Saskatchewan hours after opening

HYAS, Sask. — A rural politician in eastern Saskatchewan says he’s at… Continue reading

Halifax researchers tag great white shark in Atlantic Canada for first time

HALIFAX — For the first time in Atlantic Canadian waters, scientists have… Continue reading

Liberal riding association president blindsided by MP’s defection

OTTAWA — The president of an Ontario Liberal riding association says he… Continue reading

Pope gives bishops more decision-making options

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis decreed on Tuesday that ordinary Catholics should… Continue reading

Hurricane rating system fails to account for deadly rain

TRENTON, N.C. — When meteorologists downgraded Hurricane Florence from a powerful Category… Continue reading

Glad company: Trailer for Disney’s ‘Mary Poppins Returns’

LOS ANGELES — A beloved nanny is preparing to take to the… Continue reading

Most Read