Satanic Temple Pushes Phoenix to Ban Prayer at City Council Meetings
In a close vote, Phoenix City Council members voted last week to ban the opening prayer at city council meetings, in an effort to block a group of Satanists who offered to lead the next service.
According to The Arizona Republic, in a 5-4 vote on Feb. 3, the city council decided to switch from an opening prayer to a moment of silence instead of allowing the Satanic Temple to give the invocation at the Feb. 17 meeting. This decision caused controversy and criticism by many who viewed this as a win for Satanists.
@HuffingtonPost Duh, that’s EXACTLY what the Satanists wanted in the first place. Way to play right into their hands, Phoenix.
— Jess Gofa-Kierselv (@noplaneson911) February 5, 2016
“If they don’t want to accept, constitutionally what must happen is that all voices must be taken down from the public forum,” Stu de Haan, a member of the temple, said to The Arizona Republic. “It’s basically all voices must be heard or none at all.”
When news of the Satanic Temple’s intent to give the prayer was made public, it went viral. More than a hundred people packed the city council meeting last week, with many offering emotional testimony opposing the Satanists.
“I am not for the silent prayer,” said Pastor Darlene Vasquez during the meeting, reported The Arizona Republic. “I want those who believe in the one true God to pray. It breaks my heart to hear what is going on.”
However, the Satanist group has argued that the public’s view is skewed. According to de Haan, the group does not believe that Satan exists, but rather they believe in Satan in less literal terms. On the Satanic Temple’s website it says that they strive for “benevolence and empathy among all people.” They are described as non-theists, contrary to popular belief.
“This is what that Satanist group wants,” Councilman Sal DiCiccio told The Arizona Republic. “A moment of silence is basically a banning of prayer. It’s to agree to the Satanic goal to ban prayer.”
PHX votes to ban prayer 5-4. Sad day for Phoenix
— Sal DiCiccio (@Sal_DiCiccio) February 4, 2016
Mayor Greg Stanton was one of the five members of the council who voted in favor of the moment of silence.
“The First Amendment to the Constitution is not ambiguous on this issue,” Stanton told The Arizona Republic. “Discriminating against faiths would violate the oath that all of us on this dais took. I personally take that very, very seriously.”
— WhenRightIsWrong (@Right_All_Wrong) February 5, 2016
“This is an issue that will come up in homogeneous communities when a member of a minority religion takes advantage of the invocation and it tends to generate a backlash,” Gregory Lipper, a senior attorney at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told The Washington Post. “Most local governments are used to a steady drumbeat of Christian clergy delivering Christian prayers. We’ve seen this same issue with Muslim prayer-givers and Wiccan prayer-givers around the country.
The group decided to move to neighboring cities, asking if the Satanic Temple could give the opening prayer at other city council meetings.
The Satanic group is scheduled to give a similar opening prayer at the Scottsdale City Council meeting on April 5, according to city spokesman Kelly Corsette.
Scottsdale is only a little over 20 minutes away from Phoenix, and the closest of the cities they decided to reach out to. The other cities the temple had submitted requests to were Tuscon, Sahuarita, and Chandler.
Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane told The Arizona Republic that the city is inclusive of different religions and that the point of the invocations is to facilitate positive discussion about the community.
@NYDailyNews wouldn’t be a city council meeting without satanists !
— john kennedy (@GaspejohnJohn) February 4, 2016