The Phoenix City Council has voted to abolish a 65-year practice of opening meetings with religious prayer. Now, the meetings will begin with a moment of silence. The vote was prompted by a request from the Satanic Temple of Tucson to lead the February 17 meeting with its own prayer. The City Council decided that it preferred no prayer at all than to allow a Satanic invocation. In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled in Town of Greece v. Galloway that allowing pre-meeting invocations was permissible so long as all religious groups were given an equal opportunity to participate. Arguably, rejecting the Satanic Temple’s request without abolishing the prayer policy would have run afoul of the Supreme Court’s decision, and the Satanic Temple had threatened to sue.
Reportedly, more than 100 people attended the City Council meeting to consider the prayer policy with many arguing against adopting a moment of silence. No Satanists offered public comment at the meeting. In the end, the City Council voted 5-4 to abolish the pre-meeting prayer practice.
As one City Council member Sal Diciccio told a local television news channel, allowing the Satanic Temple to offer the prayer would have been like inviting ISIS to offer an invocation. Mr. Diciccio added: “I don’t think people really understand the depth of [the consequences] of allowing a satanic prayer. I believe that is an unhealthy thing for a community. There’s this blasé attitude that what’s going on is ok – I don’t think it’s ok. I don’t think it’s right.” Mr. Diciccio even took to Twitter to voice his opposition:
Politically correct PHX politicians pushing SATANIC PRAYER about to get pushed back. I move to block Satanic prayer.
According to Satanic Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves, another member called the Satanic Temple a “hate group” that has created a “book of rape.” Mr. Greaves’ blog post is available here. Despite the reports of anti-Satanist sentiment, the Satanic Temple has stated it no longer plans to sue and views the prayer abolishment as a victory.