The Satanic Temple and one of its members, Michelle Shortt, are suing the city of Scottsdale, Arizona and individual municipal officials in federal court, alleging that a Satanist was denied the opportunity to open a City Council meeting with prayer. The Temple and Ms. Shortt claim that by doing so, the defendants have violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause by permitting members of Judeo-Christian faith to give prayer, but preventing Satanists from doing so. This is not the first time that The Satanic Temple has made news in Arizona, as the Temple locked horns with the cities of Scottsdale and Phoenix in 2016, with the latter temporarily banning its 65-year pre-meeting prayer policy rather than allow a Satanist to provide prayer (prior post here).
According to The Satanic Temple, its mission is “to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people. In addition, we embrace practical common sense and justice. As an organized religion, we feel it is our function to actively provide outreach, to lead by example, and to participate in public affairs wheresoever the issues might benefit from rational, Satanic insights. As Satanists, we all should be guided by our consciences to undertake noble pursuits guided by our individual wills. We believe that this is the hope of all mankind and the highest aspiration of humanity.”
Ms. Shortt, a self-identified Satanist since age 14 and member of The Satanic Temple since its inception, and who holds an Associate’s of Applied Science degree in mortuary science and is self-employed as a model, requested permission to open a City Council meeting with prayer. The Satanic Temple and Ms. Shortt allege that the city initially approved Ms. Shortt’s request to give an invocation, but never provided her with the opportunity to do so. Plaintiffs further allege that “[a] review of the invocations during 2008 through 2016 reveal that every invocation given was of the Judeo-Christian faith.”
According to the complaint, one defendant sent responses to constituents “stating that while she likes having the prayers, she does ‘NOT want the Satanists’ and considers allowing them to speak ‘taking equality too far.’” Another defendant allegedly made a public statement stating that she would leave the meeting if The Satanic Temple were allowed to give an invocation. Finally, The Satanic Temple alleges that in an election pamphlet, “Mayor Lane listed that he ‘stopped so-called “Satanists” from mocking City Hall traditions with a ‘prayer.’”
The complaint in The Satanic Temple v. City of Scottsdale, Arizona is available here.