Any American who has ever had the misfortune of attending a city council or county board meeting is aware they are going to be forced to sit through a mini-sermon or religious testimonial prior to the meeting start. It is a prevalent practice in nearly every city and berg in the nation and a tortuous reminder that there is no-place, not even government meetings, safe from primarily evangelical religious imposition; unless one lives in or around Phoenix Arizona.
Thanks to the heroic actions of the Satanic Temple, Phoenix city council will cease and desist, immediately, from opening their government meetings with an evangelical supplication to god. It is not that the Arizonans really wanted to ban opening prayers at their meetings, they just do not want any member of the community offering an invocation unless they are Christians. In order to prevent a member of the Satanic Temple from offering an opening invocation, the city council members voted to ban all prayers. In typical religious conservative fashion, it is going to be Christian prayers or none at all.
Two years ago the Vatican-5 on the Supreme Court were on a tear dismantling major parts of the Religious Clauses in the 1st Amendment, and in a blow to the Constitution’s Separation of Church and State, the Court ruled that the government-sponsored Christian prayers were protected ‘free speech.’
However, written into the ruling was a proviso that “So long as the town maintains a policy of nondiscrimination, the Constitution does not require it to search beyond its borders for non-Christian prayer givers in an effort to achieve religious balancing.”
It was that “maintaining a policy of nondiscrimination” that the Satanic Temple seized on to effectively shut down government-sponsored Christian-only prayers at Phoenix city council meetings. The gist of the Supreme Court ruling is that lawmakers cannot discriminate against non-Christians when they invite speakers to deliver opening prayers; obviously that means they are forbidden from discriminating against Satanists who wish to subject meeting attendees to a Satanic invocation.
A member of the Satanic Temple, Stu de Haan, duly signed up to deliver the opening prayer on February 17 to provide the Phoenix city council with what they demand; an official city government endorsement of religion. It was just the wrong religion. So instead of complying with the Supreme Court ruling, council members banned all invocations and provided a moment of silence. True, a moment of silence is a moment of wasted government time and assets, but it is a moment meeting attendees will not be subjected to being inculcated into the evangelical faith.
It is noteworthy that the Satanic Temple, although a real religion, does not worship the biblical Satan, the Devil, or evil incarnate. Instead, the Temple teaches its adherents high principles such as “strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason,” and that their “beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world.”
The secular victory was not the first for the Satanic Temple by insisting that state and local governments honor the constitutional ban on religious discrimination. The Temple successfully forced Florida officials to allow the temple to erect a display that celebrated the fallen angel Lucifer as one of five displays honoring the December holiday season. The Temple also prevailed in Arkansas after a successful battle to display a statue of children fawning over goat-headed deity Baphomet according to the High Court’s non-discrimination ruling. The Satanic Temple used the ruling to stop an evangelical effort to distribute Christian bibles to Florida public school children simply by insisting the school district adhere to the law and allow the Temple to distribute Satanic literature to the children along with the bibles.
Although this was a victory for preserving the Founding Fathers’ intent in building a wall of separation between church and state, it was a small one. However, it was also revealing to Phoenix residents that if confronted with a choice between adhering to the Constitution and a favorable to Christians Supreme Court ruling, or banning prayers completely, the Phoenix city council members opted to ban all invocations if they cannot use government to impose ‘their’ religion on the people.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.