A group that invokes the name Satan as a metaphor for opposing religious tyranny has sued the well-off Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale, Ariz., 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 canceled 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 AP reports.
The group is asking a judge to find the city in violation of the First Amendment right to free speech and to prevent the city from denying prayer opportunities to non-Christian religious groups. "Once you open a public forum to religion, you can't then decide which ones you like best to represent in that public forum," says the temple's attorney. 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, which says its goal is protesting the erosion of separation of church and state, not praising Lucifer, has started an after-school Satan program in Oregon.)