In Arizona, Satanists are set to give a prayer at an upcoming Phoenix City Council meeting, amid controversy.
Satanic Temple members Michelle Shortt and Stu de Haan are expected to give the invocation at the council's Feb. 17 meeting after the group submitted a request in December. Despite the objections of some council members, the city has decided to let the satanists speak as scheduled.
The City Attorney Brad Holm released a statement defending the decision. A variety of different religions have hosted the brief invocation at the start of City Council meetings.
"Consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s direction, the city cannot dictate religious viewpoints or the content of a prayer," Holm wrote. "In addition, government may not exclude a denomination or a religion from praying under these circumstances."
One city councilman disagreed with the decision. Councilman Jim Waring said they city should have refused the satanists and let them take it to the courts.
“Frankly, I don’t know that we should be capitulating so readily to this," Waring said. "I do think standing on a principle has a merit. I’ll probably just leave."
Satanist DeHaan wanted to speak at the City Council meeting to make sure that minority voices were heard. He said the group does not believe in "literal Satan" but rather Satan as a "a metaphor for rebellion against tyranny."
“We’re citizens of this government and we would like our voices to be heard," De Haan said. "If they don’t want to accept, constitutionally what must happen is that all voices must be taken down from the public forum. It’s basically all voices must be heard or none at all."
He said "We don’t intend on doing anything offensive."
Mayor Greg Stanton and Councilwoman Kate Gallego said they support the decision to let the Satanists speak. Said Stanton, "the Constitution demands equal treatment under the law.”
Gallego said "I just believe we’re a diverse society and if we have prayer, we welcome all points of view."