Religious Freedom and the City Hall Satanists
One of the principles of the foundation of the United States is freedom of religion. It’s guaranteed in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, after all. However, as the years have passed, certain people feel that this should only apply to certain religions—namely their own religion and no one else’s. This has caused people of different religions to often take the back seat to the dominant religions in the country.
Satanic Temple Sues Boston
The Boston City Council denied a group of Satanists the right to deliver an invocation at the start of their meetings, while they haven’t denied those of other religions. The Satanic Temple then sued the city of Boston for unconstitutional and discriminatory behaviors, since it doesn’t allow a prayer from all religious organizations that want to deliver one.
Satanists have requested the right to provide the opening invocation on several occasions. Each time, they were told that requests would not be accepted. The council says that they will allow each member of the council to invite a speaker of their choice to deliver the opening prayer ahead of the meeting several times a year.
The Satanic Temple has filed a federal lawsuit that said the policy the council has in place is a violation of the city’s public accommodations statute. The statute says that any place that serves a public function is entitled to protection from discrimination. They say that the policy is also a violation of the US Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. This says that all religions should be provided an equal opportunity when it comes to participating in free-speech forums.
On July 21, 2021, Judge Allison Burroughs rejected several parts of the Satanic Temple’s complaint. However, she did allow one of the arguments to go forward. It will still be some time before we discover whether the Satanists will be afforded the same rights to provide an invocation as other religious leaders. It may come down to the policy that requires speakers to be invited by a council member.
Not the First Devilish Controversy
This is not the first time that there has been trouble surrounding Satanists and city council meetings. On July 14, 2016, David Suhor from the Satanic Temple opened the Pensacola City Council meeting with an invocation. He was interrupted for several minutes by protestors who did not want him to open the meeting with an invocation because of his religion. After the crowd settled down, he delivered the invocation, but it did not go over well.
The council president, Charles Bare got a lot of unwanted attention in the media, not to mention backlash from people who weren’t happy that he provided someone with their First Amendment rights.
The Satanic Temple is also involved in another lawsuit, this one in Birmingham, Alabama. In 2018, a monument of The Ten Commandments was added to the Capitol lawn. The Satanists allege that the addition of this monument violates the First Amendment because it appears to be a government endorsement of one religion.
The Satanic Temple says that the monument should be removed, or there should be a second monument erected—an 8.5-foot tall bronze statue of part man-part goat Baphomet. This is a symbol used by the Satanists.
It’s important to remember the modern Satanists who are part of the Satanic Temple are not devil worshippers in any sense. They are seeking the same amount of religious freedom for all groups, including atheists, where they tend to align. Most also feel that religion should not have a place in government at all.