Religion
Religion

Arizona City Council Members Trying To Ban Satanists From Praying At Meeting

| by Sheena Vasani

Phoenix, Arizona City Council is trying to prevent a Satanist group from delivering a prayer before the council’s meeting.

The Satanic Temple of Tucson is scheduled to pray Feb. 17, KPNX reports.

The group states they believe the attempted ban is unconstitutional.

"This is clearly discriminatory and targeting one group," Stu De Haan, a criminal defense lawyer who is also a Satanic Temple chapter leader, said.

The council will look at changing the way a group is allowed to pray before a meeting.

At the moment, the system allows anybody to call and schedule a date where they can deliver the invocation.

Council members Jim Waring, Sal DiCiccio, Bill Gates, and Michael Nowakowski want the mayor and eight council members to instead select the groups on a rotating basis.

They also want to incorporate a 24-hour emergency clause so the rule would be implemented as soon as possible to stop the Satanist group from praying. Jim Waring wants to deny the Satanists and let them battle it out in court, reports AZCentral.com.

"If they want to commit a constitutional violation, we will respond in turn. We have people everywhere (in each council district), and we'll adjust,” De Haan said.

Earlier, Mayor Greg Stanton stood by the Satanist group’s right to deliver the invocation.

“I strongly disagree with this group’s message. However, the First Amendment protects free speech. As offensive as that message may be, the Constitution demands equal treatment under the law.”

Indeed, two years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that any government body allowing for prayers before meetings must "let in everybody.”

"If you allow God in the building, you have to allow the devil in the building," Dianne Post, an attorney, said. "The First Amendment says you cannot favor one church over another church, or a religion over a non-religion."

While the Satanist group says they are religious, they do not worship the devil.

The group says they believe the story of Satan’s fall from heaven is about standing up to a tyrannical government. That’s the message they want to deliver at the invocation, they say.

"We would be better off if the government would stay out of religion all together," Greaves said. "We think religion has no place in the public square."

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