A self-proclaimed Satanist has sued the city of Scottsdale, Ariz., alleging the city council’s opening prayers are “divisive and exclusionary” and a violation of the Constitution’s establishment and equal protection clauses. The lawsuit demands the city council include “non-Christian” prayers or stop praying.
No one objected or listed participation requirements when plaintiff Michelle Shortt applied to give the prayer in 2016. But the lawsuit alleges prior to scheduling Shortt’s July 6 appearance, city officials tried to fill all open invocation spots with local faith leaders. Some council members publicly criticized the Satanist’s inclusion and called on city council to establish a standard for “who can come and what kind of message is expected.”
In an email rescinding Shortt’s invocation opportunity, Scottsdale officials claimed a standard practice of inviting only “institutions that have a substantial connection to the Scottsdale community,” the lawsuit said
The Satanic Temple of Tucson, like its affiliates across the country, does not believe in Satan or God but claims the moniker “religion” in lawsuits against perceived sectarian intrusions into the public square. A Satanic Temple member in Missouri filed a lawsuit in 2015 claiming the state’s pro-life laws advance Judeo-Christian theology in violation of her religious liberties. The Missouri Supreme Court heard arguments Jan. 23 in that case. —B.P.