Satanic Temple Arizona files discrimination lawsuit against Scottsdale

Published: Feb. 26, 2018 at 7:18 PM MST|Updated: Feb. 26, 2018 at 8:15 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Satanic Temple Arizona has filed a lawsuit against the city of Scottsdale after the city refused the group's request to lead the invocation prayer before a city council meeting.

In its initial filing, the Satanic group claims the city violated its civil liberties and constitutional rights.

"The Satanic Temple's main goal is to either give the invocation or to have a non discriminatory policy," said Stuart DeHaan, the temple's attorney who filed the suit. "We're not asking anyone to follow our tenants but that does not mean we don't have the same constitutional rights as everyone else."

The Temple has given invocations in Grand Junction, CO and in Florida but has not prevailed in Arizona.

"We decided not to extend ourselves by asking everywhere, said DeHaan, "We wanted to handle the situation in Scottsdale where they just said no, they just told us to get lost basically, almost literally."

DeHann says this is not about religious freedom, it's covered by the Establishment Clause.

"So whatever speech were going to give at the invocation, it was within the parameters and guidelines but they never asked it what is was," he said. "They just said we don't like you as a group."

He added, "this is viewpoint discrimination, it's not about the viewpoint itself."

The city of Scottsdale issued this statement.

The temple was turned away in 2016, not because of any particular religious affiliation, but because they did not have any substantial connection to the Scottsdale community. The city has not been served with the complaint, so we are not in a position to offer specific comments in response. We believe the city's practice meets all constitutional requirements.

The lawsuit is based on preventing Scottsdale from "knowingly, intentionally, or negligently denying non-Christian religious groups the opportunity to give opening invocation."

Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane and council members Suzanne Klapp, Virginia Korte, Kathy Littlefield, Guy Phillips and Davis Smith are also listed as defendants in the suit.

The group has requested to give the prayer at meetings in several Arizona cities, including Tucson and Phoenix.

The group said it followed all protocols and was eventually scheduled to give the invocation in Scottsdale on July 6, 2016.

The Satanic Temple claims Littlefield, "sent responses to constituents stating that while she likes having the prayers, she does 'NOT want the Satanists' and considers allowing them to speak 'taking equality too far.'"

In the filing, the Satanic Temple claims a city employee told the council after the Satanic Temple was scheduled to give the prayer (the city) tried to get as many faith leaders to agree to give the prayer but could not find someone to do it July 6.

The lawsuit accuses Klapp of telling people she would leave the meeting if the Satanic Temple gave the prayer and said "it's time to make it clear that a rule must be established about who can come and what kind of message is expected."

Smith allegedly told people while he knows the Satanic Temple speech is protected by the First Amendment, it is "absurd" and deliberations on the council should be "guided by God alone."

The Satanic Temple claims it was told by the city they would not be allowed to give the prayer because the city was standing behind its practice of only allowing those with a "substantial connection" to the Scottsdale community to give the invocation.

The temple said another person was given their July 6 date instead.

The group claims Lane boasted about the incident on his re-election website.

Lane allegedly said "in Scottsdale we've decided to keep our traditional invocations and we've decided to send this Satanist sideshow elsewhere."

"What's the metric for a real Christian? What's the metric for anybody in any religion?" DeHaan said. "So to call it a side show and knowing nothing about what the Satanic Temple does is an ignorant statement really."

In an election pamphlet, Lane allegedly boasted he "stopped so-called 'Satanists' from mocking City Hall traditions with a 'prayer.'"

About The Satanic Temple
The Satanic Temple is a non-theistic religious organization dedicated to Satanic practice and the promotion of Satanic rights. The Temple understands the Satanic figure as a symbol of man's inherent nature, representative of the eternal rebel, enlightened inquiry and personal freedom rather than a supernatural deity or being. The mission of The Satanic Temple is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will.

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