The Satanic Temple in Phoenix, Arizona has been given the green light to deliver prayers at an upcoming meeting of the Phoenix City Council in the name of religious freedom.
In a statement released Thursday evening, Phoenix City Attorney Brad Holm defended the decision, arguing that the short invocation at the start of formal council meetings has been delivered by persons from a number of different faiths including Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Sikhism.
"Consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court's direction, the city cannot dictate religious viewpoints or the content of a prayer," Holm wrote, according to azcentral. "In addition, government may not exclude a denomination or a religion from praying under these circumstances."
According to ABC 15 the Satanists are scheduled to pray at the February 17 meeting which will start at about 2:30 p.m.
Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio thinks the decision to allow Satanists to pray in the council is a "dumb idea."
"Another dumb idea by the City of #PHX. Satanists are set to deliver the invocation at the Feb 17th Council meeting. @CityofPhoenixAZ," he tweeted.
Councilman Jim Waring told azcentral he thinks the city should have denied the application by the Satanic Temple members and let them fight the issue in court.
What the group is trying to do, he said, is to offend residents, adding that it could be a ploy to end prayer at council meetings altogether. He also doesn't intend to sit through the invocation.
"Frankly, I don't know that we should be capitulating so readily to this," Waring told azcentral. "I do think standing on a principle has a merit. I'll probably just leave."
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Satanic Temple member Stu de Haan who applied along with Michelle Shortt to deliver the invocation said he applied to speak at the council meeting to ensure minority voices are heard.
The group, he says, does "not believe in a literal Satan" but views the biblical Satan as "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 also noted that "we don't intend on doing anything offensive."
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Councilwoman Kate Gallego said they support letting the satanists speak.
"I just believe we're a diverse society and if we have prayer, we welcome all points of view," Gallego said.