BOSTON — The Satanic Temple (TST) has filed suit against the City of Boston to challenge its practice of allowing council members to choose those who present the invocation during public meetings rather than accepting requests from community members. The group’s legal challenge comes after it was denied requests to participate in 2016 and 2017.
“This case is not a challenge to legislative prayers, generally; and it is not a challenge to offensive prayers, particularly,” the complaint, filed on Sunday, states. “We take no issue with the fact that the City permits many congregations to invoke Jesus before council
meetings. We just want an equal opportunity — one guaranteed by the Constitution — to invoke Satan.”
It explains that the City allows its council members to select those who will pray during council meetings, but in doing so, most of the invocations presented are either Christian, Muslim or Jewish.
“As a result, the City broadcasts two constitutionally impermissible messages: those religions who make the cut are endorsed and are therefore insiders of the politically favored community; those who don’t make the cut are not endorsed and are therefore outsiders from the politically favored community,” the lawsuit states.
The Boston chapter of TST had requested in 2016 and 2017 to be able to present an invocation at an upcoming meeting but was told that it lacked sponsorship from a councilor.
In 2018, TST Co-Founder Malcom Jarry sent an email to then-Council President Andrea Campbell to demand inclusion but was again informed that speakers must be invited by a council member as there is no waiting list.
Jarry expressed objection, noting that the group had been denied participation at other events in cities and states across the country due to public outcry, mostly from Christians and Catholics. It says it lacks “political clout” to be invited.
TST therefore lodged a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD). While MCAD investigated the matter, it concluded that it could not be of assistance as the situation is not one of “public accommodation” since presenters must be invited by councilors. It also lacks the authority to address the constitutionality of the issue.
The Satanic Temple has therefore filed suit to obtain a court ruling in hopes that a judge would order their exclusion unconstitutional.
“The City refused to provide TST an invite because of the nature of TST’s beliefs: we extol the virtues of Satan, which is decidedly unpopular with the city’s sizeable (and politically powerful) Christian constituency,” the legal challenge states. “By refusing to invite TST, the City is sending a message that TST and its congregation are outsiders, not full members of the political community.”
“The Court should order Boston to provide TST equal access to offer the legislative prayer, should permanently enjoin Boston from refusing TST or any other religion an opportunity to offer the legislative prayer, and should order Boston to create a process for religions to sign up for the prayer opportunity,” it contends.
As previously reported, in 2016, when a member of The Satanic Temple in Pensacola, Florida walked up to the podium to present an invocation — while donning a black hooded robe — a number of attendees began reciting the Lord’s Prayer to drown him out.
In 2019, some officials and attendees walked out of the room while a TST member presented the invocation during the the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting in Alaska. Approximately two dozen also stood outside to protest.
“We want God’s blessings on America, not Satan’s curses,” one man who flew in from Pennsylvania told KSRM Radio, according to Fox News. “Lucifer is the eternal loser. Let’s keep him out.”
As previously reported, The Satanic Temple, which identifies itself as a “non-theistic religious organization,” doesn’t believe in Satan, but views the rebellious fallen angel as a metaphor.
“[W]e do not promote a belief in a personal Satan,” the FAQ section of the group’s main website explains. “To embrace the name Satan is to embrace rational inquiry removed from supernaturalism and archaic tradition-based superstitions.”
The Satanic Temple also does not meet in an actual temple. Its national headquarters are located in the Salem Art Gallery in Massachusetts.