If politics and religion are two topics we should never discuss in polite company, the Phoenix City Council seems like the ideal place to address both.
This week has seen a firestorm of hellish indignation over the news that a group of satanists petitioned the Phoenix city clerk’s office to offer the “invocation” at an upcoming City Council meeting. After reviewing the request and the fact that municipalities cannot be in the business of “picking winners and losers” when it comes to deities, it OKed the request.
As Phoenix City Attorney Brad Holm said in a statement, “Consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s direction, the city cannot dictate religious viewpoints or the content of a prayer.”
Imagine that—following the law.
Cue the choirs, celestial and otherwise.
To the surprise of almost no one, there is not unanimous agreement with the decision—though the February 17 meeting will likely be standing-room only due to the controversy.
One Phoenix councilman said it’s “a dumb idea,” and another insisted the Satanists should have been denied and simply let them sue. Knowing there’s often fire where there’s smoke, media are all over this. Here’s a video news story:
I confess I’m surprised by the uproar. I’ve been in that chamber many times, and I’m pretty sure I’ve spotted Lucifer at numerous zoning hearings. And who hasn’t smelled the distinct odor of sulfur as countless variance requests are rubber-stamped? Or maybe I need to get my eyes and nose checked.
Wherever you stand, this is a fantastic lesson in the First Amendment, playing out right in the heart of our state. You’re welcome, America.
And yes, there is an even more intimate legal angle to this. Spokesman and legal adviser to the Satanic Temple (and a “Satanic Templar”) is Arizona lawyer Stu De Haan. And here at Arizona Attorney Magazine, we are a big fan of him—and his music.
Those with good memories will recall that Stu was the winner in the Music category in our 2015 Creative Arts Competition. He appeared on our cover and inside pages, and we featured “Don’t Get Stuck in a Roadside Ditch” online. That song is by his band Scar Eater, “a five piece post-hardcore band from Tucson.”
As Stu described his song, “This song is about facing fears, shedding one’s negative past, and embracing an aggressive but positive outlook on the inevitable difficulties of life.”
A final thought: It bears noting that Stu and his fellow Satanic Templar Michelle Shortt are traveling north from Tucson to deliver an invocation—and make a point, I suppose—because the Tucson City Council gets to the work of its meetings without bothering with a prayer of any kind. No muss, no fuss.
Imagine that—focusing on governing.
As we head into our Friday, please enjoy “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones. “Pleased to meet you; hope you guess my name.”
Have a terrific—and free-speech-filled—weekend.
[twitter-follow screen_name=’azatty’ show_count=’yes’