Despite efforts by the city of Scottsdale (AZ) to undermine the lawsuit against the city by the Satanic Temple in regard to the council’s discriminatory invocation program, they have still failed to win a motion to dismiss the case. The suit was originally filed in February after (TST Arizona chapter head) Michelle Shortt’s invitation to speak at a meeting in May 2017 was rescinded by council officials, citing “lack of community ties” to the city. Legal counsel Stuart du Haan noted that this stipulation was not in effect when the invitation was initially approved in April, and thus it is clearly an attempt at discriminatory backpedaling by the council because they simply do not wish The Satanic Temple to have their say.
Mayor Jim Lane has since publicly bragged about the situation, even going so far as to list it as an “achievement” on his re-election campaign fliers. Two public records requests with the city of Scottsdale also yielded a trove of emails between councilors and “concerned citizens” which ascertained blatant bias against the Satanic Temple – with Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield notably lamenting in one email that “this was taking quality too far”.
In the present case before the court in the Federal District of Arizona, the City has attempted to dismiss proceedings on the basis of “failure to state proper claims”, “naming incorrect defendants”, and “insufficient pleadings”, among other excuses. Federal Judge Campbell of the Arizona District Court has dismissed claims against individual council members (including Mayor Lane), but the suit against the City itself remains intact.
The Satanic Temple now presses forward with its substantive claim of Establishment Clause violation and this is now considered a case of first impression. As there is no existing precedent in the 9th Circuit, this breaks new and historic ground for the entire West Coast where this Federal Circuit presides. The next step is to set depositions for Mayor Lane and his associates who were party to the discriminatory act, in anticipation of a Summary Judgement motion. Both sides are also expected whatever decision is reached. If the Satanic Temple wins the Equal Protection claim at the appellate level, the Circuits would be “split”, opening the chance for this to be decided by the United States Supreme Court.