The Satanic Temple Alleges Discrimination in Boston City Council Invitation-Only Invocation Policy Which Prevents Them From Speaking Before Public Meetings.
The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), an agency of the Commonwealth tasked with “investigating and prosecuting Complaints of Discrimination that occur in Employment, Housing, Public Places, Access to Education, Lending, and Credit” is investigating a claim brought by The Satanic Temple (TST) against the Boston City Council alleging discrimination in the Council’s invocation policy.
The Boston City Council opens each meeting with an invocation, typically a Christian prayer. While the practice of opening public meetings with prayers or invocations was deemed legal by the Supreme Court in 2014, the ruling made clear that municipalities are not free to engage in viewpoint discrimination in determining which religions may offer prayers or invocations, nor are they free to preference faith over non-belief. However, when TST solicited the Boston City Council for approval to deliver an invocation at any future available date, the Council denied the request stating that invocation speakers are scheduled by invitation, and individual council members are at liberty to choose whomever they see fit. The City Council maintains that this practice is non-discriminatory, a claim that TST views as absurd. “Maintaining an invitation-only public forum in which council members choose which voices may be heard, based entirely on their own preferences is the very definition of discrimination,” states Lucien Greaves, spokesperson for TST, “we are pleased that MCAD is investigating this flagrant violation of basic civic principles.”
TST cofounder, Malcolm Jarry filed the complaint with MCAD in October, which was assigned a docket number in December. MCAD has advised the City Council that it “must provide [TST] with a copy of its Position Statement,” after which TST will be allowed to submit a rebuttal within 21 days. Greaves is confident that the Commission will find in TST’s favor: “It’s such an open and shut case that one can only be embarrassed by the ignorance and arrogance so openly displayed by the City Council. Regardless of religious or political affiliation, every public official should respect the principles of free expression and pluralism. Let us not forget that the members of this City Council failed in that basic duty.”