The Satanic Temple Files Religious Discrimination Suit Against City of Scottsdale After Being Refused Opportunity to Deliver City Council Meeting Invocation
23 February 2018 -- Today The Satanic Temple (TST) filed a lawsuit against the City of Scottsdale, Arizona alleging religious discrimination following the city’s refusal to allow TST to participate in a policy that claims to allow any religious denomination to deliver invocations prior to public City Council meetings. Public records obtained by The Satanic Temple reveal that in eight years’ time, every invocation given before the Scottsdale Council was of Judeo-Christian faiths. Public records of the council members’ emails further reveal a flagrant bias against TST that was held by council members, with one Councilwoman, Kathy Littlefield, openly stating that she did “NOT want the Satanists” to speak, and that the notion that a member of TST had the right to do so was an example of “taking equality too far.”
Attorney Stu de Haan, representing TST, states, “By the City Council’s own statements, it’s clear that their refusal to allow The Satanic Temple to speak was motivated by their intent to discriminate against a minority religion.”
Having first approved Michelle Shortt, the plaintiff on behalf of TST, to deliver a City Council invocation, the Council rescinded the offer, replacing Shortt with a Pastor from a Baptist Church local to Scottsdale. When seeking re-election during his Mayoral campaign, Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane listed the silencing of Shortt as an “accomplishment” achieved during his time in office explaining on his website, “In Scottsdale we’ve decided to keep our traditional invocations and we’ve decided to send this Satanist sideshow elsewhere.”
According to TST spokesperson and co-founder, Lucien Greaves, “It’s disheartening when public officials can display such a flagrant disregard for the most foundational bedrock principles of Constitutional Law while acting upon their personal biases at the expense of their taxpayer base, who are ultimately left to pay the legal costs for the ignorance of their Mayor and City Council.”
While the invocation policy is supposed to allow for voices of any religious denomination, Mayor Lane has also stated that, “these invocations celebrate our diversity, as we have heard respectful and thoughtful messages from Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and countless other faiths.”
However, TST’s lawsuit notes, “At no time have members of the Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu faith given an invocation before the Scottsdale City Council.”
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Update: July 4th, 2018
The Satanic Temple vs Scottsdale City Council
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In Arizona, the city of Scottsdale is trying to file a motion to dismiss legal proceedings against it by The Satanic Temple over the Scottsdale city council’s refusal to allow a Satanic invocation at one of its meetings. Michelle Shortt, chapter head of TST Arizona, had initially been approved to deliver an invocation in April 2016. However, after this was delayed until June, the offer was then rescinded altogether due to The Satanic Temple allegedly having “insufficient ties to the Scottsdale community”.
Legal counsel Stuart de Haan noted that this stipulation was not present during the application process; and subsequent emails recovered via public records enquiry displayed ample evidence of blatant discrimination against the group. In a statement to the press, de Haan declared “Our only intent is to not be discriminated against. If they allow us to speak or if they change the program so that it is inclusive as constitutionally required, that's what we're asking for.”
Update October 4th, 2018
The Satanic Temple Vs Scottsdale AZ
- Excerpt from today's National Newsletter
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.