Satanists get Phoenix to drop council prayer

The Phoenix City Council voted 5-4 on Feb. 3 to stop pre-meeting prayers and move to a moment of silence. The move comes after FFRF sent a Feb. 1 letter backing the Satanic Temple’s bid to give a prayer before the City Council’s Feb. 17 meeting.

In that letter, FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel, who’s been working on behalf of Phoenix members to stop prayers in their city since August 2012, wrote, “If this council is unwilling to listen to prayers from all citizens, regardless of their belief, the solution is to not have prayers at all.” Seidel explained the law simply: “Government prayers are an all or none proposition.”

Hundreds filled the seats for the Feb. 3 meeting. Several FFRF members testified. The meeting dragged on for hours with more than 50 citizens giving public comment, some of them shouting in defense of the “one true God.” A few prayer supporters held a prayer circle outside after the meeting, tears in their eyes.

The Phoenix City Council’s choice to get rid of prayers appears to be another example of “Lucien’s Law.” The law is named after the Satanic Temple founder Lucien Greaves but the phrase was coined by FFRF member and Florida chapter President David Williamson. Lucien’s Law states that governments will either 1) discontinue starting official sessions with prayer when the Satanic Temple asks to lead or 2) censor the Satanic Temple, thereby opening themselves to legal liability. In this case, the Phoenix City Council fortunately decided to go with option #1.

Michelle Shortt, the Satanist who was scheduled to pray, delivered her invocation to the media. FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor commented, “We’re delighted to see that reason and the Constitution has prevailed in Phoenix.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation