March 2016 Church & State - March 2015

Phoenix Ends Prayer Policy To Avoid Satanists

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The Phoenix City Council voted in February to replace invocations with a moment of silence at public meetings. Council members admit doing so in order to block a scheduled invocation from a local representative of the Satanic Temple.

“Tonight the Phoenix City Council approved amending the practice related to invocations,” Julie Watters, a city spokeswoman, explained in a statement. “Effective immediately, and from this point forward, the new practice for the invocation will be a moment of silent prayer. The invocation is considered a city practice and the Council has the authority to change a city practice. At the next formal Phoenix City Council meeting on Wednesday, February 17, a moment of silent prayer will begin the meeting.”

The move followed weeks of debate over the Satanic Temple’s planned invocation. At a public meeting on the matter, a local resident urged council members to block the prayer, saying, “There are worse things to fear than a lawsuit. There is a Satan who wants to destroy us.”

Michelle Shortt, who had intended to deliver the invocation on behalf of the Satanic Temple, has indicated that she may sue the city. And Phoenix City Attorney Brad Holm told KPHO and KTVK stations that she may have a case.

“The Council could change the schedule of speakers in prayer…in the future,” he said. “What we couldn’t do is apply it retroactively, in this case, to a person who already booked the prayer for Feb. 17 back in December.”

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