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The Boston City Council might have a devil of a time dealing with a recent challenge to the way it conducts its meetings.
Like many city councils, the one in Boston likes to start its meetings with an invocation. The selection of each meeting's “faith leader" is left to individual councilors, and they have included Christian pastors of various denominations, imams, and rabbis.
To the best of anyone's knowledge, though, they have never included a Satanist.
But that might change.
The Satanic Temple of Salem, Massachusetts, filed a lawsuit against the city in January, arguing that the council's policy on invocations is discriminatory and unconstitutional. And following a judge's ruling on July 21, it looks like the Satanic quest might have more than a snowball's chance in hell of success.
While rejecting parts of the Temple's complaint, U.S. District Court Judge Allison Burroughs allowed one of its primary arguments to proceed. The Temple argued that the city's policy violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits favoring one religious denomination over another, and Burroughs concluded that the Satanists had done enough to show the policy might be a violation.
The Satanists said they'd asked to give the invocation at least three times but were told they couldn't do it because the council doesn't take requests – only councilors can do it, and each has a chance to invite a faith leader of their choice several times a year.
The Satanic Temple claimed that that policy was itself discriminatory and a violation of the 14th Amendment, but Burroughs said no.
The Satanic Temple defines itself as a “non-theistic religious organization with active chapters worldwide." It has filed numerous lawsuits involving religious rights.
On its website, the Temple describes one ongoing legal battle with the state of Arkansas involving the erection of a Ten Commandments monument on the state Capitol grounds. The Temple sought equal exposure by mounting a statue of Baphomet, a goat-headed deity.
Predictably, the Satanists encountered strong resistance. A state senator vowed it would be a “cold day in hell" before Arkansas would allow the Baphomet statue to be erected, and the dispute lingers on in the legal discovery phase.
There's no mention of Baphomet statues at Boston City Hall. The Satanists just want to be an equal footing “faith leader," just like the ministers, imams, and rabbis.
If not, will there be hell to pay?