CHICAGO — Local Satanists are raising hell with a new lawsuit alleging the city is barring them from saying “Hail Satan” at City Council meetings.
The lawsuit — filed this month by the Satanic Temple — says the city violated the religious group’s First Amendment rights by “excluding disfavored minority faiths” from giving an invocation at the start of City Council meetings.
During the invocations, religious leaders remind lawmakers to “reflect upon shared ideals and common ends before they embark on the fractious business of governing,” according to the lawsuit.
More than 50 local religious groups have given invocations in front of City Council since The Satanic Temple Illinois first inquired about giving one in December 2019, said Minister of Satan Adam Vavrick, citing publicly available meeting minutes.
Vavrick said public officials repeatedly ignored his followup requests to give an invocation. Emails he shared with Block Club show officials telling Vavrick they were “review[ing] the information provided” in January 2020 and still “working on this request” in March 2022.
“Thank you so much for your interest,” a clerk’s office official wrote in an email to Vavrick in August 2021. “We will be in touch … .”
Vavrick said his request has been stuck in purgatory, which “left me with no choice but to file suit.”
“I think the choice to ignore me was the hope I’d just go away,” Vavrick said. “If we can just ignore a Satanist’s request purely because they’re a Satanist, then we never believed in equal access in the first place.”
A Mayor’s Office spokesperson said the city does not comment on pending litigation. Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st), who Vavrick said he spoke to about the issue and who is copied on emails to city officials, also said he could not comment on pending litigation.
In an email obtained by Block Club, La Spata wrote to a city official, saying the requests were “not at my behest.”
“Once I learned that he wanted to end his convocation with ‘Hail Satan’ it ceased being something I could support,” La Spata wrote in the email. “For all of my desire to be inclusive, that would be a betrayal of my personal faith.”
The Satanic Temple is a federally recognized religion with congregations across the United States and more than 14,000 members in Illinois — and it should be allowed to solemnize City Council just like any other religion, Vavrick said.
Members do not worship Satan or any higher — or lower — power, but they reclaim the symbolism of Satan as a “rejection of arbitrary authority” imposed on people with identities marginalized by other cultures and religions, Vavrick said.
“This religion is an affirmation that you cannot touch me, because I’m happy with who I am,” Vavrick said. “To embrace Satan is to say, ‘I’m the other, and I’m f—ing proud of it.'”
Vavrick is co-congregation head of The Satanic Temple Illinois, which has about 100 active members who meet once a month and have organized highway cleanups and drives for menstrual products, he said. The group does not proselytize, Vavrick said.
The benign nature of the group has not stopped public officials across the country from imposing roadblocks to invocation requests, with similar lawsuits moving forward in Boston and Scottsdale, Arizona. An invocation given by The Satanic Temple in Alaska in 2019 led to a walkout of some officials, while another in San Marcos, Texas, was given Tuesday.
The Satanic Temple Illinois previously were able to add a holiday display in the Illinois State House rotunda, next to a nativity scene and a menorah, in a show of religious pluralism, according to the Tribune.
Vavrick said he offered to send Chicago officials the full script of his invocation ahead of time.
“Let us stand now, unbowed and unfettered by arcane doctrines born of fearful minds in darkened times. Let us embrace the Luciferian impulse to eat of the tree of knowledge, and dissipate our blissful and comforting delusions of old. Let us demand that individuals be judged for their concrete actions and not their fealty to arbitrary social norms and illusionary categorizations. Let us reason our solutions with agnosticism in all things, holding fast only to that which is demonstrably true. Let us stand firm against any and all arbitrary authority that threatens the personal sovereignty of one or all. That which will not bend must break. And that which can be destroyed by truth, should never be spared its demise. It is done.
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