PHOENIX — A Phoenix city councilman admitted defeat Thursday after the council voted 5-4 to replace the opening prayer at meetings with a moment of silence.
“The main goal of the Satanist group was to ban prayer, and they won,” Councilman Sal DiCiccio told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac & Gaydos, adding that “the council really just acquiesced at the drop of the hat.”[audio-jw aid=’318861′ align=’right’ ]
In another interview, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said that the decision was made because of “pesky little problem that is the United States Constitution.”
“We cannot be in a position where we can pick and choose which religions, which faith or non-faith get the opportunity to provide that invocation.”
The mayor said the decision was not faith-based. Instead, he claimed he had the city’s best interest in mind.
“If we kept the invocation but banned this Satanic Temple from doing the invocation, we’d inevitably get sued for sure and lose and cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Stanton expressed disappointment in DiCiccio, who he said “was openly willing to question my faith… as if we were somehow pushing a satanic agenda.”
“To be honest it was the most despicable thing I’ve ever seen in my time in politics,” Stanton said, adding that he rarely lashes out against other officials.
The Satanic Temple of Tucson will not be giving the invocation at the council’s Feb. 17 meeting after Wednesday’s motion passed.
Michelle Shortt, who would have given the meeting prayer on behalf of the Satanic Temple, said earlier this week all the group wants is the same rights as other religions.
“It kind of exposes a hypocrisy that is within our system, their constitutional ignorance and their self-serving audacity,” she said.
KTAR’s Cooper Rummell contributed to this report.