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Phoenix council members try to block Satanic church from giving meeting prayer

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LISTEN: Stu De Haan - Satanists at Phoenix City Hall

PHOENIX — Several Phoenix City Council members are attempting to block a Satanic church from giving a prayer prior to a Phoenix City Council meeting next month.

City Councilman Jim Waring sent a letter to the City Manager Ed Zuercher on behalf of himself, Councilman Sal DiCiccio and several other council members on Friday to change the way the legislature holds its prayers.

The city has a long tradition of opening council meetings with an invocation and, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling, that cannot be limited to certain religions or beliefs.

“All we did was ask if we can do one too,” Stu de Haan with the Satanic Temple said.

De Haan said the group will give the prayer at the council’s Feb. 17 meeting after it asked the city to participate.

“It was accepted right away,” he said. “There was no issue.”

Phoenix City Attorney Brad Holm said any religion can call the city clerk’s office and request to give the prayer, which is chosen by a rotating pool of state Senate members.

“We just had a policy if somebody called up and wanted to pray, we said OK,” he said, adding that the city struggles at times to find someone willing to give the invocation.

De Haan said people have been concerned about the satanic prayer, but a lot of them don’t understand the religion.

“We’ve gotten a lot of ridiculous questions, like are we going to sacrifice babies and what we’re calling ‘blood libel,’” he said. “There’s nothing ever like that in Satanism.”

Instead, de Haan said the religion is a kind of metaphor for rebelling against tyranny and favors “logic and reason over superstition and the supernatural.”

“We should have our voice and we believe that reason should trump superstition in general,” he said.

The group does not believe in Satan as a deity. De Haan said the religion is made up primarily of agnostics or atheists.

Holm said the city has adopted new policies on the prayer since approving the satanists’ request, but it had nothing to do with the group.

Instead, he said the city is using similar to those in Congress that mandate prayers be kept short and are free from any political motivation. Holm said the city had a past problem with groups attempting to give speeches or making an argument during the prayer.

De Haan said the group is not looking to shake any feathers or make changes to the city’s process. His group just wants to be included in the broader religious spectrum.

“We are Satanists and we are your friend,” he said.

KTAR’s Corbin Carson contributed to this report.

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