The Satanic Temple v. Scottsdale Will Set 9th Circuit Precedent

The Satanic Temple v. Scottsdale Will Set 9th Circuit Precedent August 11, 2018

On Thursday a Federal Judge David G. Campbell in Arizona district court denied the City of Scottsdale’s motion to dismiss The Satanic Temple’s (TST’s) lawsuit against Scottsdale for denying them the opportunity to give an invocation at a City Council meeting. This means the case will be moving forward and stands ready to shape case law for invocations at government meetings for the entire 9th Circuit.

The Satanic Temple v. Scottsdale

As we’ve previously reported, TST’s lawsuit stems from a 2016 attempt to give an invocation by TST-Arizona Chapter Head Michelle Shortt at a Scottsdale City Council meeting. When, after having been given a speaking slot on the meeting schedule, TST was rather abruptly (and as the suit argues, unconstitutionally) dis-invited. The denial of the motion to dismiss is a big win for TST. According to my talks with TST legal counsel for the case Stu De Haan the outcome of the lawsuit will set legal precedent for the entire Judicial 9th Circuit, which is a huge and populous area. Basically, TST is now set to impact the battle surrounding public invocations everywhere from Arizona, to Alaska, to Guam. The lawsuit is a ‘case of first impression’, which means these exact circumstances have never been litigated before, and whatever the outcome of the case is will effect how the courts treat other lawsuits of similar circumstances for all people of all religions or non-religion.

9th Circuit Court Map via Uscourts.gov

The win isn’t without some clouding. Accord to the ruling while the lawsuit will move forward, the judge upheld the motion to dismiss for the individual defendants but denied the motion for the City of Scottsdale itself. That just means that TST is suing Scottsdale and not Scottsdale along with all the City Council members individually. That seems pretty reasonable to me. Though I’m a little surprised the motion applied to Mayor Jim Lane since he so blatantly used the blocking of TST’s invocation in his campaign re-election materials. To me that looks clearly discriminatory and his campaign is separate from work he does for the City so if I were the Judge I probably would’ve left him on there, but then again I’m not a Federal Judge. In the end the important part is that the lawsuit will be moving forward and Scottsdale will have to combat this first amendment challenge head on.

Equality Gone Too Far

This welcome bit of news comes after a tumultuous week for TST, having been buffeted by social media after the announcement of several chapters desire to leave the organization to focus on different pursuits of their own. So it was a much needed win for TST that couldn’t have come at a better time.

In support of the lawsuit, The Satanic Temple-Arizona will be holding a fundraiser event titled “Speak of the Devil: Equality Gone Too Far” complete with ritual performance and live music, on September 15th in Tucson, Arizona. The event’s name is a reference to an email discovered during the course of researching the lawsuit by Scottsdale Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield who stated in official email discussing the invocation that she did “NOT want the Satanists” to speak and that Satanists should have such a right was an example of “taking equality too far.”

You can read the ruling for yourself below:


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  • Hail Satan!
    Wish it were happening here, home of the first (and only so far) TST invocation – mine, before the Pensacola City Council in 2016. #TSTWF has since been purged from PCC’s list of eligible groups, in favor or 178 local churches (176 xtian) who never asked. Here’s how bad it is:
    One of the Escambia Board of County Commissioners accepted an offer from Humanists of West Florida (but not #TSTWF) to give an invocation nearly two years ago. Our president showed up. Just before he was to speak, commissioner Grover Robinson (now frontrunner for mayor) rescinded his invitation and offered a moment of silence instead. He said this was due to a press release touting this historic (first ever secular) invocation… probably because it was said to include elements of TST’s invocation. This board, just like the local School Board, allows elected members to choose who may pray. The School Board has NEVER had a prayer delivered that wasn’t of a Judeo-Christian flavor.
    I bring this up to say that there are MANY ways such boards discriminate. No one has yet challenged letting elected officials choose. Of course, no politician here in the deep South chooses either of our secular groups to participate. We keep asking. Crickets. Barring a lawsuit, these assholes do what they want. They don’t want secularists, so tough shit. Religious freedom only applies to preferred religions.

  • yep, the struggle is quite literally real.

  • Anri

    The event’s name is a reference to an email discovered
    during the course of researching the lawsuit by Scottsdale Councilwoman
    Kathy Littlefield who stated in
    official email discussing the invocation that she did “NOT want the
    Satanists” to speak and that Satanists should have such a right was an
    example of “taking equality too far.”

    “Look, we’re all for equality, but not for just anyone!”

  • WallofSleep

    Well, some animals are more equal than others.