The Chicago City Council, like many other legislative bodies, typically opens meetings with an “invocation”—essentially, a prayer or moment of reflection. Clergy from a wide range of religious backgrounds have given these invocations, and a Satanist minister wants to join their ranks. But the city has refused to let him—and refused to explain the decision. Now, this minister has filed a First Amendment lawsuit against the city.
The Satanic Temple is a nontheistic religion that, as noted by the lawsuit, is “federally recognized as a church and a religious public charity.” Contrary to popular belief, members of the group don’t actually worship Satan. Instead, they follow a series of seven “Tenets” focused on broad ideas of compassion, rationalism, and freedom.
The Satanic Temple has often tested religious-freedom policies and challenged anti-abortion laws on religious-freedom grounds. Just this month, the group experienced a significant legal victory after it won its lawsuit against a school district that attempted to block the formation of an “After School Satan Club.” It also celebrated when in 2015 a large Ten Commandments monument was removed from the Oklahoma state Capitol following a protest by the group and a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.*
This most recent lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, marks at least the third time The Satanic Temple has sued after being blocked from giving an invocation or prayer before a legislative body. Adam Vavrick, the ordained minister in the religion, unsuccessfully sought to perform an invocation at a Chicago city council meeting. According to the suit, Vavrick began his efforts in January 2020, when he spoke to Chauncy Rice, the then-chief of public engagement for the Office of the City Clerk, who told Vavrick “that he would be happy to schedule him to provide an invocation after ‘standard vetting procedures.”
“For the next several months, Minister Adam followed up with Mr. Rice approximately once a month to inquire about the status of his request to provide an invocation,” writes the complaint. “These emails went unanswered.” The same outcome occurred when Vavrick attempted to schedule an invocation with Rice’s successor.
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