Satanist sues Chicago for ignoring his "Hail Satan" invocation request
Adam Vavrick says the city council is violating his First Amendment rights
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The Satanic Temple is suing the city of Chicago for refusing to allow one of its leaders to deliver a Satanic invocation before a city council meeting. The lawsuit comes after years of polite requests and attempts at going through the proper channels went nowhere. It also highlights the problem of having an invocation at city council meetings when there are no firm rules to decide which religions are “acceptable” for public consumption.
Adam Vavrick, one of the leaders of The Satanic Temple Illinois, first reached out to the “chief of public engagement for the Office of the City Clerk” in January of 2020, according to the lawsuit, and was told he’d be allowed to give the invocation after “standard vetting procedures” were completed. Seemed pretty standard. No matter how much information he gave them, though, Chicago officials never scheduled him to speak. Eventually they stopped answering his emails.
When Vavrick finally asked a lawyer to step in on his behalf earlier this year, attorneys for the city were “unable to articulate the process for seeking to provide an invocation and could not say whether the City would permit Minister Adam to deliver an invocation.”
That’s what brought on this lawsuit. It’s not that the city rejected his offer. It’s that the city acted like he never made an offer, then refused to explain what hoops potential speakers have to jump through in order to deliver the opening prayer. It’s like they were hoping he’d just go away.
He’s not going away. He’s just asking for the same treatment and opportunity granted to the many, many religious invocation speakers at recent city council meetings—at least 50 by his count since he began making his own requests.
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.”
Vavrick even went a step further than you’d expect: He offered to send Chicago officials a copy of his invocation in advance. Since they never responded to him, he didn’t get to do that, but here’s what they would have heard:
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.
Even if some of that imagery is unconventional, it’s no different from the rhetoric used by Christian preachers. If anything, it’s tamer. It’s not like his religion condemns non-believers to Hell.
Block Club Chicago asked city officials for comment and they gave different versions of the same response—they can’t comment on pending litigation—but check out what one alderman said in an email:
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.”
That right there is a perfect encapsulation of why invocations shouldn’t be a part of government meetings, period. La Spata is all about inclusion… until that means including something he’s uncomfortable with. Then it’s a “betrayal.”
It’s not clear if that’s why Vavrick has been denied the opportunity, though. It’s entirely possible this is the result of complete incompetence. But you’ll never see a Christian pastor forced to jump through this many hoops to give an invocation.
And yet Satanists have hit similar obstacles in other cities too:
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 co-founder Lucien Greaves told me in an email that this is no small deal: “We see it our duty to speak in the name of pluralism any time government functionaries work to exceed their authority in giving special privileges to specific viewpoints at the expense of others.“
The lawsuit says the city is violating Vavrick’s First Amendment rights. They owe it to him to accept his invocation offer or remove the pointless tradition from their future agendas.
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