Invocations aren’t unheard of at government meetings, particularly in rural areas. But the blessing that came in the invocation opening the Kenai (Alaska) Peninsula Borough Meeting on Tuesday was a little more unusual.
“Let us be present in this moment, clear our minds and be free of outdated propaganda and regulations that were created by historical people who were afraid of the unknown,” said speaker Iris Fontana. “Let us embrace the impulse to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil so that we may let go of comforting delusions and see the truth in the world.”
She concluded her prayer with, “It is done, hail Satan. Thank you.”
Fontana attended Tuesday’s meeting on behalf of the Temple of Satan, which, despite the name, doesn’t actually worship the devil but rather advocates against religious oppression.
“To embrace the name Satan is to embrace rational inquiry removed from supernaturalism and archaic tradition-based superstitions,” according to the Temple of Satan’s website. “We acknowledge blasphemy is a legitimate expression of personal independence from counter-productive traditional norms.”
The temple was among the plaintiffs, which also included a Jewish person, an atheist and the ACLU of Alaska, who sued the Kenai Peninsula Borough and won after they were denied the right to make an invocation at the start of assembly meetings, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
Now, the assembly agendas read:
“Any invocation that may be offered at the beginning of the assembly meeting shall be a voluntary offering of a private person, to and for the benefit of the assembly. No member of the community is required to attend or participate in the invocation.”
Several members of the assembly, as well as borough staff and audience members, walked out of the meeting prior to Fontana’s invocation.
Others took the occasion to protest Fontana’s speech with signs — some of which read “Reject Satan and his works” and “Know Jesus and his love” — or prayers made during the public comment portion of the meeting, according to the Peninsula Clarion.
The Peninsula Clarion reported that one man plans to give the invocation this fall in the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
“I’m sure when I give the invocation in Homer in September there will be people that are offended by the idea of a creator of the universe, the Great Flying Spaghetti Monster, being invoked,” Barrett Fletcher told the Peninsula Clarion.