Boston City Council’s Opening Invocations and the Tenets of The Satanic Temple: A Brief Analysis

“A Boston satanic congregation has asked to perform an invocation to begin a City Council meeting, claiming that members of their faith are entitled to the same treatment as other religious groups that have performed prayers at meetings.”

You may remember this opening paragraph from little more than a month ago in the Boston Globe with reference to a very amiable letter that The Satanic Temple-Boston Chapter Head, our very own Travis LeSaffre, sent to Boston City Council President, Councilor Michelle Wu. To say that The Globe represented our intentions as an organization in anything less than an accurate manner would be a fallacy. If you haven’t already read Travis’s letter, it reads as follows:

Good afternoon Councilor Wu,

My name is Travis--and I am the Chapter Head of The Satanic Temple --Boston. We're a group of politically aware, non-theistic Satanists active Within your community. The
mission of The Satanic Temple is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people,
reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual Will.

I spoke to a representative of your office named David, and I was informed that the Boston City Council's invocation slots are invitation based. Over the past year, the invited clergy performing these actions have been overwhelmingly Christian. As a member of a religious minority, I plead With you to consider allowing me to perform an invocation. I was told by David that I would need to personally request a spot from a councilor. I've reached out to Mark Ciommo last week, but haven't received a reply just yet. I have also sent an email to Tito Jackson in an attempt to be heard by someone who still has slots open for invocations during this calendar year, while requiring some variety of sponsorship is understandable, it would be shocking if I am to be turned away due to my faith while other religions are allowed to hold prayers in a government building. In fact, I would say that it would be a breach of the first amendment.

The religious oppression felt by those outside the Christian community in Boston is a blight on an otherwise liberal state. Consider what your actions could do to increase the diversity of the city Council's current invocation schedule and the light it can shine on religious plurality Within the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Regards,
Travis
Chapter Head The Satanic Temple – Boston

Having done his due diligence, Travis had contacted two other councilors before reaching out to Councilor Wu, requesting to fill any vacant invocation slot at a future City Council meeting. Though not officially denied our request for what we see as equal and just treatment as a religious organization, it can be implied that a lack of correspondence from Councilors Mark Ciommo and Tito Jackson is comparable to a denial by oversight or neglect. The question remains however, why is this pursuit to procure a slot for an opening invocation at a city council meeting, or even a response from city councilors so important to not only the Boston Chapter of The Satanic Temple, but to all our chapters, and how is it reflected in our Seven Fundamental Tenets?

To address these questions, we must look at the Seven Fundamental Tenets of The Satanic Temple, and delve deeper into what they truly mean and represent for us as individuals and as an organization of like-minded kith and kin. Bear in mind that not all seven of the Tenets are applicable in this discussion, but three can be directly correlated to the recent correspondence between The Satanic Temple and Councilor Michelle Wu. Two others can be applied with a touch of interpretation. To begin our analysis, we’ll start with the three Tenets that can be easily and readily applied to the circumstances heretofore, in order of their degree of correlation.

The Fourth Tenet of The Satanic Temple is easily the most directly applicable Tenet to the issue at hand. It reads as follows;

“The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo your own.”

Without too much digression into a discussion of axiomatic nature of this Tenet, it can be assumed that the Fourth Tenet is universally accepted throughout American society as a whole to varying degrees through equally varying degrees of interpretation of a multitude of documents, proverbs, platitudes, and literature expressing similar sentiments. Though not an idea unique to American society, it is a uniquely championed principle of life as an American, and a source of immense pride amongst Americans. The idea that we live in a society and under a government that was founded on inherently similar principles is a perfectly acceptable reason to instill pride in anyone.

The problem that lies therein is that our recent correspondence with Councilor Wu was merely a request that our freedoms as an organization and as human beings be respected by the Boston City Council. In light of the fact that there is a distinct call for a complete divide between government and religious activities, the Boston City Council allows for, and in truth encourages opening their meetings with religious invocations that are markedly singular in denomination, demonstrating preferential bias towards religious leaders within various subsets of the Christian faith. It seems that the Boston City Council has decided, consciously or unconsciously, to respect the freedoms of one organization more so than others, thereby infringing upon the freedoms of others, including but not limited to The Satanic Temple. It should go without saying that this is not accurately representative of the entire population of the City of Boston or the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but it has been made clear by the Boston City Councilors through their inaction that the opportunity to deliver opening invocations is one that is almost exclusively reserved for faith leaders that adhere to a primarily Judeo-Christian doctrine that is representative more of the beliefs of the City Councilors themselves. This exclusivity is an injustice to the people of the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that are marginalized and underrepresented during opening invocations at city council meetings. This brings us to the Second Tenet of The Satanic Temple;

“The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.”

If you visit the City of Boston’s webpage, Boston.gov, and navigate to the City Council page in the department listings, the Boston City Council is defined as follows;

“The City Council serves as a link between the citizens of Boston and their municipal government. Councilors help constituents by connecting them to resources, services, and City departments. They serve as advocates for all Bostonians.

The City Council is the legislative body of the City of Boston. Councilors are elected every two years by the citizens of Boston. The council is made up of four at-large councilors that represent the entire City, and nine district councilors that represent specific areas of the City.

Through their work, city councilors make sure Boston continues to be a great place to live, work, and play.”

It would seem that the City of Boston defines their councilors as largely unbiased individuals who aim to serve and advocate for all of their constituents. To define the blatant disregardance of our requests for inclusion by Councilors Ciommo and Jackson as representative of the City is of an unequivocal repugnancy. Per The Satanic Temple-Boston Chapter Facebook page, we have at least 792 members and supporters within and outside of the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Boston being the “Hub” of the Commonwealth as the state capitol, and as the home of the only chapter of The Satanic Temple currently in state. That number is likely not an accurate figure if self-proclaimed Satanists identifying as members of The Satanic Temple who do not use Facebook or have not “liked” the Facebook page are taken into consideration.  It is, purely by definition, an injustice for any religious group to be excluded from religious invocations by any of the City Council members who have been defined as advocates for all members of the community of Boston, including those who commute to or are otherwise associated with any organization within the city limits.

The Second Tenet of The Satanic Temple implores all Satanists to strive for the execution of justice in all its definitions; as the swift and fair sentencing in matters of criminal justice, the passing of legislation that is universally beneficial to all that will be effected, and the equitable inclusivity of all people within the Satanic community and in all things, including government and its institutions. This is another Tenet of The Satanic Temple that is not unique to our religious organization, but is taught in the vast majority of religions, and is one of the fundamental laws of the land in the United States. To stray from this path based on stigma, against the dogma of the Judeo-Christian faiths that are apparently so dear to the Councilors, is a hypocrisy in itself. The Christ of the Judeo-Christian Bible is attributed with being a devout advocate for loving and including all mankind in all things, imploring his followers to treat each other and their neighbors with unconditional respect and forgiving those that have wronged them.

That being said, the Sixth Tenet of The Satanic Temple comes to mind;

“People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and resolve any harm that may have been caused.”

Again, the axiomatic nature of this Tenet should need no explanation, but clearly the Boston City Councilors don’t realize their gaffe. It seems that the general populous affiliated with any Judeo-Christian sect cannot see that they have made any misstep or contradiction regarding their own dogma by making Satanism and Satanists pariahs, excluding us from a practice that is regarded as representative of an entire community. It is evident that The Satanic Temple is willing to forgive the City Council for their exclusions if the situation were to be rectified by the inclusion of The Satanic Temple in their opening invocations, or by the discontinuation of the practice of invocations at future meetings thereby mitigating any exclusivity or preferential treatment in general. Either of these solutions would be empathetic actions on the part of the City Council.

“One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.”

To act with understanding regarding our concerns as an excluded organization would be not only advisable, but the just course for the Boston City Council. As a legislative body, it should be of the utmost importance for the council to ensure that the actions of all of the councilors as individuals, as well as the council as a whole are indeed just. To act with compassion and understanding in all things is of the utmost importance to those affiliated with The Satanic Temple, and it is yet again one of the principles of both religions of all origins and the core laws that govern this country. It is not only a universal truth, but it is a noble characteristic that has been regarded throughout history.

“Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.”

The Seventh Tenet of The Satanic Temple acknowledges that aforementioned nobility, as well as the importance of all other Tenets in the pursuit of that nobility.

There is no conceivable excuse to deny the request of The Satanic Temple to be included in future council meeting invocations, and putting it in the hands of individual council members to choose who is invited to perform invocations is to open the council as a whole to discrimination, exclusivity, and the exhibition of preferential treatment based on the will and personal beliefs of council members. This is not an accurate representation of Boston or Massachusetts as the communities they are, nor is it indicative of the definition of the council put forth by the City of Boston.

Based on the Tenets of The Satanic Temple, it is clear that the inaction on the part of Councilors Ciommo, Jackson, and Wu is not only aberrant, but hypocritical and detestable by members of The Satanic Temple, and anyone with a sense of justice and equality for all people.