A Florida man has given officials in Lake County, Florida, an ultimatum: either replace the traditional prayer held before county meetings with a non-religious moment of silence, allow him to perform a Satanic invocation before meetings, or face a lawsuit, the Orlando Sentinel is reporting.
Fifty-one-year-old Chaz Stevens isn’t a Satanist – he’s an atheist who runs an atheist blog. But he’s not afraid to invoke The Dark One if necessary in order to get his point across: prayers do not belong at government meetings. On his blog, Stevens said he doesn’t appreciate having to go to church when he attends Lake County Commission meetings.
“If I have to go to the city or county commission to get my roof fixed or something and I have to go through church for a few minutes, I hate it. We pay them to get right to the business at hand—the trash, the police, the fire department—not to pray.”
Stevens’ effort is part of what he calls the “Satan or Silence Project.” The project an effort to convince local governments to hold a moment of silence before meetings instead of a prayer – either that, or allow members of the community to do Satanic invocations as well.
The law may very well be on his side; in 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that government bodies can open meetings with prayer as long as it’s non-sectarian and doesn’t advance or disparage any religion. That means that if a government body wanted to pray before meetings, they would have to allow any and all prayers from anyone who asked – Hindus, Muslims, even Satanists.
Lake County is just the latest target of Stevens’ project, according to the Birmingham News. Stevens has asked at least 11 cities in south Florida to either ditch opening prayer for a moment of silence, or allow a Satanic invocation. At least four have changed their policies to opt for a moment of silence instead of having to allow Chaz to invoke Satan. It’s not clear, as of this post, if Stevens has moved forward with plans to sue those remaining seven cities.
It’s not just local government that have been the targets of Stevens’ ire: in 2013, Stevens made news when he displayed a Festivus Pole – a stack of Pabst Blue Ribbon cans held up by a PVC pipe – in the Florida Capitol. He did so legally, according to NPR; a court had ruled that if Florida allowed a Christian nativity scene in the building, as they had done for as long as anybody could remember, then they had to allow displays from other religions. Enter Stevens and his Festivus pole (Festivus, for those not familiar, is a fake holiday that was mentioned in an episode of Seinfeld; the holiday has since attracted some tongue-in-cheek followers).
Back in Lake County, Stevens hasn’t really nailed down, specifically, what type of Satanic invocation he intends to perform, should the need arise. But he promises it will be solemn – maybe.
“At best, [the invocation] is going to be solemn and right to the occasion, but it might very well raise the dead,” he said. “I mean think about it. We’re talking about Satan.”
Lake County Commissioner Jimmy Conner is having none of that.
“There won’t be any satanic prayers while I’m chairman. The man isn’t going to bully me. If he hates God, he can do that. But we’re not going to spread devil worshipping in our chamber.”
Conners says he intends to ask area churches to donate to a legal defense fund, if Stevens continues to press to be allowed to have a Satanic invocation.
[Image via Shutterstock/Vera Petruk]