A government meeting in Alaska opened with a prayer to Satan after a Satanic Temple member won the right to deliver the invocation, prompting about a dozen officials and attendees to walk out.
The invocation was the first given by the Satanic Temple since the Kenai Peninsula Borough — 75 miles south of Anchorage — changed a policy in November after the Alaska Superior Court said that policy violated the state’s constitution’s establishment clause. The new policy allows for anyone in the borough to offer an invocation, no matter their religion.
In her invocation, Iris Fontana, who is a member of the Satanic Temple and brought a lawsuit against the borough to change the policy, called the room to be present, "and for attendees to clear their minds," the Peninsula Clarion newspaper reported.
"She asked listeners to embrace the impulse to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. 'Let us demand that humans be judged for their actions,' she said," the Clarion reported.
“That which will not bend, must break, and that which can be destroyed by truth should never be spared as demise. It is done, hail Satan,” Fontana said, Kenai radio station KSRM reported.
Some 40 people protested the inclusion of a Satanic Temple invocation. Some held signs reading “reject Satan and his works” and “know Jesus and his love,” as they demonstrated outside the government building, the Clarion reported.
"Assembly members Norm Blakeley and Paul Fischer and borough Mayor Charlie Pierce were among those who left the assembly chambers along with some audience members," the Associated Press reported.
The protesters included William Siebenmorgen, who flew to Alaska from Pennsylvania for the event.
“God will be pleased with our public prayers of reparation. We want God’s blessings on America, not Satan’s curses. Lucifer is the eternal loser. Let’s keep him out,” he told KSRM.
But Kenai resident Greg Andersen warned that he'll be giving the next invocation.
“This is just some advanced notice for those of you who have a hard time accepting that some people have beliefs that are different than your own,” Andersen said. “You can turn your back and walk out like I witnessed this evening.”
It isn't the first time a Satanic Temple member has forced the government to include them. In 2018, the Chicago chapter of the Satanic Temple forced officials to display its "Snaketivity" statue next to a huge Christmas tree in the Illinois Statehouse rotunda, the The Daily Wire reported.
The statue, which featured a hand holding up an apple with a serpent wrapped around it, was included alongside a Nativity scene and a Hanukkah menorah. It's title, "Knowledge Is The Greatest Gift," overtly mocks the idea of Christ as God's great gift to the world.
NPR reported that a note nearby sought to explain that the inclusion of sacrelegious statues like the "Snaketivity" wasn't officials' fault:
The State of Illinois is required by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution to allow temporary, public displays in the state capitol so long as these displays are not paid for by taxpayer dollars. Because the first floor of the Capitol Rotunda is a public place, state officials cannot legally censor the content of speech or displays. The United States Supreme Court has held that public officials may legally impose reasonable time, place and manner restrictions regarding displays and speeches, but no regulation can be based on the content of the speech.
The statue was included because while the Satanic Temple says it is a "non-theistic organization," the group is still considered by the state to be a religious organization and thus is given the same rights as others.