Thursday, July 22, 2021

Satanic Temple Can Move Ahead With Establishment Clause Claim As To Invocation Denial

In The Satanic Temple, Inc. v. City of Boston, MA (D MA, July 21, 2021), a Massachusetts federal district court refused to dismiss an Establishment Clause challenge to Boston's City Council invocation policy.  The court said in part:

TST reached out to the Boston City Council, which opens each of its meetings with a prayer, asking to give the invocation.... Defendant denied those requests, explaining that City Councilors choose speakers from their communities for their assigned weeks, and that TST could not lead the prayer without an invitation from a City Councilor.... Those denials were made after members of the Boston public objected to the possibility of TST opening a City Council session with a prayer and in the wake of a public outcry and 2,000-person protest after TST attempted to stage a “Black Mass” at Harvard....

Given the fact-specific nature of the inquiry into the constitutionality of legislative prayer schemes and the lack of controlling authority from the First Circuit or Supreme Court, this Court will not dismiss TST’s Establishment Clause claim at the motion to dismiss stage....  TST has plausibly raised a claim that Defendant’s prayer selection policy has discriminated against it in violation of the Establishment Clause.

The court dismissed plaintiff's free exercise, free speech and equal protection challenges. Universal Hub reports on the decision.