Invocation Praising Satan Sparks Walkout Among Some Assembly Members, Mayor in Alaska

An Alaska assembly member's reference to Satan during an opening invocation on Tuesday prompted numerous people, including the town's mayor to walk out of the meeting.

The invocation was delivered by Iris Fontana, a member of the Temple of Satan, and came following a lawsuit brought forward by Fontana, Lance Hunt, an atheist, and Elise Boyer, a member of the Jewish community, to challenge the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly's invocation policy.
The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska on behalf of the plaintiffs, stated that all three individuals had been denied the right to say the invocation as they did not belong to organizations with an established presence in the Kenai Peninsula. Alaska's Superior Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in October 2018.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly established the policy in 2016, but the policy has since been changed to 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."
In Tuesday's invocation, Fontana called for assembly members to be "present in this moment, clear our minds and be free of outdated propaganda and regulations that were created by historical people who were afraid of the unknown."
"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 continued, adding. "It is done, hail Satan. Thank you," the close the invocation, the Sacramento Bee said.
Prior to Fontana delivering remarks, Mayor Charlie Pierce, his chief of staff James Baisden, and assembly members Norm Blakeley and Paul Fischer left the room, along with several citizens attending the meeting, the Peninsula Clarion said.
Fontana's invocation also drew a protest as around 40 people holding signs related to the Christian faith, including messages like "Reject Satan and his works" and "Know Jesus and his love," outside the building ahead of the meeting. The invocation also prompted a petition to keep "Satanic invocations" out of the assembly meetings had garnered more than 25,000 signatures as of Monday.
"How could a public institution which is meant to uphold the common good allow a representative of Satanic principles? Are immorality, corruption, and vice what we expect our public officials to promote?," the petition says.
Others also offered a form of rebuttal during the meeting, as two individuals who attended the meeting used the public comment portion of the gathering to give Christian prayers, the Clarion said.
Fontana's invocation might not be the only one to draw controversy this year as Greg Andersen, a Kenai resident, will offer an invocation at the next meeting. Andersen's remarks will be in the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the deity at the center of the religion known as Pastafarianism.
According to the Pastafarianism website, "We believe religion – say Christianity, Islam, Pastafarianism – does not require literal belief in order to provide spiritual enlightenment. Much of the transcendent experience of religion can be attributed to the community. And while some members of religion are indoctrinated True Believers, many are not. There are many levels of Belief and each is no more or less legitimate than the other."
"This is just some advanced notice for those of you who have a hard time. You can turn your back and walk out like I witnessed this evening," Andersen told the Clarion.
Kenai Peninisula Borrough Assembly Meeting
Iris Fontana, right, gives the invocation at the June 18 meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly Meeting. Fontana, a member of the Temple of Satan, drew attention for her remarks after she and two others sued the Assembly after they were denied the right to give an invocation due to being members of a religion with an established presence in the area. Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly