Satanic group to pray alongside defiant Christian football coach
A Christian high school football coach who has been defying orders to end post-game prayers on the pitch will be accompanied by Satanists on Thursday evening if he chooses to continue the practice.
Bremerton High School officials have warned coach Joe Kennedy not to pray at the 50-yard line anymore, where his players voluntarily joined in, but he has carried on without consequence. Viewing the inaction as tacit approval, The Satanic Temple of Seattle promised to use the same area of the football field for their own religious expression in the interest of equal treatment if a student would invite them.
Abe Bartlett, the school’s senior class president, answered the Satanists’ call.
"Coach Kennedy has expressed an interest in filing a lawsuit against the school district, and I think that was crossing a line – we're a low-income school district," Bartlett, 17, told AP. "But the main reason I did it is to portray to the school district that I think we should either have a policy that we're not going to have any religious affiliation or public religious practices, or they should say people are going to be allowed to practice their religion publicly whatever their beliefs."
Lilith Starr, chapter head of the Satanic Temple of Seattle, previewed the demonstration in a radio interview on KIRO, saying they were planning a “strong, theatrical, political call to stand up for the beliefs we believe in.”
"If the church-state separation is breached, we really don't think it's right for the state to be promoting one religion over the other," she said. "We really want to make the point that this is not just a Christian forum. If it's going to be open, it's going to be open to everyone, including us."
Coach Kennedy's attorneys from the Texas-based Liberty Institute dispute the claim that Kennedy’s prayers automatically turn the field into a public venue, pointing out the prayers are silent.
Starr and her fellow Satanists do not plan on being silent, with the organization telling The Friendly Atheist blog, “We’re going to be in black robes, heads covered like Sith Lords. If Joe Kennedy starts to pray, we will begin our solemn march accompanied by a gong to the 50 yard line in a V-formation, with Lilith in front. She will have an incense burner in each extended arm. When we get to the 50 yard line, she hands the incense off to people behind her and begins the invocation… With each sentence the gong will ring.”
“The invocation will likely end with a repeating ‘Ava Satanas!’ (Hail Satan) lead by Lilith.”
Kennedy’s lawyers garnered 47 signatures from US congressmen on a petition letter to the Bremerton School District, claiming that Kennedy’s religious liberty was being violated by the high school’s demand he quit. Co-chairs of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Virginia) and Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) led the effort in signing the letter.
"The Establishment Clause exists to ensure that the government cannot affirmatively impose or elevate one religion over another,” it reads. “However, it does not prohibit the government from referencing religion altogether, nor does it require that government officials proactively scrub all references of religion from the public square."