Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly gets first satanic invocation since policy change

The Kenai Peninsula Borough assembly meets in the George A. Navarre Building (Creative Commons photo by Ajohns90 – cropped and lightened from original)

A member of the local Satanic Temple gave the invocation at the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting Tuesday night for the first time since the borough changed its policy on invocations last year.

The borough’s previous policy required the person delivering the invocation to be from a recognized church. But a Superior Court judge said that was unconstitutional.

So Satanic Temple member Iris Fontana, a plaintiff in the lawsuit over the issue, delivered Tuesday night’s invocation.

“Let’s cast aside our differences, to use reason, logic, science and compassion to create solutions for the greater good of our community,” Fontana said at the end of the invocation. “It is done. Hail Satan. Thank you.”

Peninsula Clarion reporter Victoria Petersen was at the meeting. Petersen told Alaska Public Media’s Casey Grove that some people walked out.

Victoria Petersen, Peninsula Clarion
She stood up to the podium and before she started speaking, several members in the audience stood up to exercise their right to not participate in the invocation since no one’s required to stand or do anything during that time. You know, people can just sit, stand, leave, whatever they they want to do. So several members of the audience got up, maybe 5-10 people and then two assembly members, Norm Blakeley as well as Paul Fischer, Chief of Staff, James Baisden, our borough mayor, Charlie Pierce all stood up and left the room before she started. And then, while that was happening, there was actually a protest outside the borough meeting along the road side where a couple dozen folks were protesting the invocation and the satanic nature of it.

Casey Grove, Alaska Public Media
And I guess they had some signs and things like that. It was pretty peaceful protest, it sounded like though, right?

Victoria Petersen
Yeah, peaceful protest. The signs said things like, “know Jesus and his love”, “deny Satan ” — things like that.

Casey Grove
Victoria, do you have much of a sense of kind of what the general mood in the public in the area is about this issue?

Victoria Petersen
So after the lawsuit came back, that the borough lost, they held a vote of whether or not they were going to appeal the decision, and it very narrowly lost. So they almost appealed it. And I would say that has to do with some of the assembly members as well as the constituents wanting that, feeling that to have invocations, you know, be the policy that it was, was something that they wanted. So it’s pretty, split like 50/50. A lot of folks, you know, don’t want to hear from — you know, I get the feeling that they don’t want to hear from people like Fontana, or they don’t want to hear her invocations at least.

Casey Grove
Do you get a sense of that folks actually want to continue to change it again?

Victoria Petersen
Yeah, there are some folks. Last night during public comment some people stood up, and you know said that they should just get rid of the invocations altogether to avoid more controversy. They talked about that, that came up a lot when they were voting on whether or not they wanted to appeal the lawsuit and instead of getting rid of it, so a lot of people mentioned they would rather have a moment of silence so they could, you know, invoke whatever they wanted to, but they ended up changing the policy to make it more inclusive.

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