Members of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly hold a religious invocation during the Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018, assembly meeting in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Members of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly hold a religious invocation during the Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018, assembly meeting in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Satanic invocation sparks online petition

The petition urges the assembly to cancel the upcoming Satanic invocation.

An online petition to rid “Satanic invocations” at Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meetings has gathered more than 25,000 signatures.

The petition comes before Iris Fontana — a member of the Satanic Temple and the prevailing plaintiff of a lawsuit against the Kenai Peninsula Borough regarding its invocation policy — is scheduled to offer an invocation at the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting.

Carrie Henson — founder of the Last Frontier Freethinkers, a local nonprofit educational organization promoting “progressive philosophy of life without theism” — is urging the organization’s membership to offer Fontana, also a member of the Freethinkers, support during her Tuesday invocation.

“We’re trying to get members and supporters to be there to support her,” Henson said.

Assembly member Willy Dunne said he first heard of the petition when a constituent emailed him June 2. Dunne said he asked Assembly President Wayne Ogle to request law enforcement presence at Tuesday’s meeting. Monday, he confirmed Soldotna police will be present at the meeting.

The petition urges the assembly to cancel the upcoming Satanic invocation.

It is unclear who started the petition, but the petition is being hosted by Return to Order, a special campaign of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property — an organization for Catholic Americans concerned with “moral crisis.”

“How could a public institution which is meant to uphold the common good allow a representative of Satanic principles?” the petition reads. “Are immorality, corruption, and vice what we expect our public officials to promote?”

In October, the borough lost a lawsuit against plaintiffs represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska in a fight over its invocation policy, which allowed certain groups and individuals to offer an invocation at the beginning of each meeting. The plaintiffs, Lance Hunt, an atheist, Fontana and Elise Boyer, a member of the Jewish community in Homer, all applied to give invocations after the policy was established in 2016. All three were denied because they didn’t belong to official organizations with an established presence on the peninsula. They sued and the ACLU Alaska agreed to represent them.

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Andrew Peterson ruled the invocation policy, passed in 2016, violated the Alaska Constitution’s establishment clause, which is a mandate banning government from establishing an official religion or the favoring of one belief over another. Article 1, Section 4 of the constitution provides that “no law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion.”

In November, the assembly voted against appealing the Superior Court decision and passed an updated invocation policy allowing more people the ability to give invocations at assembly meetings.

The Satanic Temple was founded in 2013, and according to their official website, the organization fights for secularism. The Temple’s co-founder, Lucien Greaves, says the Satanic Temple is a “non-theistic movement aligned with liberty, equality and rationalism.” The Temple’s mission “is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will.”

Fontana will offer an invocation at the beginning of Tuesday’s assembly meeting, at the Kenai Peninsula Borough Betty J. Glick Assembly Chambers.

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