Demonstrators hold signs outside the Kenai Peninsula Borough building in protest of an invocation by a member of the Satanic Temple on Tuesday, June 18, 2019 in Soldotna, Alaska. The invocation was the first given by the Satanic Temple since the borough changed its invocation policy following an Alaska Superior Court decision finding the policy unconstitutional and in violation of the state’s constitution’s establishment clause. (Photo courtesy Aud Walaszek)

Demonstrators hold signs outside the Kenai Peninsula Borough building in protest of an invocation by a member of the Satanic Temple on Tuesday, June 18, 2019 in Soldotna, Alaska. The invocation was the first given by the Satanic Temple since the borough changed its invocation policy following an Alaska Superior Court decision finding the policy unconstitutional and in violation of the state’s constitution’s establishment clause. (Photo courtesy Aud Walaszek)

Satanic Temple invocation prompts protest, walkouts at assembly meeting

The borough lost a lawsuit against plaintiffs represented by the ACLU of Alaska

A member of the Satanic Temple offered an invocation at Tuesday’s Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting, prompting walkouts from about a dozen attendees and borough officials, and a protest outside the building.

The invocation was the first given by the Satanic Temple since the borough changed its invocation policy in November. The new policy allows for anyone in the borough to offer an invocation, no matter their religion. The change in policy came after the Alaska Superior Court found the former policy unconstitutional and in violation of the state’s constitution’s establishment clause.

In her invocation, Iris Fontana — a member of the Satanic Temple and the prevailing plaintiff in the lawsuit against the borough — called the room to be present, and for attendees to clear their minds. She asked listeners to embrace the impulse to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

“Let us demand that humans be judged for their actions,” she said.

No one is required to participate in assembly invocations. Assembly members Norm Blakeley and Paul Fischer stepped out of the assembly chambers, along with chief of staff James Baisden and Mayor Charlie Pierce — as well as a handful of audience members.

Two Soldotna police officers were present for the invocation, staying in the assembly chambers entryway.

About 40 people, some holding signs reading “reject Satan and his works” and “know Jesus and his love,” demonstrated outside the borough building before and during the meeting.

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 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.

Several people addressed the borough’s invocation policy during the meeting’s allotted time for public comment. Michele Hartline and Paul Huber, both from Nikiski, offered their own Christian prayers during public comment.

Barrett Fletcher, who is the pastor of the First Lower Peninsula Congregation of Pastafarians, said the borough should do away with invocations and “stop offending people.”

“I’m sure when I give the invocation in Homer in September there will be people that are offended by the idea of a creator of the universe, the Great Flying Spaghetti Monster, being invoked,” Fletcher said.

Greg Andersen, Kenai resident, also spoke to the policy during his public comment. He warned the room he’ll be giving the next invocation.

“This is just some advanced notice for those of you who have a hard time accepting that some people have beliefs that are different than your own,” Andersen said. “You can turn your back and walk out like I witnessed this evening.”

More in News

Lydia Jacoby of the United States, sees the results after winning the final of the women’s 100-meter breaststroke at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, July 27, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo / Martin Meissner)
Seward buzzing over Jacoby’s victory

SEWARD — An Olympic buzz permeates an Alaska coastal community thousands of… Continue reading

FILE - A sign advises shoppers to wear masks outside of a store Monday, July 19, 2021, in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles. Infections are climbing across the U.S. and mask mandates and other COVID-19 prevention measures are making a comeback in some places as health officials issue increasingly dire warnings about the highly contagious delta variant. But in a possible sign that the warnings are getting through to more Americans, vaccination rates are creeping up again, offering hope that the nation could yet break free of the coronavirus if people who have been reluctant to receive the shot are finally inoculated. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
CDC changes course on indoor masks in some parts of the US

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed course Tuesday on some… Continue reading

Alaska State Troopers and local law enforcement agencies in Ketchikan arrested a woman on Friday, Feb. 5, 2021 in possession of more than a quarter of a million dollars worth of drugs at the Ketchikan International Airport. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Semi-truck crash marks fourth major car accident in 10 days

There was another vehicle accident on the Sterling Highway this morning, according… Continue reading

Resurrection Bay is seen from Seward, Alaska on Saturday, July 24, 2021. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
Seward approves construction of animal shelter

The Seward City Council approved up to $1,930,500 for the construction of… Continue reading

Alaska Senate President Peter Micciche speaks to reporters after a Senate floor session on the opening day of the second special legislative session on Wednesday, June 23, 2021, in Juneau, Alaska. Gov. Mike Dunleavy called the special session to address the budget. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)
Per diems add up for lawmakers

State lawmakers could make more than $85,000 in per diem payments and… Continue reading

Daniel Balserak and Luke Konson fish for salmon in Alaska. The pair has been traveling the country and catching every official state fish for the past 11 months. (Photo provided)
A gap year like no other

High school graduates defer college enrollment to fish in every state

Hikers look at the Harding Icefield in August 2015 in Kenai Fjords National Park, just outside of Seward, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Hiker rescued from Harding Icefield Trail

A hiker was airlifted off of the Harding Icefield Trail in Kenai… Continue reading

COVID-19 cases are rising and health officials say new variants are spurring the increase, even among the vaccinated. But health officials note the majority of hospitalizations and deaths are occurring in unvaccinated people. (Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire file)
COVID-19 surge continues

‘They’re getting sicker this time around’

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Weekend car accident leaves 1 dead

Alaska State Troopers reported another car accident fatality over the weekend, marking… Continue reading

Most Read