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Satanists acknowledge that, yeah, they wanted to mess with Michelle Wu

A lawyer for the Satanic Temple in Salem today filed an explanation of why his group wants to make Michelle Wu spend several hours in Salem on Election Day to answer questions about how the City Council invites clergy to open its meetings with an invocation: To make her think about what she's done.

In a letter to US District Court Judge Angel Kelley this morning, attorney Matthew Kezhaya says it's only fitting that a candidate for mayor be asked to explain why the council refuses to invite any Satanists to provide an invocation, which the group claims shows that the council is showing favoritism towards non-Satanic religions, in violation of the First Amendment's Establishment clause. The group sued the council in January; in July, another federal judge narrowed the case to the Establishment issue.

Kelley had ordered the Satanic Temple to explain by 9 a.m. today why it had subpoenaed Wu for a deposition on Nov. 2. Kezhaya elucidated:

I expected, perhaps naively, that a mayoral candidate for a city that holds stewardship over Bunker Hill, Faneuil Hall, and the USS Constitution would have paused to think about what her candidacy means. Maybe it would even result in that precious invite, that public acknowledgment that my client stands on equal footing in the eyes of the law as other religions.

And, if not, I expected that the matter would at least be something the public takes heed of. Perhaps, if not the above, the public may take note of the caliber of Wu’s character: as one who asserts an interest in diversity and inclusion, provided of course that it is politically expedient.

Kezhaya added:

At bottom, my litigation strategy on this matter involved pitting Wu’s and the City’s litigation goals (i.e., concocting a credible lie as to why my client will never receive an invite, but which is also somehow not unconstitutional religious discrimination) against Wu’s personal goals (i.e. winning her mayoral election). My bet was that her self-interest would win out against the litigation, and she would choose to expend her limited time and efforts on her campaign as opposed to internalizing whatever post-hoc justification the City comes up with based on the extrinsic proof.

And he asked who the hell does Wu think she is, claiming she's "a little busy" and unavailable for answering questions on Nov. 2, even if she was being tongue in cheek in her tweet?

No, an ordinary citizen would be expected to offer an alternative date of mutual agreeability.

In yet another filing, Kezhaya claims the group agreed to reschedule its deposition to another day, but that the city then refused and made a claim that Wu, as a public official, is above such things.

Kezhaya did not explain why a similar subpoena was not issued to Annissa Essaibi George, who, like Wu, is also a city councilor currently running for mayor.

In any case, he claimed he did nothing that violates court procedure and that he is only acting in the best interest of his client:

I feel no remorse for the action I took. As an attorney, it is my sworn duty to do anything short of breaking the law to see to it that my client’s goals are recognized. This business of litigation is zero-sum. Everything I do which can benefit my client will cause an equal and opposite effect on the other side. I serve my purpose with all the zealous advocacy which my oath commands. And I expect nothing less from my adversaries.

In a separate letter to Kelley, Kezhaya said he strongly objected to answering the judge's question:

The basis of my objection is the work product privilege. Under the work product privilege, Plaintiff is protected from compelled disclosure of, among other things, its attorneys’ mental impressions and trial strategies. ...

What goes on in my mind and in my discussions with co-counsel to the end of winning this case is sacrosanct.

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Comments

And, if not, I expected that the matter would at least be something the public takes heed of.

The strategy is clear and understandable, and I'd bet they subpoena'd just Wu because they're assuming she's going to win, but I think that was a fatal mistake on their part. To the public, the targeting-one-candidate-only action seems like harassment; the message they'd hoped to send has been lost. They needed to subpoena AEG as well, and at this point it's too late.

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Voting closed 7

But the Satanists didn't: Wu was council president during one of the periods in which the Satanists tried to get an invite, while Essaibi George has never served as president.

Of course, if that were the case, one could ask why they didn't try to subpoena either Andrea Campbell or Kim Janey, both of whom have also served as council president. Or, um, heck, why not Bill Linehan or Matt O'Malley (O'Malley is explicitly mentioned in their lawsuit, even).

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Voting closed 35

The invocation's are delivered by people who are invited by members of the City Council, and I assume that the invitations are rotated amongst the 13, with each member inviting between 3 and 4 people to deliver the invocation.

That said, if one wanted to deliver the invocation, the best move would be to cozy up to a member and eventually ask for the invite.

Badgering members in order to get the invitation would appear to be the worst means of getting that coveted slot.

I'd be willing to bet that not only are there humanists that could pull off the not too difficult task of befriending a member of the City Council, but there have probably been humanists that have done the invocation, in addition to Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and various other faiths.

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Voting closed 6

Dunno, but City Clerk (and former Councilor) Maureen Feeney typically gives the invocation when a member of the clergy does not.

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Voting closed 6

You're right: Councilors take turns inviting clergy for the invocation.

It all came up before Judge Allison Burroughs dismissed the parts of the Satanists' suit in which they claimed they were being denied their free-speech and equal protection rights:

Burroughs said that no free-speech issues are involved because the council does not permit public comment at its Wednesday meetings, so they are not a "public forum" in the same way as council hearings, at which the public is invited to speak. Government, she said, has its own right to free speech and its Wednesday meetings are an expression of that.

Similarly, the Fourteenth Amendment challenge fails because of the emphasis councilors put on their selections of speakers based on their work in the community or their connection to the councilors who chose them.

Burroughs then allowed the suit to continue, but only on the more general Establishment issue: By excluding Satanists, is the council effectively showing bias in favor of specific religious groups, which is prohibited by that part of the First Amendment?

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Voting closed 6

Badgering members in order to get the invitation would appear to be the worst means of getting that coveted slot.

The point is not to deliver an invocation. It's to criticize the entire practice of having invocations.

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Voting closed 19

Perhaps I could pay a visit to Salem on Tuesday and tell them where they can go and what they can do once they get there.

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Voting closed 10

How dare someone point out how silly religion is and how there is supposed to be a separation of church and state…

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Voting closed 16

I'm just saying they're assholes.

I'm a Christian, but I think the Westboro Baptist Church are a bunch of assholes, too. No one from their church is likely to be invited to give the invocation, yet despite their First Amendment litigiousness, they would most likely not sue for the "right" to give it.

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Voting closed 12

It would depend in part on whether they believe in separation of church and state.

It’s pretty ludicrous, however, that you are trying to hold them up as somehow better than the Temple of Satan. LOL!

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Voting closed 10

I do believe that I called both these clowns and the Westboro clowns assholes. But humor me by spinning that into saying that I said that one was somehow better than the other.

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Voting closed 9

I'm going to guess that your position is not that you're a fan of religious ceremonies to kick off city council meetings (which could be inferred from your statement above, but again, that's not what I think you meant), and that your feeling about the Satanists in this case is similar to mine. I support what they're trying to do in general, but I think in this case they're being assholes in how they go about it.

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Voting closed 10

And times we disagree.

I don't support the Satanists, but as far as litigating in good faith on a case that involves getting a member of the City Council to invite them to open their meetings, this is the worst way to go about it. That they are suing overall, yeah, whatever. I mean, people file lawsuits all the time, and this will probably be something a jurist more versed than either of us will decide on. In the court of public opinion, they are losing.

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Voting closed 4

When I was a (Christian) kid, I loved the Christmas lights (and still do), but I always thought that the lights put up on government property must make non-Christians feel uncomfortable in a "you're not really one of us kind of way". When some local governments also included non-Christian holiday decor (like some parks also put up Menorahs), I loved it - and still do.

So when The Satanic Temple started filing lawsuits in support of separation of church and state (e.g. equal representation of holiday decor and keeping monuments of the ten commandments off government property or, alternatively, allowing other religions' good books to be represented too), I was all "you go!".

But a stunt like this? Singling out a particular mayoral candidate and on election day?

What an *ssh*ole move.

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Voting closed 6

I hope the plaintiff and its attorneys are sanctioned by the Court for such an egregious and the attempted use of its time and resources to make a political point. I generally support the Satanic Temple's tongue in cheek cheekiness and mission to set examples of what constitutes equitable access and demonstrate what the First Amendment is all about, but this stunt was dumb.

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Voting closed 6

"mayoral candidate for a city that holds stewardship over Bunker Hill, Faneuil Hall, and the USS Constitution"

That would be, respectively, the National Park Service, the Park Service and the City, and the Park Service and the Navy.

0.5/3. Good job.

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Voting closed 39

How about not having an invocation anymore? I'd rather the Council spends that time on doing its job.

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Voting closed 32

If the councilors feel they need an invocation to clear their minds and set the tone of the meeting, why not having it before the meeting begins, on their own time, in their offices or elsewhere.

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Voting closed 24

Because they're trying to avoid being the main story on Fox News about "godless liberals in Boston get rid of mentioning God in the City Council chambers".

It's not a great reason to keep the invocation, but it's a great reason to do nothing to get rid of it as long as it doesn't take too much time and no one complains (so we'll see what happens now with these lawsuits).

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Voting closed 13

Because they're trying to avoid being the main story on Fox News about "godless liberals in Boston get rid of mentioning God in the City Council chambers".

Why would they care? Fox News will find something to screech about no matter what they do. Are they so dumb that they think they can control the message put out by right wing media outlets with no interest in the truth?

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Voting closed 11

He "expected, perhaps naively," that Wu already thought about this question [I can buy that part], but he also thought that demanding hours of her time on Election Day would make her more likely to agree with his client?

Even if litigation is a zero-sum game, suing a group of people (the Boston city council) and then announcing that your goal is to inconvenience exactly one member of that group is a weird tactic. He seems to be claiming that interfering with Wu's campaigning would convince her that his client is correct, which makes no sense.

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Voting closed 18

Boston isn't in Essex County. And this is a federal law suit about Boston.

How is Salem possibly the correct jurisdiction in any case?

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Voting closed 16

… to antagonize Wu and disrupt her campaign?
It seems to me she would be more open than Essaibi George to getting rid of the invocation all together, which is their ultimate goal.

I think they may have shot themselves in the foot a little bit. I hope they recover from this and move forward with their goal. Maybe they need a new lawyer.

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Voting closed 4

EAG is not going to win, that is why Wu alone is targeted. Tasteful? No, but its the more effective measure by doing it this way if they want people talking about the issue.

On the whole, not their finest tactical move... But eroding the amount of organized religions influence in government will be messy. But it is essential.

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Voting closed 8