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Satanists want to force Michelle Wu to go to Salem on Election Day to answer questions about invocations at city-council meetings

The Satanic Temple of Salem, whose legal team now includes a hardball lawyer with a penchant for representing right-wing provocateurs, is demanding that Michelle Wu spend a good part of Election Day in Salem, answering questions about how the City Council chooses clergy members to lead the council in invocations at its regular Wednesday meetings.

The questions would be related to the Satanic Temple's federal suit against the council in January, alleging that the fact the council has never invited any Satanists to give an invocation is a violation of the First Amendment's Establishment clause.

City attorneys today asked US District Court Judge Angel Kelley, who is hearing the case, to block the move to force Wu to travel to Salem on Election Day, charging the group's subpoena to Wu, is harassment of a political candidate.

In a legal memorandum backing its motion to quash the subpoena, city attorneys said they had asked the Satanic Temple to pick another day or another city official with knowledge of the invocation process, since Wu is a candidate for mayor on Nov. 2, but that the group refused and instead issued a subpoena for her on that day.

City attorneys noted that the group's suit is against the entire council, that while its complaint mentions other councilors specifically, it does not name Wu specifically and that the city had provided a list of 47 people who could be questioned, or deposed.

Plaintiff does not seek the depositions of lower ranking personnel who may possess similar or the same information or knowledge with respect to the claims. Nor does Plaintiff seek to depose any of the city councilors mentioned in its Complaint. Plaintiff seeks only to depose Councilor Wu on a date that is unduly burdensome to her. Thus, considering that Defendant provided Plaintiff the information for forty-seven (47) individuals who are likely to have discoverable information regarding the subject case; that discovery in this case closes in October of 2022; and that Plaintiff has yet to receive any discovery from Defendant in this matter, Plaintiff’s insistence on deposing Councilor Wu is simply harassment.

The city acknowledges that elected officials can be deposed in lawsuits, but cites decisions in which courts have held this should be limited to cases in which the officials can provide information that nobody else can - and says the group should not be allowed to harass political candidates like this.

The Amended Complaint is devoid of any actual allegations against Councilor Wu and fails to state how she contributed to a discriminatory legislative prayer scheme nor does the Amended Complaint describe any role that Councilor Wu played in the development of the policy under which invocation speakers are chosen.

Plaintiff has not demonstrated good cause to depose Councilor Wu. Even if the City had created a discriminatory legislative prayer scheme, the Plaintiff could obtain this information through deposing lower-ranking government officials and City Council staff members regarding the policy under which speakers are chosen. As a result, it is not permitted to seek this information through Councilor Wu. ... Moreover, Councilor Wu has no first-hand knowledge about the case law, prior legal actions, or the specific instances of discrimination alleged in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. Accordingly, Plaintiff has not demonstrated a need to depose Councilor Wu. See Church of Scientology of Boston, 138 F.R.D. at 12. As Plaintiff does not have good cause to depose Councilor Wu, it should be precluded from doing so, especially where it has not sought to depose any other lower-level City official.

In their request for Kelley to issue a formal "protective order" blocking Wu's deposition, the city continues:

Quite clearly, Plaintiff seeks to take Councilor Wu's deposition for the sole purpose of harassing and annoying her. Plaintiff has selected November 2, 2021 as the date for Councilor Wu's deposition and sent notice of such to the City on Friday, October 22 at 7 p.m. EST. Of particular importance is the fact that the Plaintiff chose to subpoena, out of all the City Councilors and staff members working for the City Council, Councilor Wu, who is a candidate in the City's general Mayoral election also taking place on November 2, 2021. In addition, Plaintiff has selected this particular Councilor on this particular date prior to receiving any discovery responses from the City and prior to seeking depositions from any other City employee or official that may have personal knowledge of the allegations in the Amended Complaint.

Subjecting Councilor Wu to this kind of questioning on the date of an election in which she is a candidate, at this early stage of discovery, where no information beyond initial disclosures has been exchanged between the parties, undoubtedly constitutes undue burden and annoyance. Perhaps more importantly, Plaintiff has not even alleged viable claims against Councilor Wu in his Amended Complaint. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint lacks reference to Councilor Wu in any of its 117 paragraphs. Subjecting Councilor Wu to deposition under these circumstances violates the federal rules of civil procedure under F.R.C.P. Rule 45(d)(1) and subjects her to undue burden and annoyance. Moreover, the harm to Councilor Wu far outweighs any need of the Plaintiff to depose her, especially at this early juncture in the litigation and especially on an election day on which she is one of two candidates for Mayor of the City. If the deposition were permitted, it would encourage future plaintiffs to file lawsuits solely for the purpose of deposing high-ranking government officials at the beginning of their actions without having to make any specific allegations related to such official.

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Comments

There is a special place in hell for these satanists.

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Voting closed 24

They're doing a good job trying to maintain separation of church and state where we've gotten too lazy about it.

edit: That being said, I think in this specific example they're way off base and probably not winning lots of fans, meddling in an election like this. Nevertheless I generally applaud their efforts with the courthouse statues and whatnot.

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Voting closed 52

They are not Satanists.

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Lord…

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I mean I don't really like Michelle Wu myself, but this is truly a downright devilish request

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Voting closed 20

What does the possible future Mayor of Boston have to do with Salem?
Could this be one of those reverse psychology things where The Satanic Temple of Salem thinks she'll be so annoyed that she'll place them near the top of the list of things to bring before the City Council if she's elected Mayor of Boston?
If so I'd like to remind them that that trick hardly ever works.

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Voting closed 18

What does the possible future Mayor of Boston have to do with Salem?

If only there were an article that answered your question... you could try reading it.

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Voting closed 16

They are trolling the next (presumptive) mayor of Boston, who as a member of the city council, has been a party to invocations of other religions to be permitted at city council meetings. none of those have been given by the satanic temple.

i'm not a member of their legal team, but i am presuming they have two goals:

1) have invocations and other religious gestures removed from official city business
2) be invited to perform an invocation of their own, and in effect, being validated as an actual religion - something that will give them more clout in other initiatives, like the lawsuits they are filing in texas over abortion access.

if you need to know anything about the satanic temple, it is that they are a non theistic group focused on eroding the power of religious influence in government. their legal battles have all essentially boiled down to: if you don't include us, you can't include any of them because of discrimination.

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Voting closed 27

I usually support the Temple and their separation of church and state trolling but, this is dumb. Why can't Janey attend? She is the acting Mayor and former President.

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validated as an actual religion

What defines an 'actual' religion?

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Voting closed 12

It's a Supreme Court question. A religion is whatever the Court says it is, and the Court has never actually said what its own definition is. The more things the Satanic Temple does that look like things that "actual" churches do (where "actual" is obviously hand-wave-y but stay with me here), the less likely it is that the Court will be able to dismiss them for lacking standing as an "actual" religion if they can ever argue one of their cases that far. It's a totally cargo-cult way of acting, but no more so than every other church out there, and those other churches keep getting away with murder because the Court keeps ruling that they have a constitutional right to jackassery.

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Voting closed 21

I'm generally in sympathy with the satanists' efforts to remove the influence of religion from government and public life, but this seems like a transparent effort to put a stick in the spokes of her election chances, and hiring Marc Randazza? Lie down with right wing dogs, get up with plague-carrying fleas and a stink you'll never wash off.

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Voting closed 20

This lawyer is a scumbag. The Satanic worshippers are phonies, as are all religions, in my humble opinion. But I put the blame on every member of the City Council, including Wu. Religion has no place in government, and the Council deserves all the abuse they have experienced from this lawyer and religion.
Just get rid of the stupid invocations, and chaplains. They serve no useful purpose.
Full disclosure. I voted for Wu (via drop box) , but she and the Council deserve everything that comes their way on this issue.

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Voting closed 25

The Satanic worshippers are phonies, as are all religions, in my humble opinion.

Are you aware that's kind of their whole point....? Like, they know they aren't a "real" religion, their point is why are other phonies given special rights and deference.

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Voting closed 8

The Satanic Temple is made up of non-theists who are on a mission to get religion out of politics and government. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Satanic_Temple

The council didn't do anything about their earlier requests (also reported by uhub) and this is the result of that.

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Voting closed 19

I am going to make a courageous and possibly controversial statement here. I am no fan of the Satanism. However, they're right. No more mumbo jumbo prayers from ANYONE at council meetings. Same with all the victim/special-interest flag crap.

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Voting closed 36

Can't they just have all that crap on their own time before the meeting formally starts?

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Can't they just have all that crap on their own time before the meeting formally starts?

If communion with one's deity were the object? Absolutely. But this is performative, and an attempt to jam the nose of the religious elephant (and particularly the evangelical protestant religious elephant) ever further into the door. It's both a claim to and an assertion of cultural hegemony.

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Voting closed 9

Satanist fall into roughly three categories:

1) the satanic temple -- non theistic, humanist. science reigns supreme, justice for all is a moral imperative. big on trolling the religious right (see: performing a "pink mass" on the grave of Fred Phelps of the westboro baptist church, the Baphomet statue). moving more into legal battles against the influence of religion in america than basic trolling.

2) the satanic church -- founded by anton levey. essentially a place for libertarians who fetishize ayn rand, while also being into orgies and kinky sex.

3) theistic satanists -- people who actually worship the devil. primarily made up of people who take black metal (the genre) too seriously, meth heads, or kids rebelling against their parents. the venn diagram on this group is essentially a concentric circle.

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How can Salem celebrates witchcraft and Satanic religions with displays on city property and police patches during Halloween but won't allow Christian displays during the season of Christmas

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Because you've obviously never visited the Common during Christmas season - never mind the tree from Nova Scotia, there's usually a creche right on the Tremont Street side.

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I do believe they are talking about a certain North Shore city.

Though to be fair, I have no clue as to whether or not there is some kind of decorated tree on Salem Common in December, be it a Christmas tree, Holiday tree, or even Festivus bush. My only semi-extended time visiting has been in the spring/summer.

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And what's your knowledge of witchcraft and the roots of Halloween that qualifies you to equate them with "Satanic religions"?

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IMAGE(https://i.ibb.co/6XzB3Hg/Salem-Police-Halloween.jpg)">https://ibb.co/PDKQ7cw][img]https://i.ibb.co/6XzB3Hg/Salem-Police-Hallow...

This is a Salem Police patch. You should see the Salem MA Bike Patrol one. It features the Witch from the Wizard of Oz.

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Voting closed 5

Thanks for clarifying! I'm still not sure what having a stereotypical silhouette of a witch on a broomstick has to do with the establishment clause, but that's not a question for you.

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Can it wait until after the election? It isn't that important an issue relative to things like housing and Mass/Cass.

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along with the ones that you mention, but the timing is definitely suspect.

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Whatever you think of the Satanists and their suit, insisting that they have to depose a particular person on a particular day, in an inconvenient place, at a point in the suit where there aren't usually any depositions done, is just childish spiteful nastiness and puts them in a very poor light.

As someone sympathetic to their cause, this really turns me off (to say the least). It's a real a**hole move on their part. I hope a judge rips them a new one and throws this in the trash can where it belongs.

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Voting closed 14

I agree, I dig a lot of what they do. This is just petty. Especially since they did not do this to any other candidate.

I would have had more respect for them if they waited and filed for inauguration day. It might seem like a slight difference but it is a very different message. If you wait for an election to happen and aim for inauguration day you are now harassing the incoming mayor of the city. Not a person who is in the middle of an election for the seat.

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Voting closed 5

This lawsuit is at least in part a protest. When we have a BLM march that blocks the street, do you think they are a**holes because it's inconvenient? The inconvenience, the public attention, etc. it is THE POINT.

If you think the legal process is reserved for sober-minded, no-games-played litigation, I can assure you otherwise.

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Voting closed 11

When there's a BLM march or protest in reaction to an event, that happens when it happens. When BLM decides to, say, hold a protest outside of Fenway Park to highlight racism amongst Boston sports fans, sure. But this is BLM deciding out of the blue to protest by lying down in the middle of Beacon Street in Brookline on the Patriots Day right before the wheelchair racers are due to come by and making sure that they cannot be removed until after the elite runners are due.

The lawsuit is a form or protest. I might not agree with them, but I see that it is the point. There are 13 members of the Boston City Council. Several of them are not facing an election on Tuesday. Moreover, the list of people to be deposed extends beyond that number. Bring Wu and Essaibi George in on Monday or Wednesday. Having Wu come in on Tuesday just shows what kind of douches this group is.

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Voting closed 8

You (nor I) are the final arbiters of how much disruption is appropriate for a protest to make its mark. You think this crosses the line. Noted.

Edit: I think they are tickled pink that we are discussing this. So maybe they won after all.

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Voting closed 6

There is also a super easy way to make this all go away.

Get rid of the invocations.

Which is the whole purpose of this lawsuit. Invocations of any religious persuasion simply do not belong anywhere in the governmental sphere.

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Voting closed 14

Then make sure she dresses up as a Harry Potter character, and have everyone else at the meeting do the same.

If you go down the internet wormhole of what these Satanists actually stand for, they are pretty much atheists and articulate these beliefs pretty well in their writings. They just add in the extras of magic, robes and symbols.

I say if you can't beat them, join them!

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Voting closed 12