What['s going on with invocations being given a govt meetings? Satanic Temple in Illinois sues Chicago City Hall
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
THE SATANIC TEMPLE, INC., and
THE CITY OF CHICAGO,
Plaintiffs Adam Vavrick and The Satanic Temple, Inc., through counsel, bring
this action against Defendant City of Chicago, and allege as follows:
Nature of the Case
1. Invocations before legislative bodies are a time-honored tradition that
“lend gravity to the occasion and reflect values long part of the Nation’s heritage.”
Town of Greece v. Galloway, 572 U.S. 565, 583 (2014). An invocation that is “solemn
and respectful in tone, that invites lawmakers to reflect upon shared ideals and
common ends before they embark on the fractious business of governing,” serves to
“elevate the purpose of the occasion and to unite lawmakers in their common effort.”
Id. However, the Establishment Clause requires that the opportunity to deliver a
legislative prayer be made available in a non-discriminatory manner. Id., at 585-86;
see also American Legion v. American Humanist Ass’n, 139 S. Ct. 2067, 2089 (2019)
(the practice must stand out “as an example of respect and tolerance for differing
views, an honest endeavor to achieve inclusivity and nondiscrimination, and a
recognition of the important role that religion plays in the lives of many
2. The City of Chicago has a longstanding practice of inviting clergy to open
each meeting of its City Council with a prayer.
3. Plaintiffs, The Satanic Temple Inc. (“TST”), and Adam Vavrick, an
ordained minister of the Satanic Temple and a leader of TST’s Illinois congregation,
seek to take part in this time-honored tradition by delivering an invocation before a
City Council meeting. For more than three years, the City has rebuffed Plaintiffs’
efforts to provide an invocation without providing any clear explanation of why.
4. The City’s practices with regard to invocations before City Council violate
the First Amendment in two ways:
§ first, the City violates the First Amendment’s establishment clause by
excluding disfavored minority faiths from the opportunity to provide an
§ second, the City grants the City Clerk unconstrained discretion to decide
who can and cannot deliver an invocation because it lacks any standards
for selection of clergy to give invocations and has not established a
uniform process for members of the clergy to apply to give an invocation.
5. Plaintiffs seek injunctive relief, declaratory relief, and damages for
violation of their First Amendment rights.
Jurisdiction and Venue
6. Jurisdiction for Plaintiffs’ claims is based on 28 U.S.C. §§1331 and
7. Venue is proper in this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1391(b), in that the
events giving rise to the Plaintiffs’ claims arose in this district.
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8. Defendant City of Chicago is a municipal corporation, duly incorporated
under the laws of the State of Illinois, and located in Cook County, Illinois.
9. Plaintiff The Satanic Temple, Inc. is a religious corporation organized
under the laws of Massachusetts and headquartered in Salem, Massachusetts.
10. Plaintiff Adam Vavrick is a resident of the City of Chicago.
The Satanic Temple
11. The Satanic Temple (“TST”) is a non-theistic religion, federally recognized
as a church and a religious public charity. IRC §§ 170(b)(1)(A)(i); 501(c)(3). The
mission of TST is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject
tyrannical authority, advocate for common sense and justice, and be directed by the
human conscience to undertake noble pursuits. TST has more than half a million
members located in every state (including Illinois) and internationally. The Satanic
Temple encourages its members to engage in civic advocacy, confront hateful,
repressive and exclusionary ideologies, and promote the common good in accordance
with the Seven Tenets. 1
1 The Seven Tenets are as follows: “(1) One should strive to act with compassion and
empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason; (2) The struggle for justice is an
ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions; (3) One’s
body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone; (4) The freedoms of others should be
respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the
freedoms of another is to forgo one’s own; (5) Beliefs should conform to one’s best scientific
understanding of the world. One should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit one’s
beliefs; (6) People are fallible. If one makes a mistake, one should do one’s best to rectify it
and resolve any harm that might have been caused; and (7) Every tenet is a guiding
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The Satanic Temple Illinois
12. The Satanic Temple’s Illinois Congregation (“TST-IL”), originally founded
in 2016 as TST-Chicago, is a congregation in The Satanic Temple’s Society of
Congregations. Its mission is to promote Satanic education within the
Congregation, to be a force for positive change within Illinois, to provide a safe and
welcoming community for marginalized members of society. TST-IL has been
recognized as a bona fide religious congregation by the State of Illinois via its
annual holiday display in the Illinois State Capitol Rotunda in Springfield and by
Cook County in its acceptance of marriage licenses solemnized by TST-IL clergy.
Adam Vavrick, Minister of Satan
13. Minister Adam Vavrick is a Chicago resident and an ordained Minister of
Satan. He serves as the Co-Congregation Head of The Satanic Temple Illinois.
Minister Adam has served in leadership roles for The Satanic Temple Illinois since
April of 2020 and has been actively engaged with TST since 2014.
14. As a Minister of Satan and active member of his religious community,
Minister Adam regularly ministers to TST-IL congregants at monthly services,
officiates weddings for couples in Illinois and elsewhere, and actively engages with
the interfaith community throughout Illinois.
15. Minister Adam’s role as a bona fide religious leader has been recognized
by the State of Illinois in connection with TST-IL’s annual holiday display in the
principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion,
wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.” See
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state capitol; by the Cook County Bureau of Vital Records, which accepts marriage
licenses solemnized by Minister Adam; and by the Chicago Police Department,
which has invited his participation in its “Faith & Blue” initiative.
City Council Practices Regarding Invocations
16. Chicago’s City Council regularly opens its meetings with the recitation of
the Pledge of Allegiance and an invocation delivered by a local clergy member. In
the typical invocation, a member of the clergy offers a brief, uplifting prayer in
which he or she asks for spiritual guidance for members of City Council as they
undertake their challenging work of representing the diverse communities of the
City of Chicago.
17. Recent invocations have been delivered by Pastor Byron Whitehead of
Mount Carmel Bible Church (February 1, 2023), Pastor Noah Chung of Park
Community Church in Hyde Park (January 18, 2023), and Bishop James C. Austin,
Sr. of St. Luke Church of God in Christ (December 14, 2022).
History of Plaintiffs’ Efforts to Provide an Invocation
18. In accordance with the City’s longstanding tradition of welcoming the
clergy of local congregations to open meetings with a brief prayer, Minister Adam
seeks to deliver an invocation before City Council. Minister Adam wishes to offer an
uplifting message which draws on his deeply held beliefs and calls upon lawmakers
to be guided by empathy, compassion and rationalism in their difficult jobs.
19. Prior to retaining counsel to assist him with this matter, Minister Adam
has long sought to avail himself of the normal channels through which invocations
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are scheduled. These efforts began in January 2020, when Minister Adam spoke to
Chauncy Rice, who was then chief of public engagement for the Office of the City
Clerk. Mr. Rice informed Minister Adam that he would be happy to schedule him to
provide an invocation after “standard vetting procedures.”
20. Minister Adam followed up the conversation with an email in which he
provided Mr. Rice with additional information about TST and the local
congregation. Mr. Rice acknowledged receipt of the information and stated that he
would get back in touch with Minister Adam in the near future. For the next several
months, Minister Adam followed up with Mr. Rice approximately once a month to
inquire about the status of his request to provide an invocation. These emails went
21. In August 2021, Minister Adam exchanged emails with Ariana Garcia,
who replaced Mr. Rice as the chief of public engagement. In this email he reiterated
his request to provide an invocation. Ms. Garcia acknowledged receipt of his request
and was initially receptive to scheduling him to provide an invocation, but his
follow-up messages went unanswered.
22. In October 2021, Ms. Garcia stated that she would follow up with Minister
Adam after the budget cycle, but never did so.
23. In March 2022, Minister Adam again emailed Ms. Garcia, this time
copying Steve Berlin, the Director of the Board of Ethics, describing the history of
his efforts to provide an invocation and asking for guidance about the process for
scheduling. Ms. Garcia responded that she was “working on this request,” but did
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not provide any further details regarding the timeline or process. Minister Adam’s
follow-up emails in May 2022 were ignored.
24. After submitting a FOIA request to determine what had become of his
many requests to provide an invocation, Minister Adam sent an additional email in
July 2022, this time copying the various attorneys and individuals in the mayor’s
office to whom his previous requests had been forwarded. He received no response.
25. Minister Adam then retained counsel. Minister Adam and his attorney
spoke to Ellen McLaughlin, an attorney in the City of Chicago’s corporation
counsel’s Constitutional & Commercial Litigation Division, about his request to
provide an invocation. During calls on March 16, 2023 and March 30, 2023, counsel
for the City was unable to articulate the process for seeking to provide an invocation
and could not say whether the City would permit Minister Adam to deliver an
26. The City has never formally rejected Minister Adam’s request to provide
an invocation; rather, the City has simply resisted scheduling him for more than
three years without providing a definitive answer about whether he will ever be
permitted to provide an invocation.
27. Plaintiffs reallege and reincorporate, as though fully set forth herein, each
and every allegation above.
28. The City’s practices with regard to legislative prayers before City Council
violates the First Amendment in two ways: (1) the City violates the establishment
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clause by excluding disfavored minority faiths from the opportunity to provide an
invocation; and (2) the City grants the City Clerk unconstrained discretion to decide
who can and cannot deliver an invocation.
29. When government bodies take part in the tradition of invocations before
legislative meetings, they cannot discriminate among religions or exclude minority
religions on the basis of disagreement with their beliefs. Town of Greece v.
Galloway, 572 U.S. at 585–86.
30. When the government picks and chooses among religions—amplifying
some and excluding others from the public discourse—religious liberty is threatened
for all. As the Supreme Court recently noted:
Through history, the suppression of unpopular religious speech and
exercise has been among the favorite tools of petty tyrants. Our forebears
resolved that this Nation would be different. Here, they resolved, each
individual would enjoy the right to make sense of his relationship with the
divine, speak freely about man’s place in creation, and have his religious
practices treated with respect.
Shurtleff v. City of Boston, 142 S. Ct. 1583, 1608 (2022).
31. By excluding Plaintiffs Vavrick and The Satanic Temple from providing
an invocation before the City Council, while opening this forum to clergy from other
faiths, Defendant violates the First Amendment’s establishment clause.
32. In addition, the City of Chicago lacks any established criteria for selection
of members of the clergy to provide invocations before City Council.
33. The City of Chicago also lacks any clear process by which requests to
provide an invocation before City Council are to be submitted, considered and
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34. The lack of any policy setting standards and criteria for selection of clergy
members to provide an invocation before City Council violates the First Amendment
because it vests unbridled discretion with the City Clerk, creating an unreasonable
risk of arbitrary and discriminatory decision-making.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs respectfully request that this Court grant the following
A. Enter a declaration that Defendant has violated the First Amendment;
B. Enter an injunction requiring Defendant to: (1) permit Plaintiffs to
participate in providing an invocation on the same footing as other religions
and; (2) establish a clear process for submission and consideration of requests
to provide invocations before City Council and standards and criteria for
selection of clergy members to provide invocations;
C. Award Plaintiffs compensatory and/or nominal damages for the violations of
their First Amendment rights;
D. Enter judgment for reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in bringing
this action; and
E. Grant Plaintiffs any other relief as law and justice demand.
/s/ Adele D. Nicholas
/s/ Mark G. Weinberg
/s/ Matt Kezhaya*
*pro hac vice pending
Counsel for Plaintiffs
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