Christians in Scottsdale, Ariz., protested outside the inaugural convention of The Satanic Temple over the weekend, even as a prominent Catholic bishop urged believers to "refrain from participating in any public demonstration."
The Satanic Temple held its first "SatanCon" February 11-13 in Scottsdale, the same city that denied the organization's request to deliver an invocation at a city council meeting, Fox 10 reported. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last year upheld the city's decision after The Satanic Temple filed suit.
"We're out here to let the Satanists know that there's no place for evil in Arizona. And we're here to combat that. And we're here to say that Jesus is Lord," one protester told Fox 10.
Protesters prayed, read Scripture and held signs outside the convention, which reportedly drew about 350 attendees.
The Satanic Temple calls itself the "primary Satanic religious organization in the world," even though the group itself is atheistic and believes in neither a literal God nor literal Satan. Instead, the Satanic Temple venerates the biblical Satan as a symbol of "defiance, independence, wisdom and self-empowerment."
SatanCon included "talks and presentations" that discussed the "various campaigns championed by The Satanic Temple," according to a news release. Those had "efforts to protect members' reproductive rights, fight psychiatric abuse, protect children from abuse in schools, promote addiction recovery," and build support for The Satanic Temple's after-school clubs, which have been the focus of controversy in multiple school districts.
"In addition to creating a community for our members, SatanCon serves as an expression of our goodwill toward the city of Scottsdale, despite the perplexing and unfortunate ruling against us which defied precedent and common sense," said Lucien Greaves, co-founder and spokesperson for The Satanic Temple.
Bishop Thomas Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix released a statement saying he "reiterates his desire that we refrain from participating in any public demonstration or protest."
"He continues to invite the faithful to unite in spiritual warfare through prayer, fasting and participation in the Sacraments," the statement said. "These are the most effective spiritual weapons against Satan's futile attempt at sowing division and confusion in our midst."
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.