By: Sharon Aron Baron
Hell hath no fury like Satan scorned, at least for one activist intent on the separation of church and state who believes his requests are being ignored by the City of Coral Springs.
For several months, Deerfield Beach writer and activist Chaz Stevens has been requesting to lead the City Commission’s religious portion on the agenda with his own Satanic invocation, but has been put off, even though there were slots available. Typically, commission meetings begin with prayer led by either a minister, rabbi, or pastor from various faiths.
Last June, Stevens contacted City Clerk Debra Thomas who advised him there was availability in September or October, but added that the City was continuing to review its policy and would keep him updated.
Back in June, Campbell said he was under the impression that invocations were done by chaplains who were affiliated with either the police or fire rescue. However, looking back at invocations performed during the last few commission meetings show that the July 1, 2015 invocation was led by Pastor Lou Fourney with the Christ Church, on August 26, 2015 Deacon Dennis Mieyal with St. Andrew Catholic Church, and on September 2, 2015 Rabbi Yankie Denburg with the Chabad of Southwest Coral Springs. None appear to be affiliated with either the City, police or fire rescue.
Stevens emailed Campbell this week, who replied, “Sorry for not getting back to you sooner. Our City attorney is researching the issue and has not given his opinion yet. “
We contacted City Attorney John Hearn for comment and have not heard back.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last May that prayer is allowed at City and County Commission meetings, provided it applies to all religions even quasi-religions.
According to the Sun Sentinel, to avoid hearing a prayer to Satan, the Pompano Beach City Commission changed its religious invocation over the summer for the first time in 56 years and made nonprofit status and Yellow Page listings among the requirements for religious respectability. So Stevens established the nonprofit tax-exempt First Pompano Beach Church of Satan at 2637 E. Atlantic Blvd., the location of Parcels Plus, where his Yelp listing says “Abandon all hope. After all, this is Pompano Beach. For the rest, we offer salvation, ice cold, imported beer, and the occasional stripper named Mercedes”. So far the Church has received seven positive reviews.
Even after meeting this criteria, the Pompano Beach Commission still did not allow him to speak, nor would they stop the religious invocations.
“The fact that I wanted to bring a mariachi band and twerkers – they said I wasn’t solemn enough. My answer to them was my religion requires it. How do you know what my religion requires?”
Stevens says his new church also collects money by passing the hat around. “I’m also looking for an intern. Preferably she’ll be in her early 20’s.”
He said he has contacted the ACLU and despite Pompano Beach, he has been successful. Deerfield Beach City Commissioners have now replaced their religious invocations with a moment of silence. Stevens credits City Commissioner Joe Miller, who he says is devoutly religious, runs a church and spends time visiting a local prison to teach bible study.
“I convinced him. I told him that you represent all people, but 20 percent of the population are not any religion – they are none of the above. They do not believe in your God.”
Stevens says the Jewish community “gets” what he’s doing. “The unflinching support I get is from Jewish people. They are very bothered by this.”
Stevens asked, “How many churches are there in Coral Springs? Let’s just guess and say there are 100. Will one less three-minute church make all the difference in the City?” What value does it add?” There is no proof.”