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Satanist to give prayer at Ottawa County Board meeting

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Posted at 10:28 PM, Apr 01, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-01 22:35:56-04

OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — For the first time, the Satanic Temple of West Michigan will lead the opening prayer at the Ottawa County Commission.

This isn't the first time the religious group has been in front of this Board. Months ago, one of the ministers thanked the Board for being forward thinking.

"We're really excited to be part of this community and to be able to give an invocation," Satanic Temple of West Michigan Minister of Satan Bender Bones said.

His temple is set to lead Ottawa County's April 23 board meeting in prayer.

"Invocations through TST are usually just calls to act with reason and compassion; they're calls to eliminate superstitious ideas and make decisions that really benefit everyone without the need for a supernatural umbrella to over top of all that," Bones explained.

He will not be the one leading the prayer. In May, Bender expressed gratitude in a commission meeting, thanking commissioners for being inclusive.

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That show of gratitude came after the county passed a resolution to become a "constitutional county."

"I want to thank the county Board and the Ottawa Impact organization for their declaration of intent to uphold the values enshrined in our Constitution. Our constitutional rights are our most cherished assets as United States citizens, and even more so as Satanists," Bones said during his three-minute-long public comment.

Bones has been a member since 2019. He explains the Satanic Temple's beliefs are different from the Church of Satan.

"So we don't believe in a literal Satan or demons or anything like that. So when we say the call 'Hail Satan,' what we're essentially doing is it's sort of like a battle cry. When I hear someone say, 'Hail Satan,' what I hear is 'hail us, hail humanity, hail the people who are really working to make this world a better place,'" Bones said.

Religion at the county government level has become a contentious issue.

A Grand Haven pastor is actively suing the county. St. John's Episcopal Church Pastor Jared Cramer claims his initial requests to lead a meeting in prayer were ignored.

Cramer is a strong advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. His lawsuit states the only ones who have delivered invocation have the same or similar religious views as Ottawa County Chairperson Joe Moss.

Months after that lawsuit was filed, the Board implemented a new innovation policy. The policy allowed Cramer to lead the county in prayer, but his lawsuit remains active.

"For people who are conflicted, I just hope that they really use this moment to think about what religion and government actually mean. We're supposed to have a wall up between religion and government. And when that wall comes down, we don't get to filter out which religion comes through. It's everything or nothing," Bones added.

Moss did release a statement that reads in part:

"The policy is not intended to affiliate the Board of Commissioners with, nor express the Board's preference for, any faith or religious denomination, even if the majority of prayer givers are Christian."

You can read the full statement here.

Commissioner Jacob Bonnema also released a statement that reads in part:

"I am deeply troubled by this turn of events as it represents a significant distraction from the essential work we have been elected to carry out."

You can read the full statement here.

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