Satanist gives invocation notable for lack of hellfire
The anticipation of the first invocation delivered by a satanist before the Grand Junction City Council lasted much longer than the actual event, which measured about a minute. Although it drew about 50 attendees to the council chambers – including some who brought Bibles and prayed - the invocation was completed without much fanfare.
Prior to the start of the council’s regular meeting Wednesday night, a group of Christians gathered in protest outside City Hall. They prayed in a circle as members of the Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers entered the building.
Mayor Rick Taggart introduced Scott Iles, the member of the Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers who had his name selected randomly to offer the invocation. Iles stepped up to the podium and introduced Andrew Vodopich and said he was a “much better public speaker” and would be offering it instead. Vodopich is a satanist who has lived in Grand Junction for almost 20 years and the atheists group had previously announced it intended to have a satanist perform the invocation.
Vodopich, dressed in an all-black outfit punctuated by a red silk tie and sporting a serpent beard ring twisted in his goatee, spoke for approximately a minute and delivered an invocation that touted tolerance, equality and truth. He also promoted free inquiry, reason and a rebellion against theocracy and ended his invocation with, “Hail, Satan.”
At the conclusion of the invocation, one member of the crowd said, “Yeah, what he said,” and the council moved on to the Yard of the Month presentation without incident.
“I don’t think we gave them what they were expecting,” Iles said afterward.
Vodopich said he was “pleasantly surprised at the reception” and didn’t encounter the reactions he expected from attendees, either. He watched the video of the satanic invocation that occurred in Pensacola last year earlier in the day to prepare, and was expecting a similar reaction with raised hands, murmuring of The Lord’s Prayer and brandishing Bibles.
After announcing himself as a satanist publicly, “I think there’s some potential for some personal relationships to get weird,” Vodopich said, but added that he’s not worried about his personal safety.
Anne Landman of the atheists and freethinkers group said this is the second invocation delivered by a satanist that she knows of in the U.S. after another happened in Pensacola, Florida, last year, and she said it’s the first one she knows of in Colorado.
“We’re making history here, folks,” she said, noting that her group has invited anyone and everyone to apply for the chance to give the invocation.
While roughly a dozen members of the crowd were members of the atheists and freethinkers group, other attendees came out of curiosity, like Grand Junction resident Henry Starks. “I just wanted to see how it was presented, how it was carried out, and see if there was any uproar on either side,” he said. “It went very well, it went better than I anticipated.”
Starks is in favor of the invocation policy as long as anyone can participate, and he’s thinking about trying to deliver an invocation himself as someone who is pro-cannabis. “I wouldn’t mind seeing a Rastafarian up there,” he said.
Iles and the other atheists who came said their ultimate goal is to encourage the council to change the policy to hold a moment of silence.
“No one protests a moment of silence,” he said. “They don’t have any of this ridiculousness.”