Saucon Valley School District Must Allow After School Satan Club to Meet at District Facilities, ACLU Warns
HELLERTOWN, Pa. — In a letter sent today to the Saucon Valley School District, the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the ACLU warned district officials that their decision to deny the After School Satan Club (ASSC) access to school facilities violates the First Amendment. The letter demands that the district immediately reinstate the previously agreed upon meeting dates for the club.
In accordance with district policy allowing for the reservation and rental of school facilities for civic, cultural, educational, and recreational activities, numerous organizations — including religious groups such as the Good News Club — hold meetings and events at district schools. Last month, The Satanic Temple (TST), which sponsors the ASSC, likewise applied to use school facilities after being contacted by a local parent who hoped to bring to the region a non-Christian religious club that would be safe and inclusive for their non-Christian children. ASSC is open to all students and offers programming — such as community service projects, games, nature-based activities, and arts and crafts — that promotes the Satanic virtues of benevolence, empathy, critical thinking, problem solving, creative expression, personal sovereignty, and compassion.
Although the district initially approved TST’s application, it rescinded the approval after receiving complaints and a violent threat. As explained in the ACLU’s letter, however, the First Amendment prohibits the government from denying access to school facilities based on the objections or reactions of others to the club’s speech or religion. The letter notes that the reason cited for the district’s decision to rescind approval for TST’s application — that TST failed to make clear that the club is not sponsored by the district — is pretextual and discriminatory. Not only has TST included a disclaimer on its introductory letter to parents and permission slip, but other organizations using district facilities, including a Christian after-school club, have not done so and are still permitted to meet at district schools.
“Under the First Amendment, the government can’t treat one religious group less favorably than another, and it can’t give objectors or hecklers a ‘veto’ over unpopular speech by denying groups like the After School Satan Club access to a public forum,” said Sara Rose, deputy legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “The district made the right decision by initially granting TST’s application, and we urge officials to do the right thing now.”
June Everett, director of TST’s ASSC programming, added: “We have done nothing, other than merely existing and exercising our religion, to cause the threats made against the district. The district’s suggestion that we are to blame is deeply offensive. There’s often a misconception about our religious beliefs and practices, but we will not accept discrimination by government officials. The After School Satan Club is a vital resource for children and families, and we will continue to defend its right to meet.”
The letter sent to the district can be found here.
About the ACLU: For more than 100 years, the ACLU has worked in courts, legislatures, and communities to protect the constitutional rights of all people. With a nationwide network of offices and millions of members and supporters, the ACLU takes on the toughest civil liberties fights in pursuit of liberty and justice for all. For more information on the ACLU, visit https://www.aclu.org.
About the Satanic Temple: The mission of The Satanic Temple is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will. The IRS has recognized The Satanic Temple as a church under Section 170(b)(1)(A)(i) of the Internal Revenue Code. For more information on The Satanic Temple, visit https://thesatanictemple.com.
Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.