Religious Law

After School Satan Club must be allowed to meet at school, federal judge says

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Saucon Valley School District

The Saucon Valley School District has been ordered by a federal judge to permit the After School Satan Club to meet in school facilities. Photo by Congenialneurosis, CC-BY-SA-4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

A federal judge has ordered the Saucon Valley School District in Hellertown, Pennsylvania, to permit the After School Satan Club to meet in school facilities.

U.S. District Judge John M. Gallagher of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled Monday that the school district likely violated the First Amendment when it rescinded approval for club meetings at the Saucon Valley Middle School, according to a May 1 press release.

Lehigh Valley Live, the Morning Call and WESA have coverage.

Gallagher is an appointee of former President Donald Trump, according to the Morning Call.

The After School Satan Club is sponsored by the Satanic Temple. The club doesn’t worship Satan. Rather, it regards Satan “as a literary figure who represents a metaphorical construct of rejecting tyranny, championing the human mind and spirit, and seeking justice and egalitarianism for all,” according to the lawsuit filed against the school district.

The Satanic Temple only opens its after-school club if religious groups are already operating on campus, according to its website.

The school district had rescinded approval for the club after dozens of parents complained on a daily basis and an anonymous person left a voicemail saying he was going to “shoot everybody.”

The district claimed that it rescinded approval because of two Facebook posts that didn’t make clear that the school district was not the club sponsor.

Gallagher issued a preliminary injunction to allow the meetings while the litigation continues.

Gallagher said school districts aren’t required to open their space to outsiders. But when they allow facilities to be used for meetings, schools can’t discriminate based on viewpoint.

In this case, the Saucon Valley School District’s claimed reason for withdrawing approval was likely a pretext for the real reason—the club’s religious viewpoint and the reaction to it, Gallagher said.

The suit was filed on behalf of the Satanic Temple by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Pennsylvania and Dechert.

The case is The Satanic Temple Inc. v. Saucon Valley School District.

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