After School Satan Club is given go ahead by federal judge who said school district in Pennsylvania
After School Satan Clubs must be allowed to meet on campuses in a Pennsylvania school district to protect free speech, a federal judge has ruled.
The After School Satan Club, run by the Salem, Massachusetts-based Satanic Temple (TST), has sparked controversy in recent months, with meetings held for pupils at schools in Virginia and California.
The latest green light for the club follows outrage from parents after flyers went around advertising it being held at Saucon Valley Middle School, Hellerstown.
A decision to allow it was then reversed by the district superintendent, who cited the ‘safety and welfare’ of students following violent threats over the club, but has now been overruled.
Monday’s ruling by US District Court Judge John M. Gallagher read: ‘although The Satanic Temple, Inc.’s objectors may challenge the sanctity of this controversially named organization, the sanctity of the First Amendment’s protections must prevail.’
The After School Satan Club has been given the go ahead at Saucon Valley Middle School, Hellerstown, by a federal judge
The district argued that the club had violated policy in relation to permission slips not making it clear that the it wasn’t district-sponsored.
‘Though the ‘First Amendment is often inconvenient’ depending on one’s perspective, or responsibilities, this inconvenience ‘does not absolve the government of its obligation to tolerate speech.”
The national American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Pennsylvania and Dechert LLP filed a lawsuit against the school district on behalf of The Satanic Temple in March.
They alleged First Amendment violations, allegations which Judge Gallagher found ‘credible’.
‘In a victory for free speech and religious freedom, a federal court has ruled that the Saucon Valley School District must allow the After School Satan Club to meet in district facilities,’ the ACLU said.
The suit came after district Superintendent Jaime Vlasaty u-turned on a decision for school grounds and facilities in the district to be allowed to host the ASSC.
Superintendent Vlasaty argued that the club had violated district policy in relation to ASSC permission slips not making it clear that the club wasn’t district-sponsored.
The decision came after a North Carolina man was accused of making ‘violent threats’ toward Saucon Valley schools for allowing the ASSC to go ahead.
A 20-year-old man called Ceu ‘Van’ Uk allegedly said he would ‘come in there and shoot everybody’ in a voicemail, Northampton Daily Voice reported.
Saucon Valley schools were closed February 22 amid an investigation into threats.
North Carolina man Ceu ‘Van’ Uk was accused of making ‘violent threats’ toward Saucon Valley schools
‘Our community has experienced chaos. Our students, staff, and teachers have had to endure a threat to their safety and welfare,’ Superintendent Vlasaty wrote at the time.
‘The gravity of feelings of instability, anxiety, and fear have been profound.’
The ASSC’s stated aims include providing ‘a safe and inclusive alternative’ to evangelical religious school clubs like the Good News Club, and says it only sets up clubs where religious groups are already operating.
‘We applaud the court for recognizing the threat to the First Amendment rights of the After School Satan Club and The Satanic Temple and preventing Saucon Valley School District from continuing its brazen discrimination,’ said Sara Rose of the Pennsylvania ACLU in a statement.
‘When a school district opens up its facilities, it cannot discriminate based on religious beliefs.’
The Satantic Temple describes itself as ‘a non-theistic religion that views Satan as a literary figure who represents a metaphorical construct of rejecting tyranny and championing the human mind and spirit’.
The ASSC claims it does not attempt to convert children to any religious ideology, but ‘supports children to think for themselves’.
‘All After School Satan Clubs are based on activities centered around The Seven Fundamental Tenets, and emphasize a scientific, rationalist, non-superstitious worldview’, it says.
The latest decision comes after another After School Satan Club was allowed to meet at an elementary school in Chesapeake, Virginia following similar controversy.
Protests were held by parents outside B.M. Williams Primary School in Chesapeake, Virginia, after the club was allowed to take place there
Protests were held by parents outside B.M. Williams Primary School after the club was allowed to take place there.
Superintendent Dr Jared Cotton said at the time: ‘Favoring one religion over another or one organization over another because of its mssion or its lawful, unpopular activities is called content discrimination and would violate the US Constitution.
‘As stated before, the ASSC is not a school district-approved club, and no district employee is acting as a club sponsor.’
The first meeting was held on February 16 and reportedly attended by nine pupils.
Less than a week later, the elementary school was forced to evacuate following a bomb threat, with an email seen by local media saying the school promoted ‘devil worship.’