A Pennsylvania school district must permit a club sponsored by The Satanic Temple to hold meetings.
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania released a ruling on May 1 stating the After School Satan Club was within its First Amendment rights to hold meetings.
“When confronted with a challenge to free speech, the government’s first instinct must be to forward expression rather than quash it,” wrote Judge John M. Gallagher in his ruling. “Particularly when the content is controversial or inconvenient. Nothing less is consistent with the expressed purpose of the American Government to secure the core, innate rights of its people.”
Gallagher noted that “objectors” to The Satanic Temple Inc. “may challenge the sanctity of this controversially named organization.”
“The sanctity of the First Amendment’s protection must prevail,” said Gallagher.
The Saucon Valley School District must permit the After School Satan Club to meet on previously agreed days and times.
Gallagher denied a request from the plaintiffs to require the school district to distribute take-home permission slips to join the club to its students.
The Satanic Temple opposes introducing religion in public schools and opens its After School Satan Clubs at any school that permits religious groups to offer extracurricular activities on its campus. The program “exists to provide a safe and inclusive alternative to the religious clubs that use threats of eternal damnation to convert school children to their belief system” and emphasizes “science, critical thinking, creative arts, and good works for the community.”
“Proselytization is not our goal, and we’re not interested in converting children to Satanism,” the ASSC says in its mission statement. “After School Satan Clubs will focus on free inquiry and rationalism, the scientific basis for which we know what we know about the world around us. We prefer to give children an appreciation of the natural wonders surrounding them, not a fear of everlasting other-worldly horrors.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, which assisted in the club’s legal battle against the school district, celebrated Gallagher’s preliminary injunction. The organization accused the Saucon Valley School District of “brazen discrimination.”
“This ruling sends a powerful message that the First Amendment protects the viewpoints and beliefs of all people and faiths,” said the deputy legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, Sara Rose, in a statement. “When a school district opens up its facilities, it cannot discriminate based on religious beliefs. This ruling reinforces the principle of equal access and ensures that all views have a fair opportunity to be expressed.”
The ASSC has clashed with parents and school officials over its efforts to open clubs in Illinois, Oregon, and Virginia.