January 2024 Church & State Magazine - January 2024

Pa. school district pays legal settlement to end lawsuit over after-school club

 

A school district in eastern Pennsylvania has agreed to pay $200,000 in attorneys’ fees to settle a lawsuit brought by a group that was denied access to its facilities for an after-school club.

The Saucon Valley School District also agreed to give the Satanic Temple, a nontheistic organization, access to its school to run an After School Satan Club (ASSC), reported WCAU-TV in Philadelphia. 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the district on behalf of the Temple last year after officials refused to recognize the club, even though other clubs sponsored by outside groups were operating at the school, including a fundamentalist Christian Good News Club.

A federal court ruled that the district had violated the Temple’s rights, leading to the settlement.

School officials originally granted permission for the Temple’s club to meet, but then rescinded it in the face of community protests. They later said they banned the satanic club for safety reasons.

Temple members don’t believe in a literal Satan. They say they consider Satan to be “a literary figure that represents a metaphorical construct of rejecting tyranny over the human mind and spirit.” Temple leaders said the after-school club would focus on “science, critical thinking, creative arts, and good works for the community.” Four children were reportedly attending. 

“We are pleased that the district is providing the ASSC equal access to school facilities in accordance with the court’s decision and has agreed to settle the case,” said Sara Rose, deputy legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, in a media statement. “As the court recognized, when a public school opens up its facilities to community use, it cannot discriminate based on religious beliefs or other viewpoints. This settlement sends a powerful reminder to all school districts that the First Amendment protects the viewpoints and beliefs of all people and faiths, and we will take action when they forget or ignore this lesson.” (The Satanic Temple v. Saucon Valley School District) 

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