June 2023 Church & State Magazine - June 2023

Pa. school must allow after-hours freethought club, federal court rules


A federal court ruled last month that a Pennsylvania public school district must allow the Satanic Temple to form a club that meets after school.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the Pennsylvania ACLU and the law firm Dechert LLP sued the Saucon Valley School District earlier this year after officials there refused to allow the club, known as After School Satan, to meet in its facilities.

In a press release, the Pennsylvania ACLU noted that the district allows outside groups to use its facilities for civic, cultural, educational and recreational activities. Religious groups, including the Good News Club, an evangelical Christian organization, use district facilities to hold events.

In February, the Satanic Temple applied to use the same facilities but was denied. The Temple said its club would be open to all students and would offer programs such as service projects, games and arts and crafts.

Temple members are secularists who don’t worship or even believe in a literal Satan. 

In a ruling issued May 1, U.S. District Judge John M. Gallagher held that the district’s decision to deny the Temple access to its facilities “was based on The Satanic Temple’s controversial views on religion and the community’s negative reactions thereto.” 

Gallagher wrote, “When confronted with a challenge to free speech, the government’s first instinct must be to forward expression rather than quash it. Particularly when the content is controversial or inconvenient. Nothing less is consistent with the expressed purpose of American government to secure the core, innate rights of its people.” (The Satanic Temple v. Saucon Valley School District)       

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