ACLU: 'After School Satan Club' Ruling a Free Speech 'Victory'

Judge decides against Pennsylvania school district's barring of group's meetings, calling it 1A violation
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 2, 2023 3:18 PM CDT
Judge Gives OK for 'After School Satan Club' to Meet
This 2014 photo shows a bronze Baphomet, which depicts the deity as a goat-headed figure surrounded by two children.   (The Satanic Temple via AP)

In Pennsylvania, the Saucon Valley School District backed down earlier this year from granting meeting space to the After School Satan Club after community outcry and even a shooting threat. Now, the club is celebrating what the ACLU is calling "a victory for free speech and religious freedom." Per the Hill, a federal judge on Monday ruled that the school district must allow the club to meet on school district premises, calling the refusal to allow the club to do so a violation of the First Amendment. "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," Judge John M. Gallagher wrote in his decision.

Sara Rose of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, which represented the Satanic Temple religious group in court, tells WFMZ that the school district's argument centered on the fact that permission slips for the ASSC violated district rules by not making clear that the club wasn't endorsed by the district. Rose says that where the district tripped up was that the Good News Club, the district's Christian group, had an almost identical ad to the ASSC's. "They're both religious clubs, they're both having meetings in the same room at essentially the same time after school," Rose notes.

She adds: "One was OK and one wasn't, and I think that created a lot of questions in the court's mind." Plus, a flyer distributed by the ASSC did indeed have a disclaimer in small print that read the club was "not an activity of the school or School District," per the judge's ruling. The school district had originally given the thumbs-up to the After School Satan Club, noting to parents in an email that the district "cannot discriminate among groups wishing to use the SVSD facilities," per the ACLU.

story continues below

But the public didn't react well to that explanation, and the district backtracked on letting the club meet, which led to the ACLU's suit in March. Per the Miami Herald, via Yahoo, the Satanic Temple notes it doesn't worship Satan, but rather deems him "a literary figure who represents a metaphorical construct of rejecting tyranny, championing the human mind and spirit, and seeking justice and egalitarianism for all." Rose tells WFMZ that her organization is "very happy" with Gallagher's decision, and that the After School Satan Club's first meeting will take place May 10, with two other meetings in May to follow. It's not clear if the school district will pursue further legal action. (More free speech stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.