A federal court issued a preliminary injunction Monday ordering the Saucon Valley School District to allow the After School Satan Club to meet in district facilities, according to a news release by the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the organization backing the club.
“The emergency injunction comes after the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Pennsylvania and Dechert LLP filed a lawsuit in March on behalf of The Satanic Temple (TST), which sponsors the club,” the release said. “In its decision, the court ruled that the district likely violated the First Amendment when it bowed to public pressure by revoking approval for the club to hold meetings at the Saucon Valley Middle School. The district had previously admitted that, under the U.S. Constitution, it ‘cannot discriminate among groups wishing to use the SVSD facilities.’”
District officials have maintained that the club’s permission to meet on school district property was rescinded because it violated a district policy by advertising the meetings in a way that did not clearly identify the club as unaffiliated with the district. The Saucon Valley School Board approved updates to the advertising terms of the policy during a meeting last week, WFMZ News reported.
In its news release, the ACLU said the court did not accept the district’s response as valid, but rather “determined that the claim was a pretext meant to cover up the district’s discrimination against the group’s religious beliefs.”
“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, deputy legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, in the release. “This ruling sends a powerful message that the First Amendment protects the viewpoints and beliefs of all people and faiths. 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.”
“This is welcome news for Saucon Valley students and families seeking to participate in the supportive and inclusive community provided by ASSC meetings,” said June Everett, director of The Satanic Temple’s ASSC programming, in an accompanying statement. “The ruling affirms that schools may not discriminate against groups on the basis of their beliefs or faith. The district must allow all qualified organizations to use district facilities, even if some in the community object.”
The lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of the Satanic Temple also seeks compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees from the district, which could appeal Monday’s decision.
The complaint in The Satanic Temple v. Saucon Valley School District can be found here.
The ruling issued Monday by Judge John M. Gallagher, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, may be found online.