DATELINE: HELLERTOWN, Pa. – The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, and Dechert LLP filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday against the Saucon Valley School District over the district’s decision to not allow the After School Satan Club (ASSC) to meet in district facilities.
“The Saucon Valley School District’s decision to cancel the After School Satan Club in response to public opposition sets a dangerous precedent,” said Sara Rose, deputy legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “The First Amendment protects the expression of unpopular or controversial views from government censorship. Once the district opened up school facilities to outside use, it was bound by the First Amendment to grant equal access to all groups, regardless of their religious beliefs or viewpoints.”
The school district originally agreed to the club, but later rescinded that approval. The superintendent said the club failed to meet all district requirements and led to major disruptions, one of those being a threat called into the school by a North Carolina man who’s now facing charges. The ACLU says once the district mentioned that threat as a reason for nixing the club, it’s looked at as a “Heckler’s Veto,” something it says goes against the First Amendment.
“The After School Satan Club provides a critical space for students who may feel unwelcome at other after-school religious clubs. By prohibiting the ASSC from meeting in school facilities, the district is sending a discriminatory message to the club’s students that they are second class and don’t deserve the same opportunities as their peers.” – June Everett, director of TST’s ASSC programming
The After School Satan Club says it is a secular organization and its members do not actually believe in or worship the devil. According to their website, the club “does not believe in introducing religion into public schools and will only open a club if other religious groups are operating on campus”.
By contrast, the Good News Club, an organization sponsored by a local evangelical church devoted to spreading the word about the Bible, is allowed to host meetings on public school property.