Religious Liberty issue image

The Satanic Temple v. Saucon Valley School District

Location: Pennsylvania
Status: Ongoing
Last Update: March 30, 2023

What's at Stake

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Pennsylvania, and Dechert LLP filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Saucon Valley School District (SVSD) in March 2023 for violating the First Amendment by prohibiting the After School Satan Club (ASSC) from meeting in district facilities. Although school officials initially approved the club’s application — explaining in an email to parents that the district “cannot discriminate among groups wishing to use the SVSD facilities” — they quickly bowed to the ensuing public outcry. The case seeks to allow the ASSC to meet in district facilities.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleges that the SVSD’s refusal to grant the ASSC equal access to school facilities gives a “heckler’s veto” to those who dislike the group’s religious viewpoint, even though the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from censoring speech based on the objections or reactions of others.

Although SVSD contends that it rescinded approval for the ASSC because the group failed to make clear on a permission slip that the club is not sponsored by the district, the lawsuit explains that this claim is pretextual and discriminatory. The ASSC’s permission slip did include a disclaimer, and promotional materials distributed by other organizations using SVSD facilities, including a Christian after-school club, contained no disclaimer. These other groups have, nevertheless, been permitted to meet at SVSD schools.

In accordance with district policy allowing for the reservation and rental of SVSD facilities for civic, cultural, educational, and recreational activities, numerous organizations — including religious groups like the Christian-based Good News Club — hold meetings and events at district schools. In February, The Satanic Temple (TST), which sponsors the ASSC, likewise applied to use SVSD facilities. The ASSC is open to all students and offers programming — such as community service projects, games, nature-based activities, and arts and crafts — inspired by, and aligned with, the Satanic virtues of benevolence, empathy, critical thinking, problem solving, creative expression, personal sovereignty, and compassion.

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