An after-school Satanists club in Pennsylvania is threatening to raise hell after local district leaders denied them the ability to convene on their school grounds.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), together with its Pennsylvania chapter, sent a letter to the Saucon Valley school district demanding that they allow the After School Satan Club, or ASSC, access to school facilities in accordance with the US constitution’s first amendment right to practice religion freely.
The ACLU alleges that the Satanist club was initially approved to use district facilities, but that approval was rescinded after district officials received pushback from community members. The club’s requested meeting dates were subsequently denied.
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.
In the letter addressed to the district, the ACLU said: “The district has intentionally opened up its facilities for general community use and, in so doing, may not limit access to this forum based on the content of our clients’ speech, their religious identity, or their viewpoint – even if some may find their beliefs ‘controversial or divisive’. Nor may the district restrict our clients’ access to this forum based on others’ animus toward our clients’ religion, or based on the anticipated or actual reactions to the content or viewpoint of our clients’ speech.”
The ACLU is threatening the school district with a lawsuit on behalf of the club and the Satanic Temple if the alleged discrimination continues.
Sara Rose, deputy legal director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, told the Guardian: “It’s unfortunate that the school district is doubling down on its unconstitutional and discriminatory action against the club and The Satanic Temple. We are consulting with our clients as they carefully consider their next steps.”
The incident represents the larger debate about religious freedom in the US. Religion has served as a battleground for abortion rights, pitting those who believe in patient autonomy and a person’s right to choose whether or not they want an abortion against religious anti-abortion activists who believe abortion is a sin.
This is not the first time self-described Satanists in America have waged war against the religious far-right. The Satanic Temple group, based in Massachusetts, has a long history of advocating on issues such as abortion rights, prayer in classrooms and the distribution of Bibles in schools.
Satanic Temple members do not believe in Satan in a literal sense, but see Lucifer as a symbol of rebellion and opposition to authoritarianism.
The Saucon Valley school district did not respond to a request for comment.
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