An eastern Pennsylvania school district has reached a settlement with The Satanic Temple in a lawsuit that alleged the district discriminated against students by barring one of the group’s After School Satan clubs from using a school building earlier this year.
The American Civil Liberties Union said Thursday that the Saucon Valley School District had agreed to pay $200,000 in attorney’s fees and to provide The Satanic Temple and the After School Satan Club it sponsors the same access to school facilities as is provided to other organizations.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit in March after the district rescinded its earlier approval to allow the club to meet following criticism. The After School Satan Club, with the motto “Educatin’ with Satan,” had drawn protests and even a threat in February that prompted closure of district schools for a day and the later arrest of a person in another state.
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Saucon Valley school district attorney Mark Fitzgerald told reporters in a statement that the district denies having discriminated against The Satanic Temple, its club or “the approximately four students” who attended its meetings. He said the district’s priorities were education and the safety of students and staff.
“By enforcing its policies regarding the use of facilities, the district maintained a safe educational environment for its students in the face of credible threats of violence that had already caused closure of the schools and panic in the community,” Fitzgerald said.
The $200,000 will be paid by the district’s insurance and “all organizations will be following the district’s facilities use policy in the future,” he said.
The Satanic Temple says it doesn’t believe in religion in public schools and only seeks to open clubs if other religious groups are operating on campus. The After School Satan clubs are aimed at providing a “fun, intellectually stimulating, and non-proselytizing alternative to current religious after-school clubs,” the organization said.
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The group says it has no interest in “converting children to Satanism” and in fact views Satan not as a supernatural being but as “a literary figure that represents a metaphorical construct of rejecting tyranny over the human mind and spirit.” The club’s programs, they say, focus on “science, critical thinking, creative arts, and good works for the community.”
June Everett, director of The Satanic Temple’s After School Satan Club program, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the group was pleased the dispute had been resolved. She indicated, however, that the club may not reopen anytime soon, even though it could.
The group said it sought to open a club in Saucon Valley because the district permitted a Good News Club, which is Christian. Everett said since that club now appears to be inactive, the After School Satan Club will also be on hold, but the group will seek to reopen it if the Good News Club resumes.