A federal judge on Monday ordered a Pennsylvania school district to allow the After School Satan Club to meet in district facilities.
The Saucon Valley School District had reached an agreement in February to allow the club to use district facilities for after school meetings, but they later rescinded the offer due to public pressure.
In March, the national ACLU, the ACLU of Pennsylvania and Dechert LLP filed a lawsuit against the school district on behalf of The Satanic Temple, the club’s sponsor, arguing that the district violated the group’s First Amendment Rights by not allowing them to use the facilities after school.
The district argued that it prohibited the club because permission slips didn’t make it clear that the club was not sponsored by the district.
On Monday, Judge John M. Gallagher ruled that the district violated the group’s constitutional rights and their reason for doing so was a pretext meant to cover up the district’s discrimination against the group’s religious beliefs, according to a press release from the Pennsylvania chapter of the ACLU
“Although The Satanic Temple, Inc.’s objectors may challenge the sanctity of this controversially named organization, the sanctity of the First Amendment’s protections must prevail,” Gallagher said in the ruling.
“When confronted with a challenge to free speech, the government’s first instinct must be to forward expression rather than quash it,” the judge added. “Particularly when the content is controversial or inconvenient. Nothing less is consistent with the expressed purpose of American government to secure the core, innate rights of its people.”
The ruling says the district must allow the club to meet at the times and places in the previous agreement made back in February. But, the district will not have to give students permission slips to take home.
“In a victory for free speech and religious freedom, a federal court has ruled that the Saucon Valley School District must allow the After School Satan Club to meet in district facilities,” The ACLU said in a statement after the ruling.
The ACLU of Pennsylvania also celebrated the ruling in a statement saying: “This ruling sends a powerful message that the First Amendment protects the viewpoints and beliefs of all people and faiths.”