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ACLU Says Saucon Valley’s Decision on After School Satan Club Violates the First Amendment, Threatens Litigation | WDIY Local News

The Satanic Temple
A portion of a flyer announcing the After School Satan Club at Saucon Valley Middle School, distributed by The Satanic Temple before Saucon Valley School District rescinded the club's approval.

A national civil rights organization says a Lehigh Valley district’s decision to prohibit an After School Satan Club from using its facilities is unconstitutional.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Pennsylvania said the Saucon Valley School District’s decision to deny the After School Satan Club access to school facilities violates the First Amendment.

According to a release, the organizations – representing the club and its sponsor, The Satanic Temple – sent a letter to superintendent Jaime Vlasaty and the district’s solicitor on Friday, asking that Saucon Valley immediately reinstate the previously agreed upon club meeting dates.

The ACLU said the district initially approved the club in February, but then rescinded the approval after receiving complaints and a violent threat.

The civil rights organization said in its letter that under the First Amendment, the government cannot deny access to school facilities based on the objections or reactions of others to the After School Satan Club’s speech or religion. This is backed up by a 2001 Supreme Court ruling in the case of Good News Club v. Milford Central School District.

The ACLU also noted that the district’s policy allows outside organizations to rent or reserve school facilities for meetings and events, specifically mentioning the Good News Club – a Christian program.

In her initial letter to parents announcing the approval of the After School Satan Club, Vlasaty said “by law, the District cannot discriminate among groups wishing to use the SVSD facilities.”

Just over a week later, Vlasaty said in a Feb. 24 letter that she was rescinding the After School Satan Club’s use of school facilities, citing a violation of district policy.

She wrote that as a result of the violation, “the educational programming and activities of the District has been significantly impacted and it has caused unequivocal disruption to the District’s daily operations.”

The ACLU said the district’s cited reason for barring the club – that The Satanic Temple failed to clearly state that the After School Satan Club is not affiliated with the district – is “pretextual and discriminatory.”

It said the club’s sponsor included a disclaimer on its introductory parent letter and permission slips, and that the Good News Club had previously distributed material without any disclaimer that its meetings are not sponsored by the district, and that Saucon Valley School District sent Good News Club flyers home with students.

In the letter, the ACLU said, “imposing more stringent requirements on our clients than are enforced against the Good News Club or other groups that use school facilities constitutes an additional violation of our clients’ First Amendment rights.”

The letter said the ACLU’s clients “reserve all rights” to pursue litigation.

Saucon Valley School District was forced to cancel district activities on Feb. 21 and close schools the next day after receiving a threatening voicemail which referred to the After School Satan Club.

Northampton County District Attorney Terry Houck announced on Tuesday that a 20-year-old North Carolina man, Ceu Uk, was arrested and charged in relation to the message, in which he is alleged to have threatened to “come in there and shoot everybody.”

The ACLU said threats made against Vlasaty, her family or the school district, as well as any other threats of violence made in response to the After School Satan Club’s application were “unacceptable and reprehensible.”

(Original air-date: 3/3/23)

Sarit "Siri" Laschinsky is WDIY's News and Public Affairs Director.
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