ACLU Sues Saucon Valley School District Over After School Satan Club, Claims First Amendment Violations | WDIY Local News
The ACLU is suing a local school district in federal court for not allowing an After School Satan Club to use its facilities. WDIY’s Sarit Laschinsky has more.
The ACLU said it filed a lawsuit Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against the Saucon Valley School District.
According to a release, the civil rights organization said the district violated the First Amendment by preventing the After School Satan Club, which is sponsored by The Satanic Temple, from meeting at district facilities.
Sara Rose, deputy legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania said the district’s decision, “to cancel the After School Satan Club in response to public opposition sets a dangerous precedent.
“The First Amendment protects the expression of unpopular or controversial views from government censorship,” Rose said.
“Once the district opened up school facilities to outside use, it was bound by the First Amendment to grant equal access to all groups, regardless of their religious beliefs or viewpoints.”
Saucon Valley originally approved a request by the After School Satan Club to gather at Saucon Valley Middle School in mid-February, a move which drew controversy.
At the time, Superintendent Jaime Vlasaty said in a letter that religious groups have been allowed to rent space in the past, adding that “by law, the District cannot discriminate among groups wishing to use the SVSD facilities.”
However, the district was forced to cancel activities on Feb. 21 and close schools the next day after receiving a threatening voicemail referencing the After School Satan Club.
A 20-year-old North Carolina man, Ceu Uk, was later arrested and charged in connection with the threats.
Saucon Valley later rescinded its approval, with the superintendent saying that the After School Satan Club failed to follow district policy by not clearly stating on materials that the club was not sponsored by the district.
The ACLU said the district “quickly bowed to public outcry,” and its lawsuit alleged that Saucon Valley’s refusal gave a “heckler’s veto” to those who dislike the group’s religious viewpoint.
It also said the After School Satan Club’s permission slip did include a disclaimer about being unaffiliated with the district, while promotional material distributed by other organizations – including a Christian after-school club – did not.
The complaint requests emergency and permanent injunctive relief against the district, as well as compensatory and nominal damages and attorneys’ fees.
(Original air-date: 3/31/23)