Saucon Valley Responds to Satan Club Lawsuit, Says Club's Rejection Due to Advertising Violation | WDIY Local News
A local school district says its decision to not allow an After School Satan Club to use its facilities is based on a violation of advertising policies, not its viewpoint.
Saucon Valley School District said in a court brief that its decision to bar the After School Satan Club was based on social media which the district said violated its facility use policy.
The brief responded to a lawsuit filed by a civil rights organization in federal court which claimed the district’s actions were unconstitutional.
District policy states that when advertising or promoting activities at school facilities, individuals or groups must clearly communicate that the activities are not district-sponsored.
The brief said Saucon Valley learned of the alleged violations after a threatening voicemail was made in February which referenced the club.
The threat resulted in the district closing schools, and a North Carolina man was later arrested and charged in connection to the incident. The After School Satan Club's facility usage was rescinded days later.
The district’s filing made note of two social media posts, shared to a Hellertown Facebook group page and the national page of The Satanic Temple, the club’s parent organization.
The district said the posts “intentionally misled the public” and included language indicating that the After School Satan Club was being district-sponsored.
This includes language allegedly targeting district parents, references to “Saucon Valley Middle School” in large font, and statements that school would “host” the club.
The district also said the reference to the middle school was not included in flyers shown to Saucon Valley during the application process.
The brief said the Hellertown post did include language in very small font, which it called “virtually illegible” on a screen, stating that the club was, “not an activity of the school or the School District.”
It also noted that Saucon Valley received “an avalanche” of calls and emails from parents and community members, “confused and concerned that the District was sponsoring a club ‘for Satan.’”
The filing said Superintendent Jaime Vlasaty determined that both posts violated the advertising restriction because they did not clearly communicate that the club was not sponsored by Saucon Valley School District.
Vlasaty then rescinded the usage application consistent with district policy and the law.
In its brief, Saucon Valley said it would be revising its facility use policy to create new “viewpoint-neutral, reasonable restrictions borne out of a security need to protect its students and staff...”
The district also said it would be willing to consider a usage application from The Satanic Temple in the future once the updated policy has been accepted.
The ACLU, representing the club and The Satanic Temple, filed a lawsuit against Saucon Valley in March, arguing that the district’s refusal to allow the After School Satan Club violates the First Amendment.
The suit claimed that the district “bowed to public outcry” and gave a “heckler’s veto” to individuals who disliked the group’s viewpoint. The ACLU also previously called the district’s cited reason for barring the club “pretextual and discriminatory.”
Saucon Valley’ court brief pushed back on the allegation, stating that The Satanic Temple provided no evidence in support of the claim.
It also said that despite facing opposition to the After School Satan Club from the community, the district continued to make plans for the club’s use of its facilities until the alleged advertising violations were discovered.
(Original air-date: 4/13/23)