(The Hill) — A school district in Pennsylvania must allow students to convene an After School Satan Club, a federal judge ruled on Monday.
“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 announced.
In a Monday filing, issued in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and shared by the ACLU, a judge found that “here, 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.”
The school district must allow the After School Satan Club, which is sponsored by The Satanic Temple, to meet during the school year on three previously agreed-upon dates, but it won’t have to distribute permission slips for the club for students to take home, according to the filing.
The national ACLU, the ACLU of Pennsylvania and Dechert LLP filed suit against the school district on behalf of The Satanic Temple in March, arguing the district violated the First Amendment by prohibiting the club from meeting in the district’s facilities.
The district argued that it prohibited the club because permission slips didn’t make it clear that the club wasn’t district-sponsored.
“When confronted with a challenge to free speech, the government’s first instinct must be to forward expression rather than quash it. 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,” Judge John M. Gallagher wrote in the Monday ruling.
An After School Satan Club was allowed to meet earlier this year in Virginia following a similar controversy that made headlines.