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ACLU says Saucon Valley Schools erred by shutting down After School Satan Club

The Satanic Temple
A logo for the After School Satan Club, from The Satanic Temple's website.

HELLERTOWN — The American Civil Liberties Union on Friday sent a terse open letterto Saucon Valley School District Superintendent Jaime Vlasaty, denouncing a decision to shut down a planned meeting of the After School Satan Club and saying it "could precipitate litigation against" the district.

  • The ACLU in a letter Friday to Saucon Valley Schools denounced the district's decision to not allow the After School Satan Club to meet on district property.
  • The letter says the ACLU 'reserved all rights' to pursue legal action against the school board
  • It says that under the First Amendment of the constitution, the government can’t treat one religious group less favorably than another

In the letter, the ACLU concedes that people may find the Satanic Temple's beliefs "controversial or divisive," but says that shouldn't stop it from enjoying the same religious freedoms that other groups do.

The open letter concluded by saying the ACLU "reserves all rights" to pursue legal action against the school board.

"Denying our clients access to this forum violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and could precipitate litigation against the Saucon Valley School District," it says.

In a news release, Sara Rose, deputy legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said, “Under the First Amendment, the government can’t treat one religious group less favorably than another, and it can’t give objectors or hecklers a ‘veto’ over unpopular speech by denying groups like the After School Satan Club access to a public forum.

“The district made the right decision by initially granting TST’s application, and we urge officials to do the right thing now.”

The letter requests that the district "immediately reverse your decision rescinding approval for our clients’ use of school facilities and reinstate the previously agreed upon meeting date."

Approval, then withdrawal

District officials originally approved a mid-February request to use space at Saucon Valley Middle School for the after-school program. A few days later, a flier advertising it appeared on Facebook and controversy quickly spread.

Superintendent Jaime Vlasaty initially released a message defending the district’s decision saying, “Religious groups are among those the district has allowed [renting] our facilities over the years. By law, the district cannot discriminate among groups wishing to use the SVSD facilities.”

Later the same day, a caller left a voicemail threatening a shooting at the school because of the Satan Club, prompting the superintendent to cancel school the next day.

“The district made the right decision by initially granting TST’s application, and we urge officials to do the right thing now.”
ACLU of Pennsylvania

Ceu “Van” Uk, 20, of Charlotte, North Carolina, was charged with making terroristic threats, according to a statement from the Northampton County district attorney's office.

He is scheduled to face extradition to Pennsylvania to face the charges.

Vlasaty later decided to not let the Satan club use district property, saying it violated district policy when it failed to clearly communicate that the district was not sponsoring its activities, which is a violation of district policy.

The ACLU's open letter also condemns the threats previously made against the school, agreeing that they are "unacceptable."

“We have done nothing, other than merely existing and exercising our religion, to cause the threats made against the district," June Everrett, an ordained minister with the Satanic Temple was quoted as saying in the ACLU release.

"The district’s suggestion that we are to blame is deeply offensive."