A Lehigh Valley School district has reached a settlement with The Satanic Temple in a lawsuit alleging the district discriminated against students by barring them from allowing an After School Satan Club to use a school building earlier this year.
In a news release Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union said The Satanic Temple, Inc. reached a settlement with Saucon Valley School District, and that the district agreed to pay $200,000 in attorney fees. The fees will be paid by the district’s insurance, and not the taxpayers, according to the district solicitor.
Under the settlement, the district must give The Satanic Temple and the After School Satan Club, which The Satanic Temple sponsors, the same access to school facilities that other similar organizations have. The ACLU filed the lawsuit in March, after the district did not allow the club to meet.
The club says it does not believe in Satan, but uses the figure as a symbol of reason, independence and free thought.
Initially, Superintendent Jaime Vlasaty allowed the group to meet at a district space, but rescinded that, after claiming the club violated board policy by not communicating it was not sponsored by the district. She originally said the club could use the facility because the district had allowed other religious groups to use rented space in the past.
The ACLU and The Satanic Temple argued that the district rescinded its permission after community protests against the club’s philosophy and campus presence rather than concern over policy.
“We are pleased that this matter has been resolved and that the school district has agreed to stop all discrimination against us,” June Everett, director of the club’s programming, said in a news release. “Thanks to the court’s order, we were able to hold ASSC meetings at the Saucon Valley Middle School, and the kids who attended were overjoyed. It’s for them that we took on this legal fight in the first place, and we won’t hesitate to do so again if other school districts continue to enact discriminatory policies.”
The agreement also prohibits the district from retaliating against The Satanic Temple, the club, its members or volunteers, according to the ACLU.
“Yesterday afternoon, the District resolved litigation brought by The Satanic Temple, Inc. and the After School Satan Club. The District denies that it discriminated against the TST, the ASSC, or the approximately four students who attended ASSC’s three meetings last spring. As always, the District’s priorities are the education of its students and the safety of its students and staff. By enforcing its policies regarding the use of facilities, the District maintained a safe educational environment for its students in the face of credible threats of violence that had already caused closure of the schools and panic in the community,” District solicitor Mark Fitzgerald said in a statement Friday morning.
The announcement that the club would rent a space in the district caused controversy. Protesters showed up outside the middle school in May. A North Carolina man was charged with making a threat to the school in February in response to the district initially allowing the club to rent the space, according to police.
The alleged threat prompted the school to close for a day.
Source: Berkshire mont