Megan Udinski, FISM News
In Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, the Northern York County School Board voted 8-1 on Tuesday to deny a request by The Satanic Temple to establish an “After School Satan Club” (ASSC) at the district’s Northern Elementary School.
Samantha Groome, a parent of an elementary student at the school presented her request to start the ASSC on a probationary basis, in an apparent act of protest against Christian after-school clubs. School board president Ken Sechrist told Newsweek that he sent the mother a letter that explained the denial of her request saying, “In short we start clubs when there is a student interest in a particular subject not covered in our curriculum. In this instance the requesting parent, when given the opportunity to provide evidence of any student interest, provided none.”
At the school board meeting over 400 members of the community showed up to weigh in on their opinions on the club with the vast majority showing up to protest its allowance.
Many residents who spoke up at the board meeting cited scripture as well as moral and cultural reasons against the establishment of ASSC. One resident said, “Look at the range of our students the children suffering from mental health issues, suicide, anxiety, depression all these things are off the chart and my heart goes out to these kids. More than ever, we need a God in this world and this proposal in the opposite direction [of God].”
Some members of the community, while expressing their disagreement with the nature of the club, felt that there was not enough reason to deny its presence. Others explained that due to the quickly changing world, it could be beneficial for the students to see a club that had opposing viewpoints so parents could explain to their children why it exists.
When the school board vote was read, the meeting broke out into applause as reported by The York Daily Record.
Groome stated that she wanted to establish the ASSC because she did not want her children to miss out on opportunities provided by the already existent Joy El Club, a Christian club offered at nine of the 16 school districts in the county. She said the ASSC would provide these opportunities in a non-religious setting.
The website of the ASSC states the goal of the club is to “provide a fun, intellectually stimulating, and non-proselytizing alternative to current religious after school clubs being offered in our public schools, which aim to indoctrinate children into their religious view,” and that no teaching of Satanism would be present at the gatherings. However, the site also hosts a cartoon and song video marketed toward children stating that “Satan’s not an evil guy” and that “there is no hell.”
The Satanic Temple co-founder Lucien Greaves remarked that the group would most likely pursue greater legal action against the district due to the denial of the club. He stated, “Unfortunately, we have to put up the funds for our own litigation to move forward to make sure that people understand the Constitution, understand what religious liberty actually means, where their authority ends and what’s covered under the First Amendment.”
Since The Satanic Temple was legally recognized in 2019 as a religion by the IRS, the ASSC is seeking religious protection under the Constitution. However, this begs the question of how the group can argue religious protection when they claim they will only focus on engaging students scientifically and rationally and why they feel the need to only be established specifically at schools where Good News Clubs are present.