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Public school board members in Pennsylvania banned the formation of a non-Christian club at Northern Elementary School after after angry parents complained it would allow “evil” into the school. The proposal to form an After School Satan Club was struck down on an 8-1 vote by the Northern York County School District board Tuesday night.

That short-sighted vote came after hundreds of parents attending a meeting, mostly to speak out against the Satanists.

Jodie Osborne of Wellsville delivered an impassioned speech citing scripture.

“I’m sad all we are talking about is Satan. It’s not about Satan, it’s about God,” Osborne said. “Wrongs will be righted, and if we don’t start standing now, we’re going to lose our nation.”

Paul Miller took to the microphone and told the community to cast those in favor of the club out of town.

“You shouldn’t be here. There’s no room for you here. If this freaking group does get voted in, let’s do something about it,” Miller told the crowd.

Wes Gessaman took to the microphone and said “This is how it begins.”

“When I hear Satan, I don’t research that. I don’t look it up,” Gessaman said. “I’m not about to let it slip through my fingers I could have stopped this from happening to others’ children.”

Nothing screams “I’m insecure about my faith” like a religious person saying he hates something without doing any research on it.

When local resident Deana Weaver attempted to educate everyone on what The Satanic Temple actually teaches—things like how we should “act with compassion and empathy toward all creatures” and “If one makes a mistake, one should do one’s best to rectify it”—she was summarily rejected by the religious mob:

“What is objectionable about all that?” Weaver said.

“Everything!” the auditorium erupted in raucous comment. Weaver silently returned to her seat.

As I’ve written about before, ASS Clubs do not promote Satan, Satanic beliefs, Satanism, or anything else like it. The Satanic Temple doesn’t even believe in a literal Satan. After School Satan clubs aren’t about indoctrination. Rather, the Satanists “focus on free inquiry and rationalism, the scientific basis for which we know what we know about the world around us.” It’s like a science club with a devilish twist.

AfterSchoolSatan

While most ASS Clubs have formed in response to fundamentalist Christian “Good News Clubs,” this one came in response to a similar group called the “Joy El Christian Club,” which transports students out of class for religious instruction. A mother in the district, Samantha Groome, said she wanted to make sure there was a secular alternative to that club for her child. But even if that didn’t exist, these ASS Clubs would still be legal. That’s because, in 2001, the Supreme Court said all public schools with “limited public forums” were forbidden from discriminating on the basis of religion; that means if a school allows the formation of extracurricular clubs, then a religious one that follows all the rules can’t be banned.

And yet this school board, with no legal authority to ban the Satanic club, did it anyway.

Lucien Greaves, co-founder of The Satanic Temple, told a local reporter that the vote was “indicative of a school board that has no idea what its limits are and its function is.”

Greaves expanded on this in a post on his Patreon page, pointing out that the board punted on this same vote at their last meeting, arguably because a Christian mob wasn’t in the audience to fight back against it.

The first meeting in which the York County school board discussed The Satanic Temple’s request to open an After School Satan Club took place on April 12th, and there was no angry mob, not yet any sign of community uproar. This was apparently disappointing to the school board, so they put off voting to either approve or deny our request for the next week’s meeting.

A distaste for a minority religion was all it took for the hypocrites of York County to abandon religious liberty, free speech, and to endorse the expansion of government power to include allowing the discretion of dim-witted unqualified school board functionaries to dictate parameters upon religious identity.

[The school board] used the idea of a public hearing, one that was not within their rights to hold to begin with, in an effort to harass, intimidate, and inconvenience us away from our request to hold an after school club. It did not work, and our local congregation and ASSC volunteers deserve all of our gratitude for facing down an ignorant and hostile mob that a school board intentionally placed them before. To add further insult, if this follows the traditional script, we are sure to soon encounter the claim that it was we who did this all for the attention, when the reality is that the attention and controversy were to us unwanted, completely unnecessary for all parties involved, and entirely of the school board’s own making.

Last night, I asked Greaves directly what the next steps were. Will there be a lawsuit?

He was very blunt: “Yeah, there will be a lawsuit,” adding, “If this conduct is allowed to stand, the rule of law means nothing. “

It’s hard to imagine how any judge could rule against the Satanists here. What they’re asking for is perfectly constitutional and the school board hasn’t given any reason to suggest otherwise. Meanwhile, the Christian critics have nothing but ignorance and bigotry on their side.

Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.