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A donation by Satanists to the Northern York County School District in Pennsylvania to help purchase school supplies for kids was rejected by the superintendent, who told them to donate the money to a Christian organization instead.

It’s utter stupidity from a district official who seems to think donations from The Satanic Temple are somehow tainted.

All of this began last month. It’s no secret that Christian churches frequently rent out space at public schools in order to hold services on weekends. That’s perfectly legal as long as they’re paying the rental fee and obeying district rules. Under those same guidelines, The Satanic Temple held a fundraising event last month at Northern York High School in Pennsylvania.

While the school board’s decision to approve the rental was followed by a lengthier explanation that they were just following the law, the event itself wasn’t controversial. In fact, it was family friendly:

“The Back-to-School Community Celebration & Fundraiser hosted by The Satanic Temple of Philadelphia & Eastern PA will be various stations of arts & crafts, science experiments, live demos, refreshments, and fun for the entire family,” said June Everett, the campaign director, After School Satan Club (ASSC) and an ordained minister of The Satanic Temple.

As expected, though, the three-hour event was met with protests from right-wing Catholics who have no understanding of how public space works.

“They’re giving them access to our children,” said John Ritchie. “They should be nowhere near any schools.”

John Ritchie is part of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property. He says he’s outraged the event was allowed to go on, and says his organization is working to get Satan out of schools.

“We are here to say that America is one nation under God; we don’t want Satanism in our schools and we need to do something about it,” said Ritchie.

Ritchie seems to think only the people who belong to the child sex abuse ring known as the Catholic Church should have access to kids. That’s not how anything works. So his protests were meaningless.

While the Catholics were complaining about the evilness of the Satanists, the Satanists were inside the school raising money for children, ultimately collecting $578. (Everett’s emails say they raised $578 in one spot and $587 in another. I’m not sure which one is the typo. News reports are citing the former amount. I’ll use that. It’s not a huge difference either way.)

On a side note, the Satanists paid $1,185 to rent the space. Is that weird? Couldn’t they have just offered to donate that amount instead? Maybe. But sometimes, the publicity is part of the goal since it allows them to raise bigger issues about religious neutrality and church/state separation.

Whatever the case, The Satanic Temple wanted to donate their proceeds to the district and asked administrators for a list of supplies that they could purchase for students.

That’s when things took a weird turn.

Superintendent Steve Kirkpatrick responded to June Everett, telling her the district didn’t want her money. He even suggested she give it to a religious group instead:

Screenshot of the email from Kirkpatrick to Everett

Ms. Everett,

I respectfully decline your offer of a direct donation to the school district and suggest that you instead send your donation to New Hope Ministries or another local social service organization. These organizations are best equipped to effectively distribute supplies and goods to families in our school community that are most in need. 

Mr. Kirkpatrick

If there’s some kind of rule prohibiting direct donations, he didn’t point to it. Instead, Kirkpatrick told them to give their money to a Christian non-profit because they are “best equipped” to distribute supplies. But how hard it is, really, to purchase a bulk order of supplies that all teachers can use? It’s a few hundred bucks, not some distribution that requires massive coordination. It’s either religious bigotry or a stunning level of tone deafness.

In an email to a local news station Everett explained her disappointment:

I can’t help but wonder if teachers in the community who continually have to dip into their own personal finances for supplies would be frustrated to know that their superintendent can’t get past his own personal bias and bigotry to benefit the children in the district he was appointed to serve.”

In case that wasn’t enough, Everett added a mic drop moment in which she laid out what $587 could purchase:

22,800 sheets of construction paper

543 spiral notebooks

3,410 ballpoint pens

13,152 No. 2 pencils

10,894 crayons

963 erasers

2,018 markers

1,239 highlighters

987 rulers

126 compass/protractors

6,518 sticks of chalk

825,227 staples

36,442 paper clips

31 copies of A Boy Called Bat, Northern York’s “One Book One District” selection

The point is that there are plenty of things here that teachers use all the time. The district could easily make use of the donation.

And yet when the local news spoke with some parents in the community, there were some adults celebrating the decision to reject the Satanists’ donation:

“I am very proud of the school board and district officials for declining that money,” said Amanda, a parent of a child in the Northern York County School District. “I think the taxpayers, who are the community members, have raised their voices saying that we don’t want anything like that in our school district.”

They don’t want… staples and paper clips? Amanda’s bigotry makes no sense whatsoever.

Again, if there’s a policy forbidding donations from outsiders, it should be easy to point to it and suggest a different secular way for the Satanists to help kids. There’s no excuse for rejecting the cash and pointing to a Christian non-profit instead. In a subsequent email Everett offered to donate the money to “the local teachers’ union as well as to individual principals and teachers in your district. The first one to accept will receive it.” 

Here’s the bigger concern: Last year, the same district denied the Satanists from starting an After School Satan Club even though they met all the criteria for an extracurricular group. There’s a clear pattern of discrimination that could lead to a possible lawsuit, and it’s hard to see how the Satanists would lose that case.

If that happens, the district would have gone from possibly accepting a donation of nearly $600… to having to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees. All because they didn’t want to accept money from The Satanic Temple. How is any of this better for students?

In a statement to me last night, The Satanic Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves couldn’t believe the district’s position:

Does Kirkpatrick himself understand if his way of handling this is legal? I highly doubt it.

Does he care if litigation against his irresponsibility will cost the school district exorbitant sums? Clearly not.

Does he have the answers to basic operations questions that naturally arise from his thoughtless answers to basic questions? It does not appear so, but if he does, he is clearly unwilling to provide them.

This should not be a controversial issue, and for the most part, it isn’t. What we’re seeing here is best understood as the byproduct of a grossly incompetent and unqualified superintendent, and the school district deserves better.

There was no indication yet if the group plans to file a lawsuit.

Right now, they’re just trying to give away this cash.

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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.