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Banning "After School Satan" clubs after anonymous threats makes things worse
A Pennsylvania school district punished Satanists after a threatening voicemail that cited the group's presence
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The Saucon Valley School District in Northampton County, Pennsylvania has banned an After School Satan club from using its facilities after the district was forced to shut down on Tuesday afternoon and all of Wednesday following an anonymous threat.
… an unknown male left a voicemail at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21, referencing the decision to allow the Satan Club to use district facilities after school. [Superintendent Jaime] Vlasaty said she immediately contacted Lower Saucon Township police to investigate the threat and closed schools and campuses for the evening.
She decided by 8 p.m. Tuesday to close schools Wednesday “as the investigation remained active and no further details could be provided by our local law enforcement.”
The district took the proper precautions, as disruptive as they were, but the decision to punish The Satanic Temple for what some unknown culprit did now creates a problem where none existed:
Saucon Valley schools Superintendent Jaime Vlasaty shared the announcement Friday night that she had rescinded approval for the club to use the facilities, due to violating district policy. She informed the club’s local community advisers and its campaign director of her decision, she said.
“As a result of this violation, the educational programming and activities of the District has been significantly impacted and it has caused unequivocal disruption to the District’s daily operations.
“Our community has experienced chaos. Our students, staff and teachers have had to endure a threat to their safety and welfare. The gravity of feelings of instability, anxiety and fear have been profound.
“Aside from my decision to rescind approval, I implore the Saucon Valley community to eliminate threatening, hateful and divisive language and behavior, and make a commitment in supporting our students and reinforcing the values of our community.
What district policy did the Satanists violate? Who knows. They didn’t phone in the threat. They didn’t put kids in danger. They only launched the critical thinking and compassion club in response to a Christian Good News Club that already existed at Saucon Valley Middle School.
As I’ve written about before, ASS Clubs do not promote Satan, Satanic beliefs, Satanism, or anything else like it. The Satanic Temple, which sponsors these groups, 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.
There’s an argument to be made that the district is using the pretense of the threat to eliminate a club they never wanted. For now, June Everett, the national campaign director of the ASS club, says the Satanists “are disappointed and are considering our options.”
If this decision stands, though, the district has created a playbook for Christian terrorists to follow anytime there’s an atheist or Satanic club meeting at a local school. Just call in a threat, mention the non-Christian group, and watch the chaos unfold. It’s a horrible precedent to set.
The school district could easily have said they are working with law enforcement to ensure the safety of all students and that they will provide extra security when After School Satan club meets so that the students who want to attend that (perfectly legal) club aren’t punished for their interests. Banning The Satanic Temple provides an unearned victory for the person who called in the threat and the Christian group that will benefit from it.
Notice, too, that no representative of the Good News Club (or any Christian group in the district) has so far spoken out in defense of the Satanists. They haven’t said the decision is appalling and that they will be proud to lend their time and space to the other group in the name of religious freedom.
All of this is happening while other bomb threats have hit an elementary school in Chesapeake, Virginia that was home to another ASS club. That particular group’s first meeting had been delayed due to safety concerns, but they finally met last week. On Tuesday morning, however, someone emailed a bomb threat to B. M. Williams Primary School.
News 3 was forwarded an email that was originally sent to WTVR, our sister station in Richmond. In addition to the school, the threat was also made towards a Satan Club volunteer, a Senior Staff Attorney for ACLU of Virginia, and the Chesapeake Schools Superintendent.
The threat called the primary school "evil," and accused it of promoting "devil worship."
The sender then said that they would set the bombs off once everyone is evacuated.
A sweep of the school found no evidence of a bomb. Everyone was safe. But because of the length of the inspection, students were dismissed early and after school activities were all canceled.
A second bomb threat was made the very next day. While this email came from a different address, it’s possible it came from the same person. It’s a horrible situation.
That district, however, has not banned the After School Satan club. Not yet, anyway.
While previous attempts to discredit the Satanists came from parents who completely misunderstood the nature of the club, we’re now seeing an escalation that puts children at risk and disrupts thousands of lives in the process.
All to block a club that promotes free inquiry, rationalism, and kindness toward others.