Pennsylvania's Saucon Valley School District must allow The Satanic Temple (TST) to use school facilities for its After-School Satan Club as courts continue to examine a civil rights lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Pennsylvania in late March, according to a Monday ruling from a federal judge.
The ruling follows the lawsuit which alleged the district allowed the club to use school facilities but later rescinded permission, citing a policy requiring that use of such facilities should not "interfere with the educational program of the schools."
The group alleged the walkback violated the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment.
John Gallagher, a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, issued a preliminary injunction requiring the district continue to give the After-School Satan Club the right to use its facilities
"When confronted with a challenge to free speech, the government’s first instinct must be to forward expression rather than quash it. Particularly when the content is controversial or inconvenient. Nothing less is consistent with the expressed purpose of American government to secure the core, innate rights of its people," the ruling read.
"Although The Satanic Temple, Inc.’s objectors may challenge the sanctity of this controversially named organization, the sanctity of the First Amendment’s protections must prevail. Indeed, it is the First Amendment that enumerates our freedoms to practice religion and express our viewpoints on religion and all the topics we consider sacred."
In its lawsuit, the ACLU of Pennsylvania noted that other religious organizations – namely those with Christian affiliations – were allowed to use the facilities without complaints, therefore creating a double standard.
The Satanic Temple's ASSC programming director June Everett said in a statement that the After-School Satan Club provided a "critical space" for students with certain beliefs to feel welcome while accusing the school district of "discriminatory" practices.
"By prohibiting the ASSC from meeting in school facilities, the district is sending a discriminatory message to the club’s students that they are second class and don’t deserve the same opportunities as their peers," Everett's comments read in part.
Monday's ruling answers the ACLU's request for "emergency" injunctive relief made in its complaint.
A tweet shared by the group on Monday hailed the outcome as a "victory for free speech and religious freedom."