Satanic Temple to hold back-to-school fundraiser in Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - After rejecting the formation of a hotly contested After School Satan Club earlier this year, a Central Pennsylvania district will rent out its high school cafeteria next month for a fundraiser sponsored by The Satanic Temple.

The Satanic Temple will hold a back-to-school fundraiser in a Central Pennsylvania school district after they were denied the opportunity to form an After School Satan Club.
The Satanic Temple will hold a back-to-school fundraiser in a Central Pennsylvania school district after they were denied the opportunity to form an After School Satan Club.  © Joseph Prezioso / AFP

The Northern York School District board voted last week to rent space for a Saturday evening to The Satanic Temple of Philadelphia and Eastern PA to host a Back-to-School Community Fundraiser – a function billed as "a family-friendly night filled with arts & crafts, science experiments, live demos, refreshments, and fun for all ages," according to an event flier.

Proceeds from the $10 at-the-door suggested donation will be given to an undetermined local Dillsburg community organization, said June Everett, campaign director of the After School Satan Club and an ordained minister of The Satanic Temple.

The event was approved by the York County school board on August 23 amid a slew of other facilities requests, including the use of gyms for cheerleading practice, fields for youth soccer and football, and a parking lot for an event hosted by a Hindu temple.

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Everett said Satanic Temple organizers were inspired to create their own event after a local Christian community prayer group hosted an August Back to School Worship and Prayer Night in the Northern High School auditorium. Some community members, she said, reached out to the Satanic Temple and requested an event they "would feel comfortable attending."

While some details are still being hashed out, Everett said the group plans to partner with the Dillsburg Area Free Thinkers to display "fossil and evolution demonstrations" in what they aim to be an event "where everybody feels included and everybody feels welcome."

"It is going to be a secular event, we're not going to be talking about Satan, we're not going to be proselytizing to the families that attend," Everett said.

Satanic Temple gets permission to hold back-to-school event

The Satanic Temple was founded in Salem, Massachusetts, in 2013.
The Satanic Temple was founded in Salem, Massachusetts, in 2013.  © Joseph Prezioso / AFP

The group, founded in 2013 and based in Salem, Massachusetts, has distanced itself from the Church of Satan formed in the 1960s.

According to the organization's website, its members do not worship Satan, but rather believe "that religion can, and should, be divorced from superstition." They advocate for secularism.

In a note on the school district's website, Northern York Superintendent Steve Kirkpatrick wrote that school board policy required the approval of The Satanic Temple's facility request application.

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"As a public school district, the use of our school facilities must be permitted without discrimination," Kirkpatrick wrote. "We cannot and do not arbitrarily pick and choose which organizations may or may not use our facilities. If we allow one organization, we must allow all organizations, provided they satisfy the conditions and application requirements as set forth in Policy 707."

"In approving any request, the School District does not endorse the activity of any outside organization that rents our facilities, nor are those entities permitted to use the School District's name or logo," Kirkpatrick wrote.

The approval of The Satanic Temple's back-to-school event comes after a heated battle before the board last spring, when the organization attempted to form an After School Satan Club chapter at Northern Elementary.

Hundreds of community members filled the board meeting, most in vehement opposition to the club, the York Daily Record reported. The school board ultimately voted 8-1 against allowing the group to form.

The Satanic Temple, which was recognized as a tax-exempt church by the IRS in 2019, has said the board's denial of the club while allowing other faith-based activities – such as the district's robust Joy El Christian club program – in schools is unconstitutional.

The organization plans to pursue legal action against the Northern York County school district in the coming months, Everett said.

No stranger to litigation, The Satanic Temple has lodged freedom of religion fights nationwide with tepid legal success over the last several years, including challenges to abortion laws in Missouri and Texas and a push to fly its flag over Boston City Hall. They also brought a towering statue of the goat-headed Baphomet to the Arkansas state capitol to protest a monument of the Ten Commandments.

Cover photo: Joseph Prezioso / AFP

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