Northern York High School to host Satanic Temple event

Meredith Willse
York Dispatch

After previously nixing an "After School Satan Club," the Northern York County School District has approved the use of its high school for a Satanic Temple event.

The Satanic Temple will use the district's high school auditorium for a back-to-school event in September, nearly a month after a similar "prayer night" was held there Aug. 20 by a Christian-affiliated organization.

“We wanted to host something similar for our members in the community and those that may not have felt welcome or comfortable at the event,” said June Everett, the After School Satan Club campaign director.

The Aug. 20 Christian event hosted by Dillsburg Community Worship and Prayer — consisting of volunteers from several congregations — featured two hours of live music and worship.

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In a video on that organization's website, Northern York County School Board President Ken Sechrist said everyone was there to pray for the students, educators and the wider community.

Everett said the Christian worship event may have been uncomfortable for school community members of minority religions or who have no religious beliefs.

Despite its use of Satanic imagery, the Salem, Massachusetts-based Satanic Temple "encourages benevolence and empathy." The Internal Revenue Service granted it tax-exempt status in 2019, but the temple in fact advocates for stronger separation between church and state — often via lawsuits.

The Satanic Temple created the national After School Satan Club based on a self-corrected learning curriculum designed for helping children build critical thinking skills and scientific thought — not converting kids to Satanism. Courtesy of Lucien Greaves.

In April, the group threatened a lawsuit against the Northern York County School District when its board members voted down a proposed student Satan club.

So far, that lawsuit has not been filed.

Everett said the Satanic Temple has five years to pursue legal action.

On Tuesday night, the district's school board approved renting the high school auditorium to the temple for the night. The temple will pay $1,050 for the space, $25 an hour for custodial and security fees each and $20 an hour for the auditorium technician.

The district charged Christian prayer event organizers $540 for three hours. They also paid $25 an hour for each security and custodial employee and $20 an hour for each auditorium technician. The auditorium stage crew cost $15 an hour per person.

According to the district, the Satanic Temple is paying more because the district labeled the group a category 6, which covers “other organizations, including all for-profit organizations, commercial groups, individuals and nonresidents.” The temple was also considered a nonresident group.

The Christian group fell under category 5, “where the majority of those serviced by the request are NOT students of [the district].”

Northern High School in Dillsburg, Friday, Aug. 9, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Messages seeking further clarification on the cost discrepancy were not returned Wednesday.

“We did question them on this," Everett said of the cost difference, "and decided it wasn’t worth holding up the approval for the event.”

In addition to the Satanic Temple event, the board also approved events related to football, youth soccer and the Harrisburg Sai Seva Samithi, a Hindu temple.

The cheerleaders rented gyms, parking lots, football fields and two sheds. There is no rental fee, only a custodial fee set at $12.50 an hour, if needed. The soccer team rented a field, which will cost $100 per event. The Hindu temple sought overflow parking space on Aug. 20, 21 and 22 and did not have to pay rental fees. 

The Satanic Temple event is from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sept. 24 in the auditorium. The temple is still working on the details.

— Reach Meredith Willse at mwillse@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @MeredithWillse.

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