Psst ... it's not actually about 'Satan'
You'd be forgiven if the words "Satanic Temple" immediately set your teeth on edge, as it did for some members of our community this year.
In April, the first response from the Northern York County School Board was to deny a request to start an "After School Satan Club." The board members appear to have thought better of that first impulse — or perhaps were chastened by the threat of legal action — as they recently approved the use of the high school auditorium for a Satanic Temple-affiliated back-to-school fundraiser.
Nonetheless, the issue remains a hot topic in our community with a vocal minority of community members within the district angling for the event to be shut down.
Here's the thing: The detractors are proving the temple's point.
Despite its use of Satanic iconography, the group's main goal is to advocate for the separation of church and state. Since its founding in 2013, virtually everything the Satanic Temple — which bills itself as a non-theistic organization despite being granted tax-exempt status by the IRS — does is meant to remind us all about our First Amendment religious protections.
Essentially, their message is that if Christian groups can use government resources, so can all religious groups.
That includes Satanists.
It's a similar principle that guides free speech: As long as no one's being hurt, the best antidote for speech you don't agree with is more speech.
And the Satanic Temple's beliefs are hardly incompatible with mainstream Christianity. Its first tenant for members is "to act with compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason."
It's difficult to imagine a goal more wholesome than that.
In the specific case of the Northern York County School District, some students had been attending an off-campus, after-school organization called the Joy El club — although district officials noted that the district does not provide transportation to club activities.
More recently, the district hosted an after-school Christian prayer night that featured two hours of live music and worship. In a video on the Christian-affiliated organization's website, Board President Ken Sechrist said everyone was there to pray for the students, educators and the wider community.
On the same night the school board signed off on the Satanic Temple's event, it also approved the use of overflow parking spaces by a Hindu temple.
Regardless of the somewhat fraught path that brought Northern York County's schools to this point, its school board now seems to be living up to the ideas set forth in the Bill of Rights: a Christian, a Hindu and a Satanist organization each have been granted access to the public square.
Whatever your personal religious beliefs, that's how it should be and how it should remain.