BEDFORD, Virginia (LifeSiteNews) — A school board in Virginia is responding to community outrage over The Satanic Temple’s (TST’s) use of a high school auditorium for an event, claiming that current Supreme Court precedent forces them to be neutral as to which groups can access their facilities.
On November 9, WSET reported that TST, a far-left secular advocacy group, has rented the Jefferson Forest High School auditorium via its “After School Satan Club” for a “Family Movie Night” this coming February in which they plan to screen the 1992 children’s animated film Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest, then discuss how the film relates to TST’s tenets.
“I think ultimately, the message is very pro-social and unobjectionable, but the fact of the matter is, is that anybody not interested in it doesn’t have to come,” said TST co-founder and spokesman Lucien Greaves, who suggested that objections to the event were rooted in “things people think they know about Satanism, but they don’t.”
He also claimed objections would be hypocritical, as the auditorium is also regularly rented out for church services.
Area parent Betsy Bosak told WSET she felt “shock, at the fact that somebody in Bedford County obviously gave permission for this to be hosted at JF.” The outlet also spoke to parents Ryan McBride and Orville Peterson, who were more accommodating.
In a follow-up statement, the Bedford County Public Schools board clarified that the After School Satan Club was not affiliated with any schools in the district, said that allowing any group to use the auditorium was not an endorsement of its views, and claimed that its hands are judicially tied on the matter.
“U.S. Supreme Court precedent requires that if school divisions make their facilities available to outside organizations, they must provide equal access to all outside organizations to use their school facilities, provided the outside organizations meet the requirements specified in policy,” the board said. “School Board Policy KG does not allow the School Board to discriminate against any outside organization on the basis of viewpoint. To disallow this organization to use the facility would place the school division in opposition to its own policy.”
The statement may reference 1982’s Widmar v. Vincent, which concerned the use of rooms at the University of Missouri by an evangelical group. The case has also been invoked to claim localities must allow public property to be used for controversial events such as Drag Queen Story Hour – a dilemma that has forced some localities to stop renting public spaces to outside groups entirely.
In 2019, Amherst College political scientist and Born-Alive Infant Protection Act architect Hadley Arkes argued that Widmar and a previous case, Cohen v. California in 1971, created this problem at the expense of the U.S. Constitution’s actual meaning by adopting a form of relativism in which “there was no principled ground for recognizing a class of obscene or assaulting speech, and no grounds of truth in testing political speech.”
As for TST, it purports to embrace Satan’s name as a “symbol of the Eternal Rebel in opposition to arbitrary authority,” while not believing that God, the devil, or other supernatural concepts literally exist. It has advocated for legal abortion, sponsored LGBT “pride” events, and erected statues on public property.