FFRF sues Memphis school system to end discrimination against The Satanic Temple

After School Satan Club logo

On March 19, 2024 the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit on behalf of The Satanic Temple in defense of its After School Satan Club (ASSC) in Memphis-Shelby County Schools. This lawsuit aims to put the ASSC on the same footing as the Good News Club, a school club featuring Christian programming with the goal to evangelize students.

The lawsuit asserts that the Shelby County Board of Education deliberately obstructed the meetings of The Satanic Temple’s after-school club at Chimneyrock Elementary School beginning in November 2023. The district charged The Satanic Temple discriminatory rental and security fees, refused to adequately communicate, and treated the members of the club with hostility. 

In December 2023 the district hosted a press conference to express its unhappiness with the creation of the ASSC at Chimneyrock Elementary. In January, the district assessed a “special security fee” of $2,045.60 against The Satanic Temple for “additional security.” The district also charged the group another fee of $250 for “field lights.” The Good News Club has not been assessed any “special security fee” or a fee for “field lights.” 

The Satanic Temple seeks the approval of its reservation requests by Memphis-Shelby County Schools on the same terms as other groups. It also seeks to reserve school facilities without the district attempting to charge discriminatory rental fees. Accordingly, the lawsuit requests a declaratory judgment that the Shelby County Board of Education’s actions violate the Free Speech Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, a permanent injunction, and nominal damages.

The Satanic Temple is represented by FFRF attorneys Sammi Lawrence, Patrick Elliott, and Sam Grover with assistance from local counsel Scott Kramer and attorney Matt Kezhaya. The case is in the Tennessee Western District court with case number 2:24-cv-02178 and Judge Mark S. Norris presiding.

Freedom From Religion Foundation