Last October, Satanic activist Chaz Stevens noticed that the fences surrounding Boca Raton High School had banners promoting a Jewish temple and a local church, among other advertisements. The religious groups must have applied for the space and paid the requisite fee, and the Palm Beach County public school administrators signed off on it.
Naturally, then, Stevens applied to put his own advertisement right next to theirs. He didn’t think the District had any right to reject it. After all, he was simple representing The Church of Satanology and Perpetual Soiree.
Stevens submitted two application requests. Both were ignored. That’s when Stevens’ lawyer got involved, informing the District that rejecting this harmless banner could lead to a lawsuit, citing a 2015 case in which the District argued those advertisements were a form of government speech.
If they’re a form of government speech, the lawyer said, the District can’t discriminate on the basis of religion. While there was no formal response, a moratorium was placed on new advertising until the school board could figure out what to do next.
Well, they finally responded. Indirectly.
On Wednesday, the Palm Beach County school board will consider a new proposal to ban all advertising from groups whose goals are “inconsistent with the educational mission of the School Board or… likely to cause a disruption in the operation of the school.”That includes:
… religious affiliated organizations; churches; organizations promoting or supporting agnostic or atheist beliefs; satanic affiliated organizations; persons seeking political office; political causes and organizations promoting or supporting political causes or controversial subjects…
Wow. They called out Satanists specifically. That’s unusual and almost certainly a direct result of Stevens’ activism.
The Palm Beach Post has more reaction to the proposed changes.
“They’ve backed themselves into a corner by declaring that these banners are government speech,” said Andrew Seidel, an attorney with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. “And because of that, they absolutely cannot promote religion, and they cannot denigrate religion. This is the logical legal outcome of their previous cases.”
Seidel applauded the school district’s proposed new policy, calling it an inevitable outcome of the 2015 court decision.
“We are seeking government neutrality when it comes to religion, and it looks like that is what this new rule does,” he said.
I asked Chaz Stevens what he thought about this decision and he was, not surprisingly, thrilled with the board’s response:
Jesus Horatio Christ, my prayers have been answered.
He’s not (entirely) kidding. He’s finally being treated the same as the other religious groups, which is what he wanted all along.