A Pennsylvania school district has amended its dress code after complaints from a Satanic group founder who blasted it as discriminatory.
Joseph Rose, who runs Satanic Delco, says fellow Satanists with children in schools in the Rose Tree Media School District alerted him of language in its dress code banning clothing or gear that are “satanic in nature,” WPVI reported.
Rose then embarked on a month-long campaign to get district officials to remove that verbiage, the station reported.
“The idea that a public school would allow religious expression in school, but choose to single out and prohibit the expression of one specific religion obviously seemed like a problem for us,” Rose told WPVI.
The district’s dress code had banned clothing and items with sexually suggestive images, those that advocate violence or promote the use of alcohol or drugs, any with obscene or “disrespectful” language, as well as Satanic imagery.
The district’s superintendent, Eleanor DiMarino-Linnen, has sent out an announcement confirming the change, WPVI reported.
“Although we have no had complaint or concern brought forward by any student, we will remove this language from our current dress code information in the student handbook,” the message read.
Reaction to the dress code change was mixed, the station reported.
“I really do like the way they phrased it,” said Villanova law professor Ann Juliano, adding that district officials likely made the right move. “They recognize that there could be religious beliefs at issue — not that there are — but there could be, and therefore they would take it out.”
Residents in Media, where the district is located, were less enthused by the move.
“As far as children go, I don’t think you want to start putting thoughts in their head about Satanic stuff or anything else,” Richard Phillips told the station.
Another resident questioned if the dress code language change went too far to appease one group.
“It’s like a free speech issue,” Donna Willis told WPVI. “Are they going to allow Nazis to be able to put symbols on kids’ shirts and send them to school?”
Lisa Cutrufello, of nearby Clifton Heights, said she agreed.
“I wouldn’t want a Satanic or cultish anything on clothing in schools,” she said.
Rose, meanwhile, is already working on a similar campaign at another school district in Glen Mills. He wants the Garnet Valley School District, which currently bans Satanic or cult-related gear, to drop that language from its dress code policy.
“It just sort of raises awareness for what Satanists are, what we’re not, and maybe helps empower us a little when we have to reach out to the next high school, which I’m doing,” he told WPVI.
Satanic Delco’s website says its followers do not worship Satan or believe in the existence of Satan or the supernatural.
“We believe that religion can, and should, be divorced from superstition,” the site reads. “As such, we do not promote a belief in a personal Satan. To embrace the name Satan is to embrace rational inquiry removed from supernaturalism and archaic tradition-based superstitions.”
The group’s private Facebook page describes it as an “active, independent congregation” of modern Satanists based near Philadelphia. As of Thursday, it had 316 members.