The Satanic Temple seeks to bring an After School Satan Club to elementary schools around the country.
The goal of the group ― which does not promote a belief in any higher being, Satan or otherwise ― is to counteract the influence of religion on school grounds. The Satanic Temple is specifically trying to form clubs in elementary schools that already have Good News Clubs, which are affiliated with evangelical Christianity.
An After School Satan Club would show kids that “there are people with distinctly different religious points of view that are still leading moral and productive lives,” said Satanic Temple spokesman Lucien Greaves (who also goes by the name Douglas Mesner).
The Good News Clubs are an after-school program run by the Child Evangelism Fellowship. They currently enroll around 178,000 children, according to Moises Esteves, a vice president with the group. Their purpose is to “evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and establish (disciple) them in the Word of God and in a local church for Christian living,” according to the fellowship’s website. Children need parental permission to join.
The Satanic Temple is not the first to challenge this evangelical effort. But the Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that school districts that otherwise allow outside groups to run after-school programs in their facilities can’t simply bar the Good News Clubs because they teach religious values.
So the Satanic Temple has reached out to elementary schools to start chapters of the After School Satan Club, The Washington Post reports.
Amy Monsky, the former executive director of the Atheist Alliance of America who also has experience in youth programs, has been working with the Satanic Temple to develop a curriculum for its after-school program, which will be run by volunteers. She said it will cover “several areas of knowledge like science and art, philosophy and culture.” Like Good News Clubs, kids will need the permission of their parents to join.
Greaves said the Satanic Temple has already heard from teachers who are interested in helping.
“There’s a huge population of people who have been screaming about these Good News Clubs and are disgusted by their presence in the schools,” he said. “This is finally kind of blowing the lid off of all of that and making it a bigger public issue.”
Greaves said Good News Clubs work to fill children’s heads “with this guilt or shame, that they’re sinners and they’re going to burn in hell and other destructive messages.”
Esteves, of course, disagrees with Greaves’ characterization. “The children that come to our clubs learn about God, learn about the love of God ...” he said. “The message of club is one of hope, encouragement, faith, love ― and children love it.”
As for the After School Satan Clubs, Esteves dismissed them as “a parody” and “a publicity stunt.”
The people behind this idea “are atheists dressed up in scary costumes,” he said. “This isn’t a devil worshipping club. These are atheists trying to scare parents with pitchforks and devil horns.”
The Satanic Temple expects legal challenges to its presence in schools, Greaves said.
“I think there’s going to be some schools that don’t want us there for sure,” he said. “I do expect we’ll have to round up legal counsel in at least more than one case.”