The Satanic Temple, our favorite joyous trolls for the separation of church and state, are working hard to launch a new after-school program for kids. It is, naturally, called the After School Satan Club. Finally, a good and tempting reason to have children!
The news of this latest project from TST hit the media over the weekend; the Washington Post reports that the Temple will start petitioning specific school districts across the country to allow Satan clubs to operate at their elementary schools. They’re focusing for now on districts where an evangelical Christian program called The Good News Club operates: Atlanta, Los Angeles, Pensacola, Washington D.C., Portland, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Tucson, and Springfield, Missouri.
The Good News Club is a project of the Child Evangelism Fellowship; it’s been operating in elementary schools since the 1930s, and it has an explicitly and solely evangelical bent. As the CEF puts it, “Unsaved children hear of their need for a Savior and saved children are presented a spiritual growth challenge.” The Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that the Good News Clubs were legal and didn’t violate church-state separation doctrines. Public schools can open their facilities to be used by religious groups during non-school hours.
And so, enter the Satanic Temple, which frequently points out evangelical hypocrisy by attempting to avail themselves of the same public services religious groups like to use.
“The Good News Club materials are disgusting,” Doug Mesner, sometimes known professionally as Lucien Greaves, tells Jezebel. He’s a co-founder of the Satanic Temple and their spokesperson. “What they’re trying to do is proselytize to children between the ages of 5 to 12 years old.”
That said, he adds, “I want to make clear in this is this isn’t the Satanic Temple against Christians. The CEF is its own distinct, isolationist, fundamentalist brand of Christianity. I think most Christians would be deeply disturbed by some of these materials.”
By contrast, the After School Satan Club, their website explains, is about teaching a rational, scientific, free-thinking worldview:
All After School Satan Clubs are based upon a uniform syllabus that emphasizes a scientific, rationalist, non-superstitious world view. While the twisted Evangelical teachings of The Good News Clubs “robs children of the innocence and enjoyment of childhood, replacing them with a negative self image, preoccupation with sin, fear of Hell, and aversion to critical thinking,” After School Satan Clubs incorporate games, projects, and thinking exercises that help children understand how we know what we know about our world and our universe.
The Satanic Temple also preemptively launched a “Corrections” page, about all the things that After School Satan is not. Specifically, it’s not an attempt to convert anyone’s children, it’s not asking for special privileges religious groups are being denied, and no, it wouldn’t be better if it were called a Humanist Club. The Satanism part is integral, they argue:
While the Good News Clubs try to invade children’s minds with traumatic and unhealthy guilt-ridden admonishments — such as that they “deserve God’s punishment for sin, which is death” — the very presence of Satanic after school clubs demonstrate that there are opposing religious beliefs held by responsible, respectable, moral people who live productive lives without the burden of superstitious fear. For children to see and understand that “blasphemous” names and iconography can be utilized by good people without repercussions, sends a positive message encouraging critical examination and free thought.
Mesner says the curriculum was designed with help from Satanic Temple, and he has already gotten “floods” of emails from people interested in helping open and staff an After School Satan Club in their towns.
“A lot of people have teaching certifications,” he says. “Some of them are grandparents. It goes to show what an issue this is for a lot of people.”
Mesner also points out that the evangelical Liberty Counsel, a law firm that represented Kentucky clerk Kim Davis and a host of other aggrieved Christians in big lawsuits, helped make After School Satan possible. The Liberty Counsel recently won a lawsuit against the Cleveland Metropolitan School District to bring a Good News Club there; they celebrated in a press release, pointing out that, going forward, they’ve ensured that religious groups “are not discriminated against in the future, and receive the same access and benefits to public facilities as similarly situated non-religious groups.”
“Organizations like the Liberty Counsel, they’ve done more to bring people to Satan than I ever could,” Mesner says.
Although they have the law on their side, the Satanic Temple is expecting that they’ll have to battle this one out in court nonetheless. They’re accepting donations for their probably inevitable legal fees.
Here’s the full promo for the club, which is already being dissected on YouTube by terrified evangelical vloggers who see it as a literal herald of the End Times.
Update, 4:30: And via our friends at Christian Nightmares, here’s a super alarming mini-documentary about the Good News Club.