The Liberty Counsel, the powerful evangelical Christian legal organization, has found itself thrown into a tizzy by Satan. Liberty’s chairman and chief Legal Counsel Mat Staver can’t seem to decide whether after-school clubs run by Satanists are fine and protected by the Constitution or else wickedly disruptive and just plain wrong.
As we wrote Monday, the Satanic Temple is planning to roll out an after-school program for elementary-age kids, appropriately titled the After School Satan Club (ASSC). They’re starting with school districts where the Child Evangelism Fellowship currently runs Good News Clubs, an explicitly evangelical after-school program. Good News Clubs are legal, according to the Supreme Court, and so, then, are clubs run by Satanists. That’s how we do things around here.
Staver, who recently represented anti-gay court clerk Kim Davis, at first seemed to agree, telling the Washington Post that the ASSC has “a First Amendment right” to exist:
“I would definitely oppose after-school Satanic clubs, but they have a First Amendment right to meet,” said Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel’s founder and chairman. “I suspect, in this particular case, I can’t imagine there’s going to be a lot of students participating in this. It’s probably dust they’re kicking up and is likely to fade away in the near future for lack of interest.”
A few days and hundreds of headlines about the Satanists and their club later, the Liberty Counsel’s tone has shifted, issuing a press release saying the Satanists “have no right to disrupt school.” Quoth Staver:
“The so-called Satanic Temple group is a handful of atheists masquerading as so-called Satanists. This group is not legitimate. Its only reason to exist is to oppose the Good News Clubs. The Good News Clubs teach morals, character development, patriotism and respect from a Christian viewpoint. Public schools welcome these clubs because they improve the behavior of the students and the Supreme Court has sided with these clubs,” said Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel’s Founder and Chairman.
“The so-called Satanist group has nothing good to offer the students and its entire reason for existence is to be disruptive. Schools do not have to tolerate groups which disrupt the school and target other legitimate clubs. No sane parents would consent to allow their child to attend this group. Full of sound and fury, this group will soon fade away,” concluded Staver.
None of that, if you read it closely or even not very closely, poses any legitimate argument as to why After School Satan shouldn’t exist. But Liberty is hinting quite darkly that they’ll battle the ASSC, adding, “Liberty Counsel has offered pro bono legal counsel to the schools targeted by this disruptive group.”
The Satanic Temple issued a press release of their own, calling the Liberty Counsel hypocritical and perhaps a little confused on what “religious freedom” actually means in this country.
“The hypocrisy of the Liberty Council is so egregious that it should be offensive to even their supporters who genuinely support religious liberty and seek Government viewpoint neutrality,” said Lucien Greaves, the Satanic Temple’s co-founder and spokesperson. (He also answers to the name Doug.) “Mat Staver has made a mockery of the Liberty Counsel’s claimed mission with his recent disingenuous and unintelligent statements. Claiming the Liberty Counsel fights for religious freedom while offering pro bono services to suppress religions they disapprove of is hypocritical and a bald faced attempt to advance theocracy.”
This is a very entertaining fight, and one that the Satanic Temple seemed to anticipate: they’ve already begun raising money for any potential court costs.