Satanists Petitioning Schools to Start After School Clubs
Since opponents of Good News Clubs haven't been able to get them kicked out of the public schools, The Satanic Temple is attempting to force them out by requiring schools to host its clubs too.
Contending that it is unfair for Christian Good News Clubs to operate in the public schools, The Satanic Temple is asking schools to open up their after school clubs for Satanist children. According to The Washington Post, the organization may be starting an “After School Satan” club this week in a school located in Virginia’s Prince George County. Other locations are planned around the country.
The organization is relying upon the 2001 Supreme Court case, Good News Club v. Milford Central School, which held that schools operate a “limited public forum,” so they may not deny to religious groups facilities they would provide other groups.
The Satanic Temple
The Satanic Temple does not recognize that Satan exists nor promote devil worship. Satan is just a “metaphorical construct,” one of the founders explained to the Washington Post, a way of highlighting their understanding of freedom of thought.
In a letter to the superintendent of the Los Angeles school system, the group descried itself as seeking to “encourage benevolence and empathy among all people,” and to fight for free speech, religious liberty and “rational, science-based inquiry and education.” The organization’s promotional video describes its proposed program as “an after school club focused on rationalism, free inquiry and fun.”
The Temple of Satan refers to itself as a religion and has demanded the same rights as Christians where Christian activity has typically taken place, such as Christmas displays, invocations before public meetings, and monuments on government property. So far, the organization has won most of these challenges, although no court has yet analyzed whether it really constitutes a religion.
Mat Staver, the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, which successfully led the legal challenge to allow Good News Clubs into schools in 2011, admits the Satanic group probably has a right to conduct the meetings. “I would definitely oppose after-school Satanic clubs, but they have a First Amendment right to meet,” he said. “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.”
However, in the 2014 SCOTUS case Town of Greece v. Galloway, the majority of the court upheld the town council’s right to begin its meetings with a prayer by a minister in the town, even if that prayer were “sectarian.” He argued that “the Constitution does not require [a town’s lawmakers] to search beyond its borders for non-Christian prayer givers in an effort to achieve religious balancing.”
The Temple of Satan asserts on its website, After School Satan, that “the Good News Clubs focus on indoctrination, instilling them with a fear of Hell and God’s wrath.” Members of The Satanic Temple freely admit that their efforts aren’t really to become a genuine religious equivalent to Christianity, but to shock and disturb people so much that they eliminate the Christian presence in the public arena in order to avoid having to also accommodate Satanism.
The head of The Satanic Temple, Lucien Greaves, admitted that a recent attempt to say Satanic prayers before Phoenix City Council meetings was in response to futile attempts that had been made in the past to stop Christian invocations. He acknowledged in this challenge, “If Good News Clubs would operate in churches rather than public schools, that need would disappear.”
In 2011, there were 3,560 Good News Clubs across the country, in more than five percent of elementary schools.