When The Satanic Temple announced that they would be starting up After School Satan, their version of a voluntary religious club for kids, the reaction was swift. People freaked out at the thought of Satanists doing exactly what Christians do all over the country.
That reaction was part of the reason this endeavor began at all. The Satanists wanted Christians to accept the fact that other groups had the same rights as them. And unlike those Christian groups, the Satanic clubs weren’t about indoctrination. Their clubs would “focus on free inquiry and rationalism, the scientific basis for which we know what we know about the world around us.” Anyone was welcome to attend, and they would follow whatever rules the District had in place for similar groups.
But if you’re the attorney for the Mount Vernon School District in Washington State, good luck explaining that to people who have no understanding of the law.
[Attorney Duncan] Fobes was hired by the district’s risk-pool insurance group to assess whether the district had legal standing to deny the temple’s application.
“This is going to be infectious and widespread,” said Mike Cheek, who has grandchildren in the district. “I know that if there is anything to do with Satan, it is dark and it is evil.”
When asked by a parent to raise their hands if they didn’t want the After School Satan Club to take root at Centennial, nearly every community member in attendance did so.
“They say they’re not going to teach anything bad, but we don’t know,” Moises Pacheco, whose grandchildren attend Madison Elementary, said through a translator.
Well, too damn bad. Your ignorance and suspicion doesn’t mean Satanists can’t form a club.
There is one option to keep the Satanists out of school: Ban all after-school clubs altogether. But Fobes warned against that nuclear option:
The School Board President eventually admitted that Satanists were welcome in their District no matter how much pushback there was. That’s how the law works.
The district cannot ban all after-school groups in an effort to keep the temple out, Fobes said, and even if it could, doing so would likely open it up to lawsuits.
“I think it’s not an option here,” Fobes said. “I believe in this particular case you would still face some litigation, not only from the Satanic Temple, but also from the [Christian] Good News club.”
“Very unfortunately, our hands are tied in this question,” Board President Rob Coffey said. “We must make our facilities available — and in many cases we are eager to make them available — to Boys & Girls Clubs, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts. We must make them available whether we like the group or not. There really is no opportunity for us to say no to the Satanic Temple or the After School Satan Club.”
That’s exactly right. There’s no good reason an After School Satan club can be denied, and the quicker Christians realize that, the better. This is a door they opened when they wanted religious clubs in schools; now they have to deal with the consequences of other people asking for the same damn thing.
The Satanic Temple’s spokesperson Lucien Greaves applauded the attorney’s suggestion in an email to me:
I believe the lawyer’s intuition is correct. Turn down an After School Satan Club where there are Good News Clubs present, and you will face costly litigation, and lose.
Now alarmed citizens must decide whether After School Satan Clubs are too horrible a “price” to pay for the privilege of allowing an isolationist fundamentalist Christian cult to indoctrination children into a mortal fear of tortuous punishments for not pledging grovelling fealty to a particular Deity. It would be simple to merely revise basic Codes of Conduct for after-school clubs to exclude curriculums based upon proselytization and authoritarian conditioning to exclude the Good News Clubs, thus removing the need for After School Satan. If school districts also insisted that no after school clubs have ties to hate groups, this would again exclude the Good News Clubs.
Neither of these changes in standards would exclude the After School Satan Club in principle, but without the Good News Clubs — again — there would no longer be an urgent need for our counter-balance.