In July this year, the town of Three Rivers (population 1,900) voted to reinstate corporal punishment in its schools – a move that prompted the Satanic Temple to erect a billboard stating its opposition to hitting kids.
This upset Lyn Means, pastor of the local First Baptist Church:
I’m very sorry that the billboard has been posted in our town, especially in a city park where families and our children congregate. There’s not really anything I can do about it personally except pray for those people responsible for putting something like that up in our town.
According to the Protect Children Project website, the Satanic Temple:
Believes that children should not be objects of physical violence or psychological abuse. We have prepared a letter that can be signed by students which informs their public schools that their deeply held beliefs do not allow for them to be hit in school, physically restrained, placed in solitary confinement, or deprived access to a bathroom.
Satanic Temple spokesman Lucien Greaves said:
Hopefully, our billboard will give pause to passers-by who will be forced to confront the fact that the school district is being operated by depraved and ignorant sadists who have no business being in education.
In a statement school superintendent Mary Springs said:
It has come to our attention that outside groups may try to force their beliefs on our community while attempting to orchestrate controversy and conversation regarding this policy. We believe that the majority of our community is very supportive of the school and our policies. We believe that the conversations that take place between our administrators and our parents regarding student behavior are the most important conversations regarding this topic.
The district continues to focus on the greatest aspect of our work which is educating children and will not have any further comment on this policy.
Kevin Mackey, minister of the Three Rivers Church of Christ, said:
Our religion causes us to love our children, and therefore we discipline them. Now, that discipline doesn’t have to be spanking. But it also can be spanking.
And his church put up a sign to counter the Satanic Temple’s billboard.
Francis Muzquiz de Anguiano, a Pentecostal Christian who posted a Facebook photo of the billboard, said:
They advertise they don’t believe in hitting children, but the first thing you think about is, they’ll sacrifice them. It’s really alarming to me as a Christian because they’re being really bold about their beliefs and trying to lure in people from the outside.
Actually, the Satanic Temple is an organisation dedicated to church-state separation – and one whose leaders say they don’t really believe in the devil or Satan worship. Greaves has characterised the group, based in Salem, Massachusetts, as “an atheistic religion”.
Lyn Means, the First Baptist pastor, said:
Of course, no Southern Baptist condones abuse or hitting children. Abuse is different from giving a child, in my opinion, a spat on the seat. Hitting conveys the idea of abuse. Discipline is a word they wouldn’t dare put on a billboard.