For way too long, evangelical Christian groups in the US have virtually remained unopposed in their efforts to cram young minds with Jesus and threats of hell.
The Satanic Temple decided enough was enough, and have launched an initiative called After School Satan, (motto “Educatin’ with Satan”), saying:
It’s important that children be given an opportunity to realise that the evangelical materials now creeping into their schools are representative of but one religious opinion amongst many. While the Good News Clubs focus on indoctrination, instilling them with a fear of Hell and God’s wrath, After School Satan Clubs will focus on free inquiry and rationalism, the scientific basis for which we know what we know about the world around us.
We prefer to give children an appreciation of the natural wonders surrounding them, not a fear of everlasting other-worldly horrors.
And they are legally entitled to offer kids an alternative to biblical bullshit.
The Friendly Atheist Hermant Mehta explained:
When Congress passed the Equal Access Act of 1984, evangelical Christians were thrilled. It meant the government couldn’t stop the formation of after-school Bible clubs at public schools throughout the country – they had the right to use public school space just like any other club. The late Jerry Falwell was ecstatic, saying, ‘We knew we couldn’t win on school prayer, but “equal access” gets us what we wanted all along.’
That decision, however, eventually opened the door to Gay-Straight Alliance and Secular Student Alliance groups, an unintended consequence of the law Christians fought so hard to pass.
Since 2001, when a Supreme Court decision said public schools with “limited public forums” couldn’t discriminate on the basis of religion, Christians have been forming Good News Clubs at elementary schools. These groups, sponsored by the Child Evangelism Fellowship, aim to spread fundamentalist Christianity to little kids. By 2011, they were in an astonishing five percent of the nation’s elementary schools. The groups are run by outside volunteers and the law is on their side.
After School Satan clubs will work the same way as the Christian clubs. They’ll have outside sponsors, they’ll run a curriculum that’s appropriate for kids, and (most importantly) they’ll only form in districts where Good News Clubs already exist. This is about showing Christians the law applies to everybody, and if they want access to public space, they have to accept that groups with whom they disagree will be there, too.
It’s a brilliant tactic. If Christians complain and say they shouldn’t be there, it also means eliminating the Bible clubs. When Katherine Stewart, writing for the Washington Post, asked Christian legal group Liberty Counsel about the Satanic group, its founder had nothing to complain about.
I would definitely oppose after-school Satanic clubs, but they have a First Amendment right to meet. 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.
Stavers may well be wrong about that. Volunteers are already planning to start groups in a number of school districts this autumn. And The Satanic Temple will be sending school districts with Good News Clubs a letter asking for permission to set up their own groups. If any of them refuse, a lawsuit could be forthcoming.
• The Satanists aren’t asking for anything Christians aren’t already receiving. That’s why they’re only trying to form groups in places where Christians already have a foothold.
• The Satanic Temple is well aware of the shock value of its name. That’s kind of the point. Conservative Christians in these districts will have to decide whether they can handle a Satanic club at their kids’ school, because the only other option would be for the districts to cancel after school clubs entirely.
• This isn’t about indoctrination. The After School Satan Clubs aren’t trying to convert children to Satanism. They want to teach them critical thinking and the power of science. Christians are welcome to attend.
In order to make this plan work, though, The Satanic Temple needs funding to cover classroom rental costs and curriculum material. You can make a donation right here. A small donor is called a “Kindergarten Infidel” while a large donor is a “Doctor of Devilry.
The Temple’s donation page says:
Well organized fundamentalist Christian organizations are trying to turn public schools into indoctrination camps for your children. With millions in funding and a team of skilled lawyers, these theocrats are persistently eroding the line of separation of Church and State. Your donation will allow us to expand this campaign, fight for true religious equality in the Courts, and bring other campaigns to fruition as we continue to fight on the front line of this important battle.
Council President Charles Bare warned the crowd that if they didn’t quieten down, they would have to leave. Some people were escorted out by law enforcement.
One council member walked out.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn