I support the Satanic Temple’s after school initiative.

I support the Satanic Temple’s after school initiative. August 1, 2016

For years I’ve followed the work of Katherine Stewart who has watched over the so-called “Good News Clubs.”  Here’s an excerpt from an interview I did with Stewart back in 2012:

Here’s an example: A six-year-old I know named Zoe was playing in the schoolyard when her classmate Ashley, who had just started attending a Good News Club, said to her, “You are going to hell because you don’t believe in Jesus.”

Zoe objected, saying, “That’s not true.” When the teacher, overhearing the exchange, started explaining that different people believe different things, Ashley was devastated. “How can that be?” she started sobbing. “I know it must be true because I learned it in school, and they don’t teach things in school that aren’t true. How can they lie to us in school?”

This story gets to the heart of the trouble with the Good News Club: I don’t have a problem with children talking about their religion, if any, with their friends at school. But I do have a problem with Ashley believing that her particular religious beliefs are coming from the school.

That perception on Ashley’s part was no accident. Good News Clubs, which are sponsored by an organization called the Child Evangelism Fellowship, are a thinly disguised effort to convert kids as young as kindergarten-age to a fundamentalist form of Christianity by giving them the false but unavoidable impression that the school endorses that particular religion.

And therein lies the crux.  After school bible clubs and what not are actually something I support.  Well, let me rephrase that.  I think religion is a blight on the planet, so in that sense I wish they’d go away.

However, it’s certainly those students right to meet and to discuss their religion outside of school hours, and in the unrealistic scenario that such a right was ever challenged (which it never would be because our nation is saturated with Christians at every level of government) I’d be the first to rush to their defense.

But admittedly, there is more of a problem at the elementary level with clubs meeting right after school to give the impression that such clubs are associated with the school those youngsters have grown to trust.  That’s deceit any way you slice it, and such Christian clubs are doing so intentionally.  We’ve tried appealing to their sense of morality, to beg them to stop deceiving children in this way.  The result is that they play dumb, lying now to adults as well as their kids.

Now, if you’re a Christian who even believes in the morality of spreading your religion, surely we can agree that your message is more noble than this.  If what you believe is really true, surely this type of dishonest is not necessary.

But the people deploying these tactics simply won’t be stopped by appeals to morality (regardless of how much that morality is called for in their own damn holy book).  And it’s presently legal to rent out space from public schools after school hours in this way, and there’s no legal recourse for lying to kids.  So what is there left to do to unmake the impression that schools endorse Jesus that these groups are trying to foster?

Why, make it equally apparent that public schools “endorse” Satan:

According to Mesner, who goes by the professional name of Lucien Greaves, “Satan” is just a “metaphorical construct” intended to represent the rejection of all forms of tyranny over the human mind.

The curriculum for the proposed after-school clubs emphasizes the development of reasoning and social skills. The group says meetings will include a healthful snack, literature lesson, creative learning activities, a science lesson, puzzle solving and an art project. Every child will receive a membership card and must have a signed parental­ permission slip to attend.

“We think it’s important for kids to be able to see multiple points of view, to reason things through, to have empathy and feelings of benevolence for their fellow human beings,” said the Satanic Temple’s Utah chapter head, who goes by the name Chalice Blythe.

The emphasis on multiple perspectives is a hint pointing to the Temple’s true foe. The group at first intends to roll out the clubs in a limited number of schools in districts that also host an evangelical Christian after-school program known as the Good News Club.

They’re doing the exact same thing the Christian clubs are doing, and the leaders of those Christian clubs are just going to hate it — and they’ll blame the Satanic Temple for doing what they started.  And god, for all his omnipotence, won’t be able or willing to imbue them with even the minimal amount of self-awareness it would take to realize their hypocrisy.

And we’ve seen this script play out a million times.  You can literally write how this story ends right now.  The people running these bible clubs will suddenly think that giving the impression of school endorsement is terrible when it’s somebody else doing it.  This won’t awaken them to the fact that it’s equally deplorable when they do it, but it may just cause them to stop all such meetings and move their after school bible meetings somewhere else.

Which is what ought to happen.  Which, of course, is exactly what the Satanic Temple wants — they want the honesty from these after school bible clubs that they won’t demand of themselves (and which other Christians have been unable or unwilling to adequately demand of them).  It’s a pity it has to be achieved in such a roundabout way, but I can envision no other way to achieve it since the leaders of such clubs certainly won’t let the burden of honesty impede them.  If you’re a Christian upset about what the Satanic Temple is doing (who also agrees that dishonesty to children is unacceptable for any cause, even your own), what would you suggest as an antidote to this problem?  I’m willing to listen to possible other solutions, but I’m unwilling to ignore the problem.

And don’t blame the Satanic Temple for putting you in the position of choosing between after school bible clubs and honesty.  The Good News Clubs have put everybody, including other Christians, in a position of having to choose between not lying to children and having those clubs.  The Satanic Temple just swiftly backed honesty while the silence from other Christians suggests they’re still struggling with the decision.

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