Be careful what you wish for – you just might get it.
That seems to be the lesson public school districts across the country are being forced to learn from an unlikely source – Satan.
Thousands of districts in the US allow religious organizations and clubs to operate on public school property, especially after classes are over.
So The Satanic Temple (TST) – an organization that’s not really Satanic or a temple – goes around proposing After-School Satan Clubs at the same districts – and all Hell breaks loose.
Keep in mind none of these districts need open their grounds to religious organizations. They could simply cite the Separation of Church and State and be done with it.
The first clause in the Bill of Rights states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” This has been interpreted to mean that the government shall neither support nor prohibit religious expression.
Our right-leaning Supreme Court has chipped away at this notion allowing all kinds of government support – however logic and consistency still mean something.
Districts apparently CAN ignore the Church/State conundrum – BUT – if a district is going to violate this tenant for one organization, it has to be willing to do so for all.
And that is why TST is making this point.
Unlike the Church of Satan, a religious institution founded in the 1960s that literally worships the Biblical devil, TST is a non-theistic organization which uses hyperbole and humor to protest the Religious Right and authoritarianism. The organization says it strives to “provide a safe and inclusive alternative” to Christian-based groups that may seek to “convert school children to their belief system.”
The TST’s latest victory is the first After-School Satan Club in Pennsylvania, which is set to hold its inaugural meeting today.
All it took was a police investigation and the threat of a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to make it happen.
The Saucon Valley School District in the Lehigh Valley already allows explicitly religious organizations to hold meetings on school grounds like the Good News Club run by the Child Evangelism Fellowship, a Christian fundamentalist organization that seeks to influence schoolchildren as young as five.
So TST requested permission to start a new club on district property with the slogan “Educatin’ with Satan.”
“Proselytization is not our goal, and we’re not interested in converting children to Satanism,” writes TST. “We prefer to give children an appreciation of the natural wonders surrounding them, not a fear of everlasting other-worldly horrors.”
The response was immediate with messages from concerned citizens flooding into the district.
The point went over many people’s heads. “What’s next, the after-school heroin club?” asked someone in an email.
Others seemed to understand the district’s hypocrisy in blurring the lines between Church and State: “Please shut down all religious after-school clubs if that’s what needs to be done to keep Satan out of that building,” read another email.
And then there was this: “I’m gonna’ come in there and shoot everybody,” said a recorded voice.
The caller wasn’t some hooded devil worshipper. He allegedly was a 20-year-old North Carolina man who was worried, “the After-School Satan Club is trying to turn kids into devils,” according to law enforcement.
Shortly after, the suspect, Ceu “Van” Uk, was arrested by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police. He was arraigned on a charge of Terroristic Threats and sent to jail in lieu of $75,000 bail. He is expected to be extradited to Pennsylvania, according to a news release.
Though violence was averted, the school board and administrators denied the club’s request. They even blamed the After-School Satan Club for the controversy despite it being the target of Uk’s violence.
“Our community has experienced chaos. Our students, staff, and teachers have had to endure a threat to their safety and welfare,” Superintendent Jaime Vlasaty wrote.
“The gravity of feelings of instability, anxiety, and fear have been profound.”
This is exactly what you get when you tear down the wall between Church and State. But the board eventually relented and allowed the club to meet after threats by the ACLU.
Both the national and Pennsylvania chapter of the ACLU sent a letter to the Saucon Valley School District demanding that it allow the After-School Satan Club access to school facilities just as it allows other clubs. The district eventually agreed.
The club, which has six student members and is the first of its kind in the Commonwealth, New Jersey or Delaware, is expected to have its first meeting today in the district middle school.
Sadly, the Pennsylvania incident is just the most recent one in which religious people have resorted to threats of violence to stop others from the same religious expression they take for granted.
Another After-School Satan Club, which was allowed to meet in February at an elementary school in the Chesapeake School District in Virginia, followed a similar path.
Parents protested outside B.M. Williams Primary School, but the first meeting was held on February 16 anyway and reportedly attended by nine students.
Less than a week later, the elementary school was forced to evacuate following a bomb threat from an email saying the school promoted “devil worship,” according to local media.
The email mentioned threats toward three people: a Chesapeake school board member, the superintendent and the organizer of the After-School Satan Club. “You are evil, there is no other way to put it,” the email reads. “You promote devil worship and unIslamic values.”
It’s ironic how so-called religious values like tolerance and non-violence are more frequently found with Satan than adherents of faiths that are supposed to be espousing those beliefs.
There’s also something glaringly disingenuous when schools complain about these issues – they could avoid clubs of a religious nature entirely.
Just respect the Separation of Church and State and your problem goes away.
If people want religious clubs, hold them where they belong – churches, mosques, synagogues and other houses of worship. Don’t pretend to legitimize your faith by placing these clubs at school – the same place kids learn science, history, math and reading.
There are only seven active After-School Satan Clubs, according to June Everett, TST’s director for the project. Donovan Elementary School in Lebanon City Schools near Cincinnati, Ohio, hosts another such club.
By contrast, there are more than 4,000 Good News Clubs in public schools (often elementary schools) in America. Their stated purpose is:
“to evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and establish (disciple) them in the Word of God and in a local church for Christian living.”
The lessons taught in these Evangelical and similar clubs are far more destructive than anything you’ll find in an irreverent “Satan” club. Good News Clubs and others like them stress Old Testament narratives of a retributive God who punishes sin, warns children that they will suffer an eternity in Hell if they refuse to believe, and stresses complete obedience as the supreme value. They tell children as young as preschoolers that they have “dark” and “sinful” hearts, were born that way, and “deserve to die” and “go to Hell.” Such messages rob children of the innocence and enjoyment of childhood, replacing them with a negative self-image, preoccupation with sin, fear of Hell, and an aversion to critical thinking.
This is because most religious clubs are Biblically based and interpret that text literally. Meanwhile, The Satanic Temple’s more than 700,000 members don’t worship Satan. They take their central figure as a literary character, a symbol for the “Eternal Rebel,” according to their website. They are against “tyrannical authority” and support “individual sovereignty,” as well as empathy, compassion, and defiance.
TST has waged public battles against the religious and GOP right on issues involving First Amendment freedoms, LGBTQ rights, and abortion access.
Their approach has been often irreverent. In keeping with their belief in bodily autonomy, one of the temple members’ latest projects is an online clinic which aims to provide abortion medication by mail. They call it the Samuel Alito’s Mom’s Satanic Abortion Clinic.
Last October, a Dallas-area Satanic Temple held an “Unbaptism” event. According to its website, an “Unbaptism” is an activity in which “participants renounce superstitions that were imposed upon them without their consent as a child” — essentially, religious beliefs from which adults want to be disentangled. After all, most religions indoctrinate children into their beliefs before they are old enough to understand them or choose the beliefs for themselves. Why not offer them a chance to reject them once they’re mature enough to make a free choice?
The fliers for the Saucon Valley program promised kids ages 5 to 12 science and community service projects, puzzles, games, nature activities, arts and crafts, snacks “& tons of fun.”
This may scare some people, but I say thank goodness for Satan!
It’s time we stop giving religious organizations the moral high ground as a matter of course.
They need to prove their moral worth – and one way to do that would be to stop threatening people who have different beliefs.
Moreover, administrators and school directors need to rediscover their reverence for the Separation of Church and State.
This is one of the bedrock principles on which our nation was founded.
Find your courage to stand up to religious organizations demanding you shred your morals and responsibilities to everyone in the community.
If you value religious freedom, practice what you preach.
Or get ready for an After-School Satan Club in your neighborhood.
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21 thoughts on “After School Satan Clubs Are Teaching Public School Districts an Important Lesson in Free Speech ”
When I taught American Government and we studied the First Amendment, I said something like, “We should have a Nativity seen set up at the school. That would be cool, right?” Most kids agreed because they were ignorant to the First Amendment. Actually, it was a parent who wanted the Nativity scene set-up at the high school; I just made it a talking point. And I went on to mention the Wiccans and made the class think about how they would have time for their display. That’s why they called it Winter and Spring Break. And, yes, there is something called “Separation of Church and State” so we (shouldn’t be) coerced into teaching any religious philosophy. It still gets me, though, Congress always opens in prayer and has a Chaplin.
I just don’t understand why some religious folks insist on forcing their faith into every public space and then getting indignant if anyone else tries to do the same. It’s the theocratic equivalent of manspreading. Keep it to yourselves, theists. Let us have public spaces.
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Amen, err…I mean “Right on!” Be kind. Show Empathy. And Compassion. I always loved, God and Satan were walking along the beach. God turns to Satan and tells him, “I am going to create religion.”
Satan replies, “Let me organize it for you.” I love reading your blog. Coolio.
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That’s a great story about God and Satan! Thanks for commenting. I appreciate it.
I’m a Christian and I think TST is great. One faith should not be dominant in after school programs. I agree it would be best for religious clubs not to happen at all. I do have to correct something, though. I was part of an after-school Christian club for 1st to 6th graders. Parents had to sign a permission slip for their child to get in, so it was the parent’s decision. Also we did not tell children they have dark and sinful hearts and deserve hell! We talked mostly about role models and their character qualities, played games, sang worship songs, and listened to testimony from leaders (their personal stories of overcoming difficulties with God’s help). Oh, and the real reason kids showed up? Food! There was always a snack time and it was a very low income school population. The same group brought breakfast to the community every Saturday and offered free tutoring to kids afterward. So, your portrayal of all the clubs as giving “fire and brimstone” messages is not accurate. But shame on anyone who talks to children like that!
I hear you, Beth. I was trying to characterize clubs like the Good News Club. Many of These evangelical clubs they have today are way different than what there used to be years ago. Christian fascism is on the rise.
It’s on the rise and we know the name of the orange-haired devil who got that started! But I live in CA and we’re not going to allow that stuff in. We have Satanists guarding every entrance to make sure of that. 😉
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Satan, protect us!
Interestingly enough, all throughout high school I was part of YoungLife a Christian-based organization, but no indoctrination or preaching. Best time of my life. I was part of a leadership group as well. I studied the Bible and not sure what these religious fanatics are up to as the Jesus I know, wouldn’t be doing any of this. Blessings.
When I was a few days or weeks, old I was baptised Catholic. I don’t remember what age I was when I started attending a preschool at a parochial grade school behind a Catholic Church in Azusa, California. As those early years of my life went by, the Church required I take catechism classes, which are Catholic religious indoctrination classes. The exact age of attending these brainwashing classes as a very young child differs from diocese to diocese.
What I remember the most about those years was the nuns hitting my hands with a wooden ruler everytime my handwriting wasn’t perfect and all the Hail Mary’s I had to say asking for forgiveness. In one corner of the classroom was a place to kneel where all the other kids saw the back of whoever was being punished for any reason the nun’s saw fit to punish them after whacking the back of a hand with a wooden ruler.
I didn’t understand what was happening. But I do remember how guilty I felt all the time.
There might have been other prayers we were forced to say when sent to kneel and ask God for forgiveness (for bad handwriting or not completing a class assignment on time), but the only one I still remember was Hail Mary. Maybe because I was forced to say it thousands of times.
“Hail Mary, Full of Grace, The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death. Glory Be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.”
Saturdays we went to confession. I was three, four, five, six years old… but I still had to go to confession every Saturday and to mass with my family and godparents every Sunday. I don’t remember what my confessions to the priest were about but I suspect it was my sin of not having perfect handwriting or not finishing a class assignment on time.
Two things happened that saved me from being totally consumed and programmed by the Catholic Church.
Estimations show there are more than 200 Christian denominations in the U.S. and a staggering 45,000 globally. The Catholic Church is one of them, and probably the biggest Christian denomination.
FIRST: My dad operated heavy equipment like bulldozers. He belonged to a labor union, and they went on strike. My parents ended up losing their house because the strike went on for so long. They couldn’t afford to keep me in that parochial school. I think I was 7 when I ended up at a public school for the first time, where the teachers didn’t hit my hand with a wooden ruler because my handwriting wasn’t perfect and no more Hail Mary’s.
SECOND: When I was 12, my mother left the Catholic Church and joined the Jehovah Witnesses. I think this happened because of a falling out between my mother and her best friend, my Godmother, because my father and godmother had an affair. I didn’t learn this until after my father had died at 79, decades later.
The indoctrination from the Jehovah Witnesses (JW) was so alien from the Catholic Church that a few months into the reprograming, I stood up, left the lesson, and refused to attend again. The preacher or whatever the JWs called him, came once a week with his daughter who was about my age and taught us what it meant to be a Jehovah Witness. My mother gave up celebrating birthdays, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, et al.
Still, that Catholic programming kept yanking me around becaue guilt for being human is such a huge part of almost every Christian and Muslim religion, including the JWs, I felt guilty for just about every thought I had.
Fast forward to near the end of my first marriage, after 10 years of living in marriage hell, and I knew I could not go on. I had to divorce her, but the Catholic Church did not approve of divorce, so I thought about suicide to escape. I knew suicide was also a sin but I didn’t think it was as bad as divorce.
The day I put the rifle barrel in my mouth to end it Hemingway style, I changed my mind and decided to divorce the Church instead, even though I hadn’t been to confession or mass for years.
I thought I was free at last. Free of that bad marriage. Free of religion. Nope, the guilt for being human, as many Christian denominations preach, takes a long time to shed. I’m still shedding and I’m almost 78.
I feel compassion for every child forced to be brainwashed into any religion, by their parents, who were also brainwashed by a religion.
There are passages from the Bible that says what I have thought for decades:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. … For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” — Matthew
So my focus again will be CCA. What does the satanic club have to do with CCA? Well I find it fascinating that local media (WNEP, times leader) have had several articles dedicated to this situation with the satanic club. Is it newsworthy? Sure. But several articles over multiple days over weeks is a bit much for coverage of 1 public school poor local decisions. It leads to general public extrapolation to include all district schools as being accepting to allow the satanic temple when really it is related to boneheaded local decisions in 1 district.
Meanwhile, super corrupt CCA spending $100 million on empty of kids properties has received no attention by comparison. Most of the attention on CCA has come from bloggers like yourself OR national media figures like Peter Greene or groups funded by education group. None of which have the credibility with locals as the local news station or local newspaper.
It is almost like local media love to shine negative publicity on district public schools when they struggle or are humiliated like with the satanic temple here. Furthermore, it is almost like the local media turns a blind eye on CCA misdeeds.
Could it have anything to do with cyber schools being a cash cow for local media?
I don’t know the local situation well enough to say anything specific but in general many news organizations have become the mouthpieces of their corporate owners. I was a journalist before becoming a teacher. I saw first hand how the news room increasingly became beholden to advertising and the big bosses. And most neighborhood papers are gone. To suspect that the media revels in stories that make public schools look bad is just being awake. However, I worry about the trend of Christian fascism in this country, too. Many of these religious clubs on public property are part of the same scheme as school vouchers indoctrinating the next generation in prejudice and superstition. Thank you for sharing your perspective.
And as a journalist, “Dog bites man” is boring. But, “Man bites dog” sells newspapers.
Reblogged this on Politicians Are Poody Heads.
Thanks for reblogging, Zorba.
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Steven, I think you have an important error in this article. You say, “Keep in mind none of these districts need open their grounds to religious organizations. They could simply cite the Separation of Church and State and be done with it. ” I think that separation defense was effectively ended in 2001 with the Supreme Court ruling in the Good New Club v Milford Central School. Scalia and gang ruled that religion is a form of speech and the school banning religious clubs was banning the right to free speech.
This is a thorny issue. My understanding (which may be incomplete) is that schools do not have to allow non-curricular clubs of any kind. However, if they do, then they must allow all. Certainly if a school allows a theistic club it must also allow After School Satan clubs. So if communities don’t want Satan Clubs, they have to forgo religious clubs, too. At very least, it is fair to challenge religious clubs at school and force the issue in the courts again and again. There are many free speech and freedom from religion organizations which would probably fund such challenges. The far right challenged abortion rights until the make up of SCOTUS changed to revise settled case law. We can and should do the same.
The Satanic Temple refers to this phenomenon as “Lucien’s Law” (named after the co-founder, Lucien Greaves). When Satanists show up at a public forum, rather than allow us to have equal representation, they shut down the forum. School districts have tried to deny all clubs rather than to allow an After School Satan Club access–after allowing other clubs to exist for years.
I particularly enjoyed an article in the Morning Call about a Catholic priest who was opposed to the club at Saucon Valley. The closing line of the article quoted this priest saying:
“Just as there’s a millstone for those who harm children, there’s a great crown in heaven for those who protect them,” he said.
I laughed out loud. Here’s this priest, a member of the largest organized child abuse and pedophile protection network in the world (aka the Catholic Church) spouting platitudes about protecting children. What a shmuck.
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I have a friend who teaches sociology at Community college. She suggested to her class that if students should have to say the pledge of allegiance with the statement, “under God” in it, then the next day they should say it, “under Allah” and the next, “under Buddha”…Students get a little bent out of shape by the concept.
I always omit that part, myself. Most of my students refrain from saying the pledge and there’s not much we can do about it. The way I look at it is that our country should be such that they WANT to say the pledge. If they don’t want to say it, the country should change, not the students. Forcing them would go against what we’re supposed to stand for. And the “under God” part is hilarious in a country founded by religious skeptics and pan-deists.