“It’s critical that children understand that there are multiple perspectives,” Doug Mesner, the Temple’s co-founder, told Washington Post about the group’s proposal to petition school officials.
Doug Mesner, who also goes by the name Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the Satanic Temple, with a statue of Baphomet at the group’s meeting house in Salem, Mass. (Josh Reynolds/For The Washington Post)
Several U.S. school districts indicated Monday that they think the Satanic Temple’s plan to open “After School Satan” clubs in elementary schools probably conforms with their policies and local laws, and the Prince George’s County, Md., school system said it is reviewing a request to open such a club.
If the districts allow the clubs, it would pave the way for the Temple to create a counterpoint to evangelical Christian clubs in schools nationwide.
The Satanic Temple on Monday contacted school districts across the country to announce that it wants to open after-school clubs that focus on teaching reason and science, including at an elementary school in Prince George’s. Temple leaders in part want to make the point that religion should not be taught in public schools, and they are working to start clubs in schools or school districts that have hosted proselytizing religious clubs, such as the Good News Club, which is allowed to sponsor groups in schools.
Parents and administrators have reacted coolly to the idea of setting up a Jesus-vs.-Satan fight in their elementary schools, with many showing curiosity and skepticism. School officials in Prince George’s said they have received a request to start a club and are reviewing it, but the school system has not had any discussions with the Satanic Temple about it. The Temple said it wants to open a club at Bradbury Heights Elementary School, which is in the Capitol Heights neighborhood just outside the southeast edge of Washington.
Should The Satanic Temple be allowed to open After School Satan Clubs in elementary schools?
The Good News Club — which is sponsored by the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) and has proliferated in schools after a U.S. Supreme Court decision allowed such groups to use public school facilities — brings evangelical Christianity to elementary-school children as young as kindergartners. Reactions from the Good News Club to the entry of this new competitor were mixed.
Martha Wright, executive director of CEF of Maryland, acknowledged that the Satanic Temple has a right to have clubs in schools but also said she doesn’t really want the group there.
“Well of course, when the Supreme Court voted in 2001 that religious groups could have equal access, that opened the door to any religious group,” she said, noting that her group is on the opposite side of the spectrum from the Satanic Temple. “Because we know Jesus as our savior, it is not our opinion or desire that we want satanic groups to get involved in the school.”
CEF actively works to counteract Satan in its work, and a CEF instruction book titled “Guard Your Heart” promises “a flocked lesson helping kids ages 6-11 guard against Satan’s attacks.”
The Satanic Temple doesn’t actually worship the devil; it rejects the belief in any supernatural entities and regards “Satan” as a metaphorical construct.
The move to start After School Satan clubs is a direct attack on religion in the schools, and it comes from a group that has worked to oppose the use of religious ceremony in the public arena, such as at city council meetings. It is unclear how much interest such school clubs would have, especially in places where Christian groups are welcomed, but school districts said they are considering allowing them.