In its latest attempt to counter the Christian church's evangelizing efforts, on Monday the Satanic Temple appealed to dozens of public schools nationwide to begin its own after school program, aptly called the "After School Satan Club" (ASSC).
The ASSC proposal is a direct response to the presence of the Christian extracurricular program the "Good News Club." In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled that an after school program could not be banned simply because of the religious views of its sponsors. This ruling allowed Good News Clubs to form in public schools across the country, and the Satanic Temple argues that the ASSC deserves the same free-speech protections. In its petition to the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Satanic Temple said:
Many school districts across the country (including yours) have (or have had) Good News Clubs using their facilities. As a result, those schools have opened their doors to school clubs of all religious viewpoints. While The Good News Club is "working together with parents and the school to build solid moral and spiritual character into the lives of their children" based on their religious point of view, The Satanic Temple [...] also has plans to enrich the lives of children in your district.
Mat Staver, founder and chairman of the Liberty Counsel, conceded that the Satanic Temple's petition is constitutionally-sound when asked by the Washington Post:
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.
The Satanic Temple is advertising the ASSC as a place to learn "secular moral values, critical thinking, and self-determination," emphasizing "a scientific, rationalist, non-superstitious world view," according to the ASSC website. Meetings will allegedly include "a healthful snack, literature lesson, creative learning activities, science lesson, puzzle solving, and art project."
While these explanations of the ASSC are rather ambiguous, the Satanic Temple is quite clear that the mission of the program is not to convert children to Satanism, but rather provide a different perspective than the Good News Club. According to the ASSC site's "Corrections" page:
Unlike the Child Evangelism Fellowship, which openly seeks to convert children to their religious view through fear of eternal suffering, The Satanic Temple does not believe in imposing a one-size-fits-all approach to religious opinion. As Satanists, we believe that science is the best arbiter of truth. We see the quest for knowledge as a noble pursuit, and we believe in personal autonomy. However, nobody needs to be a Satanist to benefit from any of these things, and children should be given access to a variety of comparative opinions with which they can ultimately decide what is best for them. After School Satan Clubs are conducted by Satanists in accordance with our values, but participating children are neither required to identify as Satanists, nor will we ask that they, at any point, do so.
“It’s critical that children understand that there are multiple perspectives on all issues, and that they have a choice in how they think,” Satanic Temple co-founder Lucien Greaves explained to the Washington Post. "While the Good News Clubs focus on indoctrination, instilling children with a fear of hell and God’s wrath, After School Satan Clubs will focus on free inquiry and rationalism. We prefer to give children an appreciation of the natural wonders surrounding them, not a fear of an everlasting other-worldly horror."
It will be fascinating to see how many parents entrust their children to a group of Satanists, especially if they see this creepy ASSC promotional video: