Another ‘After-School Satan Club’ — with a mission to “focus on free inquiry and rationalism” — has popped up with school district approval, this time at an Ohio elementary school.
With that approval, “concerns and confusion” have been raised, Superintendent Isaac W. Seevers said in a Jan. 20 letter to Lebanon City Schools families. But the approval still stands, with clarification that “the Satanic Temple After-School Satan Club is NOT a district or school-sponsored event.”
Seevers said Lebanon City Schools does not endorse the group or its activities, just as it does not endorse other religiously-affiliated groups on its campuses. District involvement begins and ends at approving the club’s rental space at Donovan Elementary School, he said.
“The district does not and is not legally allowed to discriminate against any groups who wish to rent our facilities, including religiously-affiliated groups,” Seevers wrote. “The District has approved these types of groups in the past, one example being the Good News Club, which is an after-school child evangelism program. The Good News Club has met after school at Donovan Elementary School for years.”
After School Satan Club, offered by The Satanic Temple, says it meets at select public schools where Good News Clubs also meet.
Schools cannot discriminate against religious speech when a religious organization club is held on district grounds following a 2001 Supreme Court ruling in the case of Good News Club v. Milford Central School.
“The pre-existing presence of evangelical after school clubs not only established a precedent for which school districts must now accept Satanic groups, but the evangelical after school clubs have created the need for Satanic after school clubs to offer a contrasting balance to student’s extracurricular activities,” The Satanic Temple says.
The group believes it would be best for religion to remain out of schools, but “once religion invades schools, as The Good News Clubs have, The Satanic Temple will fight to ensure that plurality and true religious liberty are respected,” it says.
The mission statement of the After School Satan Club says it does not have interest in converting students to Satanism, but instead focuses on “the scientific basis for which we know what we know about the world around us.”
The program says it uses games, projects and thinking exercises that emphasize science and a non-superstitious view of the world.
Ahead of the club’s first meeting at Donovan Elementary School on Jan. 27, the district superintendent sent out a second letter titled “Safety Plans In Place for After School Club” to families.
In the letter, Seevers reminded community members that protesting on school grounds is prohibited without a special event permit and all unauthorized visitors must stay away. He said the city did designate certain sidewalks where residents could gather.
“I am asking the public to please refrain from gathering at the school or protesting on or around school grounds,” he said in the letter. “If you want to gather as a community during this time, please find another place in town. Please remember that we serve a young student population and some of them may have no idea why adults are gathering in support or opposition on Thursday afternoon.”
Moving forward, the chapter plans to hold its hour-long meetings in a school cafeteria, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
An After School Satan Club was recently planned for an Illinois school district, McClatchy News reported, and the district defended the decision following parent backlash. A Washington school district offered the club in 2016, but it was put on hold after a lack of resources.
The chapter being held in Lebanon City Schools began after a local taxpayer contacted The Satanic Temple and requested a chapter in the district, Seevers told families.
The Satanic Temple says it only plans to operate After School Satan Clubs in districts that already host a Good News Club.