Fact check: 'After School Satan Club' meeting at Illinois elementary school

The claim: An image shows a flyer of an After School Satan Club

An Illinois school district is drawing attention online amid claims that an "After School Satan Club" is meeting at an elementary school there.

A Jan. 13 Facebook post shows a flyer advertising the club at Jane Addams Elementary School in Moline, Illinois. Decorated with a cartoon devil, the flyer advertised science projects, puzzles and games, arts and crafts, and more. The flyer begins with the sentence, “Hey kids, let’s have fun at After School Satan Club!”

Versions of this post attracted thousands of interactions as they spread across Facebook. One user took down her post after receiving hateful comments, she told USA TODAY.

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USA TODAY confirmed the flyer was authentic and that Jane Addams Elementary School did recently agree to allow an After School Satan Club to operate there.

USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook posters.

The idea behind After School Satan Clubs

While many online seemed shocked that such a club could exist, After School Satan Clubs have existed for years. In 2016, the Washington Post reported that the Satanic Temple was planning After School Satan Clubs in public schools across the country, from New York to Arizona. Later that same year, the Los Angeles Times reported about a similar effort to form clubs in Washington state.

According to June Everett, campaign director for After School Satan Club and an ordained minister of the Satanic Temple, the temple offers the clubs as an alternative to Good News Clubs, Christian gatherings run by evangelical organizations that offer Bible and faith lessons after school.

“We offer an alternative club to religious indoctrination programs across the nation,” Everett wrote in an email to USA TODAY. The clubs are “not a religious indoctrination program, nor do we teach about religion or offer religious opinions. After School Satan Club is NOT sponsored by the school or the school district.”

Everett said the clubs focus on “self-driven activities that the participants are interested in" so it doesn't feel like an extension of schoolwork.

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According to the Satanic Temple’s website, the clubs are “open” environments that also welcome parents to participate. The Satanic Temple also does not believe in a supernatural figure equal or similar to Christian definitions of Satan – rather, according to the Washington Post, the Satanic Temple “rejects all forms of supernaturalism” and instead promotes “scientific rationality.”

“Proselytization is not our goal, and we’re not interested in converting children to Satanism,” reads the mission statement on the Satanic Temple’s website. “After School Satan Clubs will focus on free inquiry and rationalism, the scientific basis for which we know what we know about the world around us.”

How the club came about

While local news reported that many Moline parents were unhappy with the existence of the Satan club – approved by the Moline-Coal Valley School District and Board of Education on Jan. 10 – a statement from the district explained that approving the group followed district policy.

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Despite some Facebook users' surprise, the Satanic Temple has been trying to implement After School Satan Clubs for years.
Despite some Facebook users' surprise, the Satanic Temple has been trying to implement After School Satan Clubs for years.

“The district does not discriminate against any groups who wish to rent our facilities, including religious-affiliated groups,” the district said in a statement to local TV station KWQC. “Religiously affiliated groups are among those allowed to rent our facilities for a fee. The district has, in the past, approved these types of groups, one example being the Good News Club, which is an after-school child evangelism fellowship group. Flyers and promotional materials for these types of groups are approved for lobby posting or display only, and not for mass distribution.”

The district, the statement added, has to provide equal access to all groups, and students in the district require permission from a parent to attend any after-school event.

Our rating: True

Based on our research, we rate TRUE that an image shows a flyer for an After School Satan Club that operates at Jane Addams Elementary School in Moline, Illinois. News outlets first reported the ideas for such groups in 2016, and the Moline-Coal Valley School District and Board of Education approved the creation of the club on Jan. 10.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: After School Satan Club meeting at Illinois school