The Satanic Temple, a group of nonbelievers who push for the further separation of church and state, wants evangelical Christianity out of public schools. But since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Christian student groups in 2001, the Satanists want their place in schools, too.
On Monday, the group launched "After School Satan," a program that's also a protest against popular, evangelical Christian Good News Clubs. The Satanic Temple plans to contact every school district where the Good News Clubs are active or have been present before, The Washington Post reported.
"The group's plan for public schoolchildren isn't actually about promoting worship of the devil. The Satanic Temple doesn't espouse a belief in the existence of a supernatural being that other religions identify solemnly as Satan, or Lucifer, or Beelzebub," the article said.
Instead, the group will focus on science, literature and art projects and assure participants that religious practice isn't essential to being a good person.
"We think it's important for kids to be able to see multiple points of view, to reason things through, to have empathy and feelings of benevolence for their fellow human beings," said the head of Satanic Temple's Utah chapter to The Washington Post.
Satanic Temple leaders credited the Supreme Court's 2001 decision in Good News Club v. Milford Central School with making "After School Satan" possible. Justices ruled 6-3 in favor of the evangelical Christian student group, arguing that the presence of a religious group on campus doesn't violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment.
School clubs — and which groups have a right to operate at school — have been a contentious issue in recent years. Parents have reacted negatively to efforts to form atheistic clubs or groups focused on LGBT issues.
For example, one school board in Franklin County, Tennessee, considered banning all clubs earlier this year in order to ensure that a newly formed Gay-Straight Alliance could not continue meeting. "Under the federal Equal Access Act, officials must allow GSA unless they eliminate all extracurricular clubs, from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to the Student Council," pro-LGBT group The New Civil Rights Movement reported at the time.
Doug Mesner, the Satanic Temple's co-founder, told USA Today that group members have already contacted nine school districts about "After School Satan." Leaders hope to begin meeting monthly with students this school year, and they note that young people will have to have a signed permission slip to participate.
Franklin Graham, a prominent evangelical and son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, and other Christians have spoken out against the program on Twitter.
Pray for parents and school leadership to have wisdom to refuse these After School Satan Clubs! https://t.co/HTWcLEVfYx— Franklin Graham (@Franklin_Graham) August 1, 2016
But others, including prominent nonbeliever Hemant Mehta, founder and editor of FriendlyAtheist.com, have applauded The Satanic Temple's efforts.
Thanks to Christians, After School Satan Clubs May Be Coming to an Elementary School Near You https://t.co/Pa4Il16ODj— Hemant Mehta (@hemantmehta) July 31, 2016
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