‘After-School Satan Club’ planned at Illinois elementary school. District explains why
An Illinois school district is defending an after-school program being offered by The Satanic Temple, a national religious and human rights group.
Many parents are reportedly furious over the meetings that will be held at Jane Addams Elementary School in Moline. The Satanic Temple does not believe in Satan, according to its website, nor will it attempt to convert children to Satanism.
Instead, the club will teach children about benevolence and empathy, critical thinking, problem solving, creative expression and personal sovereignty, according to a widely-circulated flyer shared on social media.
Children grades 1st through 5th are eligible for the club and their meetings begin Thursday, Jan. 13.
“This actually isn’t a club that’s meant to proselytize Satanism or even engage in discussions about religious opinion,” Satanic Temple co-founder Lucien Greaves told WQAD. “This is an educational program meant to focus on critical thinking and just basic education skills.”
Because of a 2001 Supreme Court ruling in the case of Good News Club v. Milford Central School, schools are not allowed to discriminate against religious speech if a religious organization offers a club on their premises.
After School Satan Clubs have already been offered in other schools. Point Defiance Elementary School in Tacoma, Washington, began offering the controversial club in 2016, but it was put on hold a year later due to a lack of resources, the News-Tribune reported.
The temple says the clubs “incorporate games, projects and thinking exercise that help children understand how we know what we know about our world and our universe.”
Dr. Rachel Savage, the superintendent for Moline-Coal Valley Schools, said the school and its teachers are not involved in the club. Flyers were placed in the lobby of the school and parents must sign a permission slip to allow their children to attend, just as they do for Boys and Girls Scouts or any other club.
She said the Board of Education allows its facilities to be used for community use.
“To illegally deny their organization to pay to rent our publicly-funded institution, after school hours, subjects the district to a discrimination lawsuit, which we will not win, likely taking thousands upon thousands of tax-payer dollars away from our teachers, staff and classrooms,” Savage said in a statement Wednesday, Jan. 12.
The statement from Savage came after many parents voiced concern over the club, WQAD reported.
The Satanic Temple — which views Satan as a “mythical figure representing individual freedom” — says on its website that “to embrace the name Satan is to embrace rational inquiry removed from supernaturalism and archaic tradition-based superstitions.”
“Satanists should actively work to hone critical thinking and exercise reasonable agnosticism in all things,” the temple says. “Our beliefs must be malleable to the best current scientific understandings of the material world — never the reverse.”