Max GorbachevAll materialsWrite to the authorThe flyers were distributed by the Satanic Temple, an organisation with congregations based in different countries, including Australia, Britain and Canada. The Satanic Temple says its mission is to promote egalitarianism, justice and separation between church and state.Children in elementary school in the US state of Illinois have been invited this week to attend a meeting of the After School Satan Club, local media reported. Flyers for the club invited those from the first to the fifth grade (children aged six to 10) to come along, regardless of their religious backgrounds.
"Hey Kids, let’s have fun at After School Satan Club! Science Projects! Puzzles & Games! Arts and Craft Projects! Nature Activities! Parents, your children will learn: benevolence & empathy, critical thinking, problem solving, creative expression, personal sovereignty," one of the flyers read.
The news caused concern among parents of the children as well as social media users, who wondered why the flyers were allowed in the school’s lobby.
"At a time when youth are experiencing a mental health pandemic, it is outrageous that a school district would allow a club based on the master of confusion,” said Patti Garibay, founder and executive director of American Heritage Girls.
The Moline-Coal Valley School District has released a statement explaining why the flyers were allowed to be placed in a lobby.
"[We understand ] that there is concern and confusion over an upcoming after-school club at Jane Addams elementary. The district does not discriminate against any groups who wish to rent our facilities, including religious-affiliated groups. Religiously affiliated groups are among those allowed to rent our facilities for a fee,” said the district’s spokeswoman Candace Sountris, adding that flyers and promotional materials of after-school groups, including the one in question, are allowed to be placed in a school lobby.
The superintendent of Moline-Coal Valley Schools later wrote a letter to parents saying the flyers were not generated by the district and not distributed to pupils. Parents and pupils are free to pick up the flyer and if they so choose.
Do Schools in the United States Encourage Children to Worship Satan?
The After School Satan Club is operated by the Satanic Temple , a non-theistic (not having a belief in god or gods) organisation which is officially recognised in the United States. It has congregations in other countries, including Australia, Britain and Canada. The Satanic Temple has almost 400,000 followers on its social media accounts.
From the news one might get the impression that children in the United States are encouraged to worship Satan. However, the issue has to do with free speech rights.
Various after-school clubs exist in the United States, including ones organised by religious groups. At the beginning of the millennium a Good News Club (GNC), a programme organised by Child Evangelism Fellowship, filed a lawsuit against a Milford Central School in New York after the latter denied GNC’s application to organise meetings in the school after lessons.
Milford Central argued that GNC violates its policy by practising worship in its building. The court, however, sided with the GNC, saying the school violated free speech rights.
The ruling effectively allowed all religious organisations, including such controversial ones as the Satanic Temple, to rent school facilities for after-school clubs. Moline-Coal Valley School District Superintendent Dr Rachel Savage said that if the school had refused to distribute the Satanic Temple flyers, it would have become subject of a lawsuit, ”which we will not win, likely taking thousands upon thousands of tax-payer dollars away from our teachers, staff, and classrooms”.
The Satanic Temple said it does not worship Satan nor do its members believe in the existence of Satan. “We believe in reason, empathy, the pursuit of knowledge,” reads a section of FAQs on the organisation’s website.
The word “Satan” is used as a symbol of “eternal rebel” who opposes arbitrary authority, questions sacred laws and rejects all tyrannical impositions, the organisation said.
The organisation added that its primary mission is to “encourage benevolence and empathy, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense, oppose injustice, and undertake noble pursuits” as well as promote the separation between church and state.
"Don’t you think it’s best to keep religion out of schools? Yes. But the worst-case scenario, when religion is allowed in the schools, is an environment in which one religious voice enjoys the exclusive benefit of delivering its teachings to the children, promoting the understanding that their religion is endorsed by the school, or otherwise has special privilege within their community," reads the statement on its website.