- Oct 2, 2015
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After School Satan Clubs gain popularity amid legal victoriesby Lexi Lonas - 05/09/23 6:00 AM ET
After School Satan Clubs have been steadily increasing in popularity and are not likely to slow as their supporters rack up media attention and legal wins fighting for free speech.
The clubs, associated with the Satanic Temple and offered only in primary schools, began at the beginning of 2020 and quickly gained attention from parents who wanted an alternative to religious clubs, according to June Everett, campaign director of the After School Satan Club.
“That’s kind of when things started blowing up. And I anticipate that every year moving forward is going to get busier and busier,” Everett told The Hill.
Last Monday, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled in favor of the Satanic Temple and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which sued when a Northampton County school district would not allow the club to meet on its grounds.
“In a victory for free speech and religious freedom, a federal court has ruled that the Saucon Valley School District must allow the After School Satan Club to meet in district facilities,” the ACLU announced.
The Satanic Temple was founded in 2014 and says its mission is to “encourage benevolence and empathy, reject tyrannical authority.” A member should also use “practical common sense” and stand up for justice, according to its website.
There are congregations around the country, and they tell those interested that if their goals are to “sell my soul, get rich, join the Illuminati, etc.” they should “look somewhere else.”
While the clubs are controversial, mostly for their name and association with the Satanic Temple, students are not actually getting proselytized or instructions in devil worship.
“We’re definitely not interested in having children identify as satanists,” said Rose Bastet, who has been involved with the Satanic Temple for four years.
Bastet is one of the After School Satan Club volunteers at B.M. Williams Primary in Chesapeake, Va. She started the process to get the club in the school in October 2020.
The process took so long, according to Bastet, because the school was “giving us the runaround” and she believes “they were in the background looking for any way that they could prevent us from meeting.” The club was officially approved in February.
“They finally approved us, and that’s when it hit the news. And, oh, the media here just went insane,” Bastet said.
The school received a bomb threat days after the club had its first meeting. Although police said they couldn’t confirm the incident was connected to the After School Satan Club, Bastet said her name was mentioned in the threat.
“The local Christian mom groups, everything, they really stirred up a ruckus, making it seem like we were doing something nefarious,” Bastet said, adding that “they tried to intimidate me by releasing my legal name.”
Everett said the clubs are excellent alternatives to Christian after-school groups for agnostics, atheists and religious minorities, such as pagans, emphasizing that groups’ actual activities can encompass nearly anything.
Bastet said her club focuses on learning about different animals.
“One of our meetings a couple of months ago, we learned about Virginia native bats,” she said. “This last meeting, we had one of the parents in the club volunteer to bring in a bunch of bones and fossils that she and her husband have found in Virginia.”
The program could change this coming fall because Everett says they are considering teaching some of the seven core tenets of the Satanic Temple in the clubs, but that plan has not been finalized.
The seven tenets include “compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason” and that “beliefs should conform to one’s best scientific understanding of the world. One should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit one’s beliefs.”
“We just came out with a book that is like the children’s version — or I should say a very sweet way to interpret — the tenets in a very understanding way that children could understand. So we might start actually using this book to talk to the kids about our seven tenets,” Everett said.
“We have a lot of big plans for next school year,” she added.
The Satanic Temple has looked into expanding into high schools but says it is difficult because students must be more actively engaged to keep the club running, as opposed to primary schools, where the groups are adult-run and easier to implement.
“That means that it has to be a student-led club. They usually have officers and they usually have to present it to the board, and they have to have a sponsoring staff member. Basically, all the things that the younger kids aren’t old enough [to do],” Everett said.
She added that a new partnership with the Secular Student Alliance should help expand the After School Satan Club’s reach.
“[Secular Student Alliance’s] specialty is really college level and high school kids. So with their partnership, we hope to use them to help us get into more high schools and colleges,” Everett said.
Updated at 9:58 a.m.
After School Satan Clubs have been steadily increasing in popularity and are not likely to slow as their supporters rack up media attention and legal wins fighting for free speech. The clubs, asso…
Colorado’s First-Ever ‘After School Satan Club’ to Launch at Elementary School
‘Benevolence’-focused offering requested as counterbalance to Good News Club
Pennsylvania gets its first after-school Satan Club this week. In Hellertown.The club, for kids 5-12, promises science and community service projects, nature activities, and tons of fun. “Educatin’ with Satan,” as they say.
Some members and supporters of the Satanic Temple, the organization that sponsors the 'After School Satan Club,' pose Feb. 28 for a picture after the Saucon Valley School District board meeting.Monica Cabrera / The Morning Call
- by Rita Giordano
Updated on May 8, 2023, 12:30 p.m. ET
A federal judge has ordered that the Saucon Valley School District — located, ironically, in Hellertown — must allow the After School Satan Club, sponsored by The Satanic Temple, to meet on its property.
It will be the first After School Satan Club in Pennsylvania. New Jersey and Delaware currently have no After School Satan Clubs. So far, six students have signed up for the club, which begins Wednesday, and more are expected.
The preliminary injunction, granted May 1, is the latest development in a months-long, emotionally fraught controversy that saw the club with the slogan “Educatin’ with Satan” get district approval to meet only to have it rescinded.
U.S. District Court Judge John M. Gallagher ruled in favor of The Satanic Temple.
“When confronted with a challenge to free speech, the government’s first instinct must be to forward expression rather than quash it. Particularly when the content is controversial or inconvenient,” Gallagher wrote. “Nothing less is consistent with the expressed purpose of American government to secure the core, innate rights of its people.
“Here, although The Satanic Temple, Inc.’s objectors may challenge the sanctity of this controversially named organization,” he continued, “the sanctity of the First Amendment’s protections must prevail.”
Gallagher said he did not believe Saucon Valley’s claim that it withdrew the club’s approval because it failed to include a disclaimer in some of its advertisements that the district didn’t sponsor the group. Rather, he said he believed the approval was pulled based on the Satanic Temple’s “controversial viewpoint.”
Saucon Valley school superintendent Jaime Vlasaty did not respond to requests for comment. The district, near Allentown, has three schools and about 2,000 students.
Satanic Temple leaders referred comment to the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, which represented them.
“We’re very pleased that the court saw the school district’s justification for canceling the contract was basically just a pretext for viewpoint discrimination because of community opposition toward the club,” said Sara Rose, the state ACLU’s deputy legal director. “And of course, we’re very glad that the club’s going to be able to meet during this school year on the same terms as other clubs have been allowed to meet.”
Official logo of the Satanic Temple's After School Satan ClubCourtesy of the Satanic Temple
The club will meet this Wednesday, May 17, and May 31 at the district’s middle school, according to the agreement reached through the court case.
They will have to reapply to the district for permission to use school facilities in fall, Rose said.
It was quite an ordeal for all concerned getting this far.
When Superintendent Vlasaty notified the district community last February that the After School Satan Club had been given permission to meet at the middle school, she explained the district has allowed other religious groups to use its facilities over the years and legally could not discriminate.
Many parents reacted with anger and fear. The leader of a local Christian group vowed to hold a prayer session March 8, the day the program was supposed to open. The district got scores of concerned calls and emails.
“Then please shut down all religious after-school clubs if that’s what needs to be done to keep Satan out of that building,” read one email sent to the district.
“What’s next, the after school heroin club?” asked another.
But things really heated up when a caller, upset about the After School Satan Club, left the district a voice mail threatening to come and “shoot everybody.” All Saucon Valley schools were closed the next day as a precaution. Shortly after, a 20-year-old North Carolina man was arrested by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police.
Days after the threatening call, the Saucon Valley superintendent withdrew the district’s approval. Not long after that, supporters of the After School Satan Club turned to the courts.
The Satanic Temple, headquartered in Salem, Mass., is no stranger to controversy, but its leaders say they are often misunderstood.
Although The Satanic Temple is recognized by the IRS as a church and a religious — albeit nontheistic — corporation, its more than 700,000 members don’t worship Satan. For them, Satan is a symbol for the “Eternal Rebel,” according to their website. They are against “tyrannical authority” and support “individual sovereignty,” as well as empathy, compassion, and defiance.
The Satan Temple has waged public battles against the religious and GOP right on issues involving First Amendment freedoms, LGBTQ rights, and abortion access.
Their approach has been often irreverent. In keeping with their belief in bodily autonomy, one of the temple members’ latest projects is an online clinic which aims to provide abortion medication by mail. They call it the Samuel Alito’s Mom’s Satanic Abortion Clinic.
There are currently only seven active After School Satan Clubs, according to Everett. These clubs are only started in school districts that already have programs by other religious groups, like the Christian Evangelical-based Good News Club, which Saucon Valley has allowed.
The leaders say their clubs don’t try to convert children to Satanism, but focus on free inquiry, rationalism, and appreciation of the natural world. The fliers for the Saucon Valley program promised kids ages 5 to 12 science and community service projects, puzzles, games, nature activities, arts and crafts, snacks “& tons of fun.”
Official logo of the Hellion Academy of Independence Learning (HAIL) of the Satanic TempleCourtesy of The Satanic Temple
The Satanic Temple also operates the Hellion Academy of Independent Learning (HAIL), its alternative to Christian-based religious instruction programs. The Northern York County School District’s school board voted down a proposed After School Satan Club last year. But the district has allowed released time instruction by the Joy El Bible Adventure program. So last year HAIL started in the district as well, according to Everett.
No other districts in Pennsylvania or New Jersey currently have the HAIL project.
Published May 8, 2023
The club, for kids 5-12, promises science and community service projects, nature activities, and tons of fun. “Educatin’ with Satan,” as they say.