After a Connecticut elementary school approved an after-school Bible club, a satanist group has raised eyebrows by launching its own after-school program, drawing a flurry of national attention that Christian leaders believe is aimed at trying to shut down all such religious groups on public school campuses.
As in some other states, the satanists moved to start a club in Lebanon, Connecticut, after a school parent contacted them with complaints about The Good News Club, led by Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), which has chapters in more than 2,500 public schools nationwide. According to one report, the parent was concerned because her daughter wanted to attend the Good News Club.
The After School Satan Club, sponsored by the Massachusetts-based Satanic Temple, will become the ninth such club in the nation and the first in Connecticut when it begins meetings Dec. 1. They say they are aiming to teach kids that rationality and science trump religious superstition and a fear of hell.
A spokesman for the Satanic Temple told a Connecticut news site, CTinsider.com, that their clubs exist “to provide a safe and inclusive alternative to the religious clubs that use threats of eternal damnation to convert school children to their belief system.”
A video from the satanist group dismisses the concept of a literal devil and of eternal damnation.
CEF Vice President Moises Esteves told the news site that CEF’s volunteers firmly believe that the decision to embrace Christianity is between God and the individual person.
“We teach the Good News of the Gospel,” he said, “that Jesus is the Savior of the world, and His message of love and forgiveness.”
Esteves told CTinsider.com that with increasing social pressures affecting mental health, drug use and sexual predation, what parent would say, “This is exactly what my kid needs—the After School Satan Club”?
He said he believes the end game for the Satanic Temple is to get all religiously affiliated groups banned from public school campuses. He also alleged the group teaches children to reject authority—the highest authority being God Himself.
The rights of religious groups to host voluntary Bible clubs and other groups during non-instructional times is well established in federal law and court precedent.
U.S. Department of Education guidelines say students may organize prayer groups and religious clubs “to the same extent that students are permitted to organize other noncurricular student activity groups.” School officials are to neither encourage nor discourage student participation, according to the latest federal guidelines.
The Lebanon school superintendent released a statement saying that “Not everyone will agree with, or attend meetings of, every group that is approved to use school facilities. However, prohibiting particular organizations from accessing our school buildings based on the perspectives they offer or express could violate our obligations under the First Amendment and other applicable law and would not align with our commitment to nondiscrimination, equal protection and respect for diverse viewpoints.”
Amy Boudan, a member of a religious freedom advocacy group called Parent’s Choice, told a TV station that the Satanic Temple is deceptively claiming to be a religious group, while it compares Lucifer “to an imaginary friend,” according to its promotional videos. A colorful poster promoting the satanist club states gleefully: “Hey, Kids! Let’s Have Fun at After School Satan Club.”
“I liken it to the way Camel cigarettes used to entice the youth and children,” Boudan told WTNH-TV. “They’re trying to use events like this to recruit children at a young age and steer them away from religion.”
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