How The Evangelical Liberty Counsel Opened Door to Satanism in Public Schools
Today, The Satanic Temple [TST] (an organization I co-founded and act as spokesperson for) announced that we will be operating after school clubs in public elementary schools across the nation this school year. The announcement is certain to be met with general disbelief and confusion. One can already picture the likes of Glenn Beck sniveling in an extended, pained monologue, bewailing that we live in a declining and dissolute nation wherein Christian prayer has been all but criminalized while the doors to the schoolhouse have contrariwise been thrown open to invite Satanists in. The shocking reports of impending in-school Satanic activity is altogether too much for religious conservatives to ignore, but the reality of the how and why is entirely irreconcilable with their cherished narrative of Christian persecution and assaults upon their religious freedom to allow them to cover the story in any fashion that might even resemble honest reporting.
To be clear, the pre-existing presence of evangelical after school clubs not only established a precedent for which school districts must now accept Satanic groups, but the evangelical after school clubs have created the need for Satanic after school clubs to offer a contrasting balance to student’s extracurricular activities.
Consider a recent press release from the Liberty Counsel, a herd of evangelical litigators known, most recently, for representing anti-gay Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis and who claim to advance a mission of “religious liberty.” The press release, dated June 29, 2016, is a gloating proclamation of victory in a legal battle they fought in Cleveland to impose religious Good News Clubs upon the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD). Good News Clubs are an after school program established by an insidious organization known as the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) whose stated mission is to “evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and to establish (disciple) them in the Word of God and in a local church for Christian living.” According to an analysis of Good News Club curriculum literature from 2011, the program places “a heavy emphasis on sin (~5000 mentions), obedience (>1000 mentions), punishment (~1000 mentions), and hell (>250 allusions, including 52 direct uses of the word “Hell”). Children are told, in very personal terms, that they are sinful, wicked, deceitful, and deserving of punishment, death, and an eternity of suffering in hell.” The Good News Clubs strive to train children to evangelize to other children to bring them to their religious thinking.
The CMSD, reasonably wanting to keep such a divisive proselytizing presence out of their schools “imposed facility fees which CEF could not pay, resulting in the shutdown of the Good News Club,” whereupon, the Liberty Counsel reports that they “filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of CEF, seeking equal access to CMSD’s public school facilities for CEF’s after-school, Christian character education Good News Clubs. CMSD was providing free after-school access to non-religious community groups, such as the Boy Scouts, but refused to treat CEF equally.” As a result of the Liberty Counsel’s victory, the school district must now pay “$150,000 in damages and attorney’s fees,” as well as allow the Good News Club to pollute the schools’ mental environment.
The precedent for this alarming legal finding — which flies in the face of any reasonable understanding of the principle of Church/State separation — was itself established by the Liberty Counsel on Behalf of the CEF’s Good News Clubs in a Supreme Court ruling from 2001 (Good News Club v. Milford Central School). In that ruling, the Supreme Court concluded (in a majority opinion penned by Clarence Thomas) that the exclusion of religious after school clubs in a public school where secular after school clubs are granted use of facilities constitutes “impermissible” viewpoint discrimination. Thus the school doors were opened for the CEF’s odious, mindless indoctrination gangs to assault students with anti-intellectual guilt-instilling superstitions regarding eternal damnation, thereby impressing upon children a terrified blind doctrinal obedience to an imaginary spiritual dictator.
These are the environments into which the After School Satan Clubs (ASSC) are being inserted and, in contrast to the Good News Clubs, our curriculum will focus on free inquiry, rationalism, and scientific understanding. Proselytization is not our goal, and we’re not interested in converting children to Satanism. However, we feel that our presence in schools that are burdened with the loathsome stink of the Good News Clubs serves an anti-indoctrination function, illustrating to children that opposing religious perspectives can be held by moral and responsible people who don’t live in fear of divine retribution. We think it’s a positive and strong character-developing lesson that we are happy to deliver.
While we object to the tactics and message delivered by the Good News Clubs, we are grateful to the Liberty Counsel for opening the doors of public schools to our After School Satan Clubs.