When most parents think about after-school activities, we think about choir or math club, or maybe even an elementary school book club. But that’s not quite what one Massachusetts group has in mind. Instead, the Satanic Temple in Salem wants to bring “After-School Satan Club” to an elementary school near you.
The Satanic Temple has chapters in Utah, Boston, Michigan, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, Arizona and several other U.S. states. This week they’re petitioning public elementary school officials to allow students to attend Satanic worship clubs after class as a means of exposing children to alternative beliefs. The group told The Washington Post their club meetings will include snacks, lessons in literature and science, puzzles and art projects. Each child will also receive a membership card, but they must have a signed parental permission slip in order to attend meetings. After all, Satan doesn’t want to piss off Mom and Dad.
While Satanic worship might seem an odd choice for an after-school activity, the club is actually intended to teach kids that they have a choice when it comes to their religious beliefs. The Good News Club, which is a Christian-based after-school group backed by the Children’s Evangelism Fellowship, holds meetings in 3,560 schools — about 5 percent of all public schools in the U.S. The Satanic Temple simply wants equal representation.
In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled that it’s a violation of free-speech rights to prevent an after-school club from operating based on the religious beliefs of its sponsors. Based on that decision, the Satanic Temple is fully within its rights to create their own elementary school groups, and they’ve even turned to crowdfunding to raise money for their cause.
If Satan Club does end up in schools, it’s fair to say it probably won’t be the most popular activity on the bulletin board. Most parents see the words “Satanic Temple” and immediately picture their kids dressed in all black, chanting in a strange language and taking direction from an enchanted talking serpent à la Eve in the Garden of Good and Evil — that’s a hard stigma to overcome. But the club seems to be focused less on encouraging the active worship of Satan and more on attempting to foster an appreciation for thought, reason and personal choice. It’s worth it to consider their message about religious freedom and the dangers of only exposing kids to one system of beliefs.
Religion is often passed down in families, and kids are encouraged to believe whatever their parents believe. There’s nothing wrong with sharing a message of faith about which you feel strongly, but it’s not our job as parents to force our kids into a particular belief system or to prevent them from being exposed to other ideas. As parents, we instill values and morals at home, but we still have to send our kids out into the world armed with the lessons we’ve given them and allow them to make up their own minds.
The Satanic Temple will no doubt face opposition to their Satan Club, especially from particularly religious parents or people who misunderstand what they’re trying to accomplish. But teaching kids about different religions and beliefs, and even the absence of particular beliefs, is an important part of preparing them for a diverse world. Just because a Satan Club exists doesn’t mean someone’s child has to attend, and if they want to, what’s the worst that could happen? It’s a learning experience, after all, and it’s important for parents to remember that exposure is not “the Devil.”