Group plays devil’s advocate in public schools with After School Satan clubs

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After School Satan clubs are targeting Good News Clubs in public schools.

Lucien Greaves, the co-founder of the Satanic Temple, a group dedicated to church-state separation, said his organization’s latest campaign will be the launch of after-school clubs for children.

Prior to a recent talk in Kansas City, Greaves told RNS that it is not so much about indoctrinating children into Satanism as he doesn’t actually believe in the devil as a real being, much less one to be worshipped.

According to the Intrinsic Dignity website, Good News Clubs promote a dark gospel which robs children of the innocence and enjoyment of childhood, replacing them with a negative self image, preoccupation with sin, fear of Hell, and aversion to critical thinking.

Evangelist Franklin Graham called the After School Satan Clubs a voice for secularism in a Facebook post.

“These self-proclaimed political activists are open about the fact that they’re really just trying to counter the success of Christian clubs such as the “Good News Clubs” that have spread across America. They think there’s not enough separation of church and state,” said Franklin.

Good News Clubs, which are sponsored by the Missouri-based Child Evangelism Fellowship, are a popular Christian after-school club, and in the past decade they have become increasingly common in schools across the U.S. During club time, children are taught Bible lessons, sing songs, play games and hear missions stories.

After a 2001 Supreme Court ruling that allowed conservative Christian clubs to organize in grade schools, the number of Good News Clubs — named after the “good news” of the Gospel — spiked to more than 3,500, and they are present in more than 5 percent of the nation’s public elementary schools.

That growth both irked Greaves and provided a blueprint for the Satanic Temple, which is seeking to establish After School Satan clubs in cities such as Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.

Not surprisingly, the effort has run into resistance from some school officials, Greaves said, and opposition in Tucson, Ariz., is so stiff that it could eventually lead to legal action.

But organizers have also had some success, and the first club is set to start this month, on Wednesday (Oct. 19) in Portland, Ore.

“Any school can reasonably reject certain subject matter,” said Greaves, 40. “What they can’t do is allow some religious after-school clubs and reject others. Then you are actually dealing in viewpoint discrimination.”

The After School Satan website says its club will include lessons on science and reason, with a “focus on free inquiry and rationalism,” and will also have fun activities.

If the appearance of these clubs might prompt concern from some, religious liberty advocates whose legal efforts made way for the Good News Clubs know they can’t stand in the way.

“I would definitely oppose after school Satanic clubs, but they have a First Amendment right to meet,” Mat Staver, head of the Liberty Counsel, told The Washington Post in July.

“I suspect, in this particular case, I can’t imagine there’s going to be a lot of students participating in this. It’s probably dust they’re kicking up and is likely to fade away in the near future for lack of interest.”

Greaves grew up in Detroit and was raised in Christian traditions. The few times he visited a Catholic Church, he said, he found it “horrifying.” He said the message of a Sunday school song called “Careful Little Eyes” was a warning to children that we are “being looked upon and judged by [an] ultimate tyrant in the sky.”

The lyrics advise kids to be careful what they see, hear, do with their hands, do with their feet, and what they say, for “There’s a Father up above/And He’s looking down in love.”

— by Sally Morrow | RNS

CNJ staff added to this report

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