Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

So Your Child Wants to Participate in a Satanist Afterschool Program

In a handful of cities across the nation, The Satanic Temple, a religious political activist organization that does not actually advocate the worship of the devil, has set up afterschool programs for young children that attend schools where evangelical Christian groups also have afterschool programs. The program, called After School Satan Club (ASSC), is a direct response to the Good News Clubs, an afterschool program designed by the Child Evangelism Fellowship.

While the name may sound ominous, foreboding, or perhaps downright silly, the program has clear, secular, and realistic goals. ASSC programs teach a scientific, rationalist, non-superstitious worldview, and allegedly make no effort to educate children about or convert children into members of The Satanic Temple.

How Is This Even Legal?

The reason that ASSC programs can operate is thanks to the Good News Club, an evangelical group that fought their case all the way to the Supreme Court and won. In their case, the Good News Club argued that despite the fact that they are a religious organization, they should be allowed to use school facilities to operate their club. After the federal district court and Second Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Good News Club's claimed free speech violation, the Supreme Court reversed the lower Courts' decisions.

The rationale used by the Supreme Court to allow the evangelical Christian group to operate an afterschool program on school grounds applies to all recognized religious organizations, which includes The Satanic Temple. So long as the ASSC, or Good News Club, is not held during school hours, does not restrict membership, follows the same rules other clubs must follow, and is not promoted by the school itself, a school cannot prohibit a group with a religious viewpoint from meeting.

Seriously, This Is a Real Afterschool Program

While The Satanic Temple is known for using satanic imagery in a satiric manner in their activist efforts, the clubs take a much more serious approach towards the responsibility of educating children to be good people without any emphasis on religion. The primary philosophy of the organization centers around scientific rationalism and seeks to develop children's moral compasses without using the fear of God, Jesus, Sin, Hell, or even their namesake, Satan.

ASSC programs have been gaining in popularity among secular parents who do not want their children to be proselytized by religious groups. The Satantic Temple is currently only interested in placing ASSC programs at schools that have Good News Clubs or other evangelical clubs, in order to provide students with a competing viewpoint. However, the Good News Club has thousands of chapters currently, while the ASSC only has a handful.

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