The latest in after-school activities: Atheism
Art, dance, papier-mâché. All are traditional after-school activities of which most parents approve. The After School Satan Club might soon be on the same list.
The Satanic Temple—an atheist group known for its public political stances against religion in state affairs—reached out to districts in nine cities this past summer to bring its philosophy to elementary schools in after-school programs.
The After School Satan Club would teach “free inquiry and rationalism” to students, the group says. The Satanic Temple, founded in 2014, does not believe in a personal relationship with any demonic being, according to its website. Satanic Temple leader Lucien Greaves could not be reached for comment.
Vista Elementary School in Taylorsville, Utah—in the Salt Lake City metropolitan area—was one school that the Satanic Temple contacted. Both federal and state law ensures that if such a club formed, it would be allowed as an after-school program, says Ben Horsley, a spokesman at Granite School District.
Law of land opens door
The Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that evangelical group Good News Club—which has clubs in more than 3,500 schools nationwide—could not be excluded from after-school activities. Of the nine districts that the Satanic Temple reached out to, all but one host Good News Clubs, Horsley adds.
A Utah statute designates all public and charter schools as “civic centers,” meaning the public should have access to such buildings when they’re not being used for education. However, state law does not require a school to rent out a facility for activities that don’t correspond with a building’s designed purpose, and no organization is permitted to reach out to students or distribute pamphlets on school grounds during the day.
The After School Satan Club would fall under those guidelines, Horsley says.
“Unfortunately, when you talk about an after-school Satanic club, it gets people in a frenzy and they get disconcerted about what that might mean,” Horsley says. “I’ve spent a lot of time explaining to people that we would not allow an organization to come in and light fires in our building, sacrifice animals or whatever else people conjure up.”
Granite received a request from the group but has not heard back from them regarding reserving a classroom, Horsely says.
Tucson USD denied the Satan Temple’s request based on the grounds of not producing “the minimum requirement of having a faculty sponsor for the operation of any student club.”