(NewsNation Now) — An After School Satan Club started Thursday at an Illinois school in response to an already-established Christian-based Good News Club.
A flyer for the Satan club, topped with a cartoon man donning a suit and a pair of horns, shocked some Moline elementary school parents and intrigued others.
“I welcome the idea of there being a new club that I could maybe get the kids in and have the chance for more involvement,” said Wayne Marlow, who has two children at Jane Addams Elementary.
Students who attend the club must have permission from parents.
This most recent chapter of the After School Satan Club is part of The Satanic Temple’s larger response to evangelical after-school programs that teach Christian values and lessons. The group has also publicly confronted hate groups, argues for the abolition of corporal punishment in public schools, and has provided religious exemption and legal protection against laws that restrict women’s reproductive rights, according to the church’s website.
And despite its name, the club doesn’t actually proselytize for Satanism.
According to its flyer, students will do science projects, puzzles, games, arts and crafts projects and nature activities.
NewsNation’s Local 4 News affiliate reached out to The Satanic Temple campaign director and received the following statement from June Everett:
“(After School Satan Club) is focused on education, critical thinking, etc. It happens to be a program operated by The Satanic Temple, but it does not teach Satanism.”
In fact, the Satanic Temple believes religion should be left out of schooling, according to the organization’s website.
“However, once religion invades schools, as The Good News Clubs have, The Satanic Temple will fight to ensure that plurality and true religious liberty are respected,” the website says.
Good News Clubs are hosted in schools, community centers, churches, and neighborhood homes by trained and screened teachers. The program is under the umbrella of the born-again Christian group the Child Evangelism Fellowship and teaches children about the Bible.
In a statement Wednesday, Child Evangelism Fellowship spokeswoman Lydia Kaiser said her organization “believes in freedom of religion, so supports the formation of any clubs and doesn’t feel threatened by Satan Clubs.”
“We have seen them fail because they are not well run and don’t have the support of parents and volunteers,” Kaiser said. “It’s difficult to find even a handful of them that are actually running, whereas there are over 5,000 Good News Clubs going strong in USA elementary schools. The tactics of the Satanic Temple are harmful to all children by wasting the time of school boards and jeopardizing after-school activities.”
According to a 2001 Supreme Court ruling, religious groups should not be denied the use of a local public school’s facilities after school hours.
Moline-Coal Valley School District Superintendent Rachel Savage said she understands parent concerns.
“These types of club and organizations have nothing to do with our school day; it’s not taught in our schools,” she said. “It’s not part of our curriculum. It’s not part of our teaching staff, none of that. It is a separate organization renting our facility after school. They can chose to send their child to that after-school club or not, its completely parental choice and it’s not something that the school district is involved with.”