Permission slips popped up earlier this week in the lobby of Jane Addams Elementary School in Moline that appeared to invite students to join something called the “After School Satan Club.”
It turned out to be a real offer to join a real club. TV6 Investigates spoke with its organizers and found it is a nationwide club, founded by members of the Satanic Temple, who offer it to schools that have after school clubs offered by religious organizations such as the Child Evangelism Fellowship.
The After School Satan Club is intended to act as an alternative offer to religious after school programs, especially to kids who may not be able to go home straight after school.
“If you’re going to open the public forum up to one religion, you open it up to all of them,” said Lucien Greaves, Co-Founder of the Satanic Temple.
The Good News Club, a program organized by the organization Child Evangelism Fellowship, is offered at Jane Addams Elementary School in Moline.
Programs such as the Good News Club and After School Satan Club bring up a centuries-old debate–the separation between church and state.
“There have been decades, generations of people trying to encroach religion into public schools and we simply can’t allow the government to pick and choose which religions are worthy of expression,” said Greaves.
Like most schools in the nation, Jane Addams Elementary School offers community-based programs to use its building after hours for a fee. The school is not legally allowed to limit programs wanting to use their facilities based on the organization’s viewpoint.
Hence programs like After School Satan Club and Good News Club can be unaffiliated with the school and still use its building.
Kevin Hahn, the Iowa State Director of Child Evangelism Fellowship, says the Good News Club is a way of forming better students and citizens by teaching them the gospel.
“We partner with other churches and individuals to go into schools–usually one day a week–and just have a fun time with elementary-age kids teaching bible lessons, playing games, and [memorizing] verses,” said Hahn.
The Good News Club was a subject of tension in the early 2000′s when a New York school called Milford Central argued that the program violated its “Community Use” policy by practicing worship in its building.
The case was taken to the Supreme Court, where judges ruled in 2001 that not allowing the club to organize at the school based on its religious point of view was unconstitutional. This, because the school is a public forum, or an institution where ideas are discussed, and restricting any program based on its ideas–or viewpoint–would go against Freedom of Speech.
However, by ruling the Good News Club to be allowed into schools, it opened the door for every religion, including the Satanic Temple–a legally recognized religion in the United States–to form its own program. This is at the heart of the After School Satan Club.
Director, After School Satan Club
“It’s only in schools that have a current religious club being offered,” stated Julie Everett, the director of the After School Satan Club, “we’re not a religious indoctrination program, nor do we teach indoctrination or offer religious opinions.”
The ASSC states it will be self-led, with students choosing to read books, engage in coloring or socialize with their peers. They say that Satan will not be a topic of discussion.
In fact, leaders of the Satanic Temple say that Satan is more of a symbol, or a metaphor, that they use, and not an actual deity they worship.
When asked what the intended outcome was for the After School Satan Club, Greaves replied, “seeing how our curriculum works to help enrich the educational outcomes of the kids in the school district.”
It is the same as what Good News Club says it intends. The two organizations agree on absolutely nothing else but one thing: if the space is open, it must be shared.
When asked if Child Evangelism Fellowship was open to the After School Satan program equally sharing the space at Jane Addams Elementary School, he said “sure, this is America. Everyone has freedom of speech. The Supreme Court ruled [that] all groups have equal access to schools.”
The fine line between church and state is still being drawn, as school such as Jane Addams Elementary lawfully have no say in allowing both religions to come onto its grounds.
A new statement in response to the After School Satan Club was given Wednesday by Moline School District Superintendent Dr. Rachel Savage, stating:
“I wanted to take a moment and share some additional information regarding the after school club you may have heard about. I know there are many mounting concerns and questions. I hear you and I understand. Here are some details which may answer some of your questions: The facility rental for this after school activity was not generated by the district and not affiliated with Jane Addams or the district. It is nothing that involves or impacts the school day.
A parent from our district reached out to the national After School Satan Club, informing them that Jane Addams Elementary School, in Moline, offers a child evangelism fellowship club and asked that they bring their program to that school as well, to offer parents a choice of different viewpoints. No Teachers from Jane Addams, or any other district teacher, is involved.
Flyers were not distributed to all students. A total of 30 flyers were sent to Addams by the organization to be placed in the lobby. Flyers and promotional materials for facility rentals that are religious in nature, qualify for lobby display only. The flyers were on a table in the lobby and that is what some students picked up. Board of Education policy allows for community use of our facilities. The district approves many facility use agreements with local churches.
Since we have allowed religious entities to rent our facilities after school hours, we are not permitted to discriminate against different religious viewpoints. To illegally deny their organization (viewpoint) to pay to rent our publicly funded institution, after school hours, subjects the district to a discrimination lawsuit, which we will not win, likely taking thousands upon thousands of tax-payer dollars away from our teachers, staff, and classrooms. Parents can choose which after school facility rental activities in which they wish their kids to participate and must sign a permission slip. This includes the Good News Christian Club, Boys and Girl Scouts, and so on. This means any student choosing to partake in this activity would need parent permission.”