“Hey kids, let’s have fun at After School Satan Club,” read a flier that started circulating online about a new pastime coming to Chimneyrock Elementary School in Memphis, Tennessee. The club is being offered by the Satanic Temple, an organisation that has come under fire recently for filing challenges to abortion limits in Indiana and Texas and placing pentagrams and other symbols alongside Christmas displays in statehouses. And now, as the organisation is enjoying growth and increasing popularity, it’s hoping to recruit children into its ‘satanic’ ways of living.
Contrary to what the name suggests, members of the Satanic Temple aren’t actually Satan worshippers. The group uses Satan as a “symbol of the eternal rebel fighting arbitrary authority and oppressive social norms.” In short, the group aims to dismantle tyranny and theocracy.
The Satanic Temple is based in Salem, Massachusetts—the infamous home of the 17th-century witch trials—and defines itself as a non-theistic religious organisation that endorses pluralism, secularism and religious rights. The Temple also considers itself a “beacon of light” in the battle for abortion access and describes terminating pregnancies as a central part of a religious ritual that encourages self-empowerment and affirms bodily autonomy.
So no, the group is not particularly popular in states with limited abortion access, or Christian parents. Although primarily based in the US, the organisation has additional congregations in Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
The children’s club of the organisation does not believe in introducing religion into public schools. Consequently, The Satanic Temple will only open a club if other religious groups are operating on campus, such as The Good News Club. It is a weekly evangelical programme that features Bible lessons, songs, memory verses, and games. According to the group’s website, its programme focuses on science, critical thinking, creative arts, and community work. Sounds harmless, right? However, not to some parents:
The temple justifies its actions on First Amendment grounds, which is currently making it incredibly difficult for parents to ban it. The First Amendment famously protects free speech and prevents a governing body from making laws that regulate a religious establishment.
Thus, Memphis-Shelby County Schools said in a statement that the district would rent out the space to the organisation per its policy. “As a public school district, we’re committed to upholding the principles of the First Amendment, which guarantees equal access to all non-profit organizations seeking to use our facilities after school hours,” the statement said. “This means we cannot approve or deny an organisation’s request based solely on its viewpoints or beliefs.”
Nevertheless, school board member and representative of the district that contains Chimneyrock, Mauricio Calvo, said the board would explore legal alternatives to “mitigate the situation.”
As of now, the school activity is still set to start meeting on 10 January 2024 in the school’s library and run through the spring semester. See you there!