Conservatives can't handle the existence of an After School Satan Club in Tennessee
Right-wing zealots are publicly revealing their ignorance of the law and their desire to break it
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An After School Satan Club at Chimneyrock Elementary School in Cordova, Tennessee—not far from Memphis—is bringing out the worst in everyone who can’t handle a different perspective.
Just to remind everyone, these clubs do not promote Satan, Satanic beliefs, Satanism, or anything else like it. The Satanic Temple, which sponsors these groups, doesn’t even believe in a literal Satan. They aren’t interested in indoctrination. Rather, the Satanists “focus on free inquiry and rationalism, the scientific basis for which we know what we know about the world around us.” It’s like a science club with a devilish twist.
There aren’t many of these groups to begin with—only four, including one in Pennsylvania where opposition to it led to a lawsuit that culminated in a settlement forcing the district to pay the Satanists over $200,000 in legal fees. That’s because The Satanic Temple isn’t trying to start these groups from scratch; they only come about in response to (Christian) Good News Clubs—and, even then, only when parents request it.
[The Satanic Temple] claims that the parents of 13 children at Chimneyrock Elementary had signed permission slips for the first After School Satan Club meeting there on Jan. 10. The Times was unable to find a parent who signed a slip who was willing to be identified on the record.
I wouldn’t want to go on the record about this, either. Given the backlash, I wouldn’t want to put my family in danger by going public about signing my kids up for this. As we saw in the Iowa Capitol this past week, everything that involves The Satanic Temple becomes controversial because conservative Christians simply can’t handle sharing space with people they don’t like playing by their rules.
You can tell those people can’t handle it by looking at the responses in Tennessee, where Christian critics couldn’t figure out any legal way to keep The Satanic Temple out... but still, idiotically, made their desires clear in the media. (Seriously. They held a whole damn press conference about it.)
Exhibit A: The district officials who knows the law is on the Satanists’ side.
The interim superintendent of the Memphis-Shelby County Schools, Toni Williams, said at a news conference with Christian pastors on Wednesday that she was “duty bound to uphold board policies, state laws and the Constitution.”
“But let’s not be fooled,” she said. “Let’s not be fooled by what we have seen in the past 24 hours, which is an agenda initiated to ensure we cancel all faith-based organizations that partner with our school district.”
Literally no one is demanding the district cancel all after-school activities. But Williams is right to say that the only way to block the ASS Club from meeting is to stop all extracurricular groups completely. It’s the protesters and district officials, though, who are even considering that option.
She wasn’t alone, though:
School board member Mauricio Calvo, who represents the district that contains Chimneyrock, said the board would explore legal alternatives to “mitigate the situation.”
There are no legal alternatives besides shutting down all extracurricular activities, and there’s no “situation” to “mitigate.” Everything is fine as is.
The Satanists just want the same access to students and the building that Christians have. See? Simple.
Exhibit B: The minister who can’t figure out how to break the law
A local pastor, William A. Adkins Jr., said it was critical not to allow “any entity called ‘Satanic Temple’ to have time — private time — with our children.” But he acknowledged that he was not sure how to bar the group without violating the Constitution.
“This is in fact what I call Satan personified,” he said. “They put us in a trick bag, and we almost can’t get out of it, using the Constitution against us.”
Curse those evil Satanists! They tricked Christians by… following the rules and doing everything by the book!
Adkins may be the worst person to trot out in opposition to the club because he’s a treasure trove of dumb comments.
“They threaten to rent a facility under the First Amendment right and they entice us into saying no, and of course, they take us to court and then they look for a settlement,” said Bill Adkins, pastor of Greater Imani Church.
They didn’t “threaten” to rent a facility. They booked the room using the district’s own policies. If the district says no, then the district is breaking the law. This isn’t complicated unless you’re trying to figure out a way to do something illegal, like this Christian pastor is.
Wait! He wasn’t done yet!
“We cannot allow any entity called Satanic Temple to have private time with our children,” Adkins said. “I can’t go into the school building and pray. But yet we can rent a facility to the Satanic Temple and they can give a party for children. It’s ridiculous. It’s absurd.”
I promise you that, statistically, kids are safer in the presence of members of The Satanic Temple, than youth pastors or Catholic priests. But to his point, Adkins can’t proselytize inside the school and neither can Satanists. The Satanic Temple can rent space in the school because a Christian club already does the same thing. (It’s not a party. Adkins just doesn’t know how to read.)
Exhibit C: The parents who can’t understand the concept of equal access
I don’t expect parents to know the law like district officials should, but it shouldn’t take a law degree to realize that a public school can’t pick and choose which religious groups are allowed to use space in its building.
“I think it’s B.S.,” said parent Courtney Dennis. “I think it needs to be held somewhere else and not a school.”
“I’m about to come unglued right now,” said grandparent Jenny Kincaid. “I cannot believe – this is a kindergarten through fifth-grade school, and they’re letting a Satanic club come in here?”
“It’s going to be where our children are,” said grandparent Tonya Vester. “We should have had some earlier notification. A chance to say, maybe this is not something the parents here would like.”
All of these people would usher in a theocracy given the chance.
The best comment in this category came from another parent who worried about a slippery slope:
Concerned parent Reggie Carrick said he felt the school system was letting kids down in order to dodge a lawsuit.
“This is gonna spread like wildfire. If they are able to get into one school, how many other schools are they plotting to do?” Carrick asked.
This would only “spread like wildfire” if the club was something kids and parents actually wanted to do. How many schools are Satanists “plotting” to enter? In theory, in all the schools that house Christian clubs. But it’s not like they need to do that either. They have received more publicity for these five clubs than the Good News Club seems to have received in years despite having nearly 80,000 clubs.
And unlike After School Satan clubs, those Christian ones are open about their desire to evangelize to and convert children.
This particular After School Satan Club is scheduled to launch on January 10.
That is, unless district leaders decide to take some very bad legal advice.