It’s difficult to know how to begin…
Let’s start with the unfortunate fact that this is not a hoax, a joke, or a parody. The Jane Addams elementary school in the Moline-Coal Valley School District—that’s Illinois—has approved an after-school club called “The Satan Club.” Here is the flyer requesting parental permission:
Note that it is sponsored by The Satanic Temple, which released this reassuring statement:
After School Satan Club does not attempt to convert children to any religious ideology. Instead, The Satanic Temple supports children to think for themselves. All After School Satan Clubs are based upon a uniform syllabus that emphasizes a scientific, rationalist, non-superstitious worldview.
There, that should put everyone’s mind at ease!
Now here is the school district’s statement:
The Moline-Coal Valley School District understands that there is concern and confusion over an upcoming after-school club at Jane Addams elementary.
The District would like to provide information on the situation. The Moline-Coal Valley School District and Board of Education have policies and administrative procedures in place which allow for community use of its publicly funded facilities outside the school day.
The district does not discriminate against any groups who wish to rent our facilities, including religious-affiliated groups. Religiously affiliated groups are among those allowed to rent our facilities for a fee.
The district has, in the past, approved these types of groups, one example being the Good News Club, which is an after-school child evangelism fellowship group. Flyers and promotional materials for these types of groups are approved for lobby posting or display only, and not for mass distribution.
Students or parents are then able to pick up the flyer from the lobby, if they so choose, which is aligned to District policy. Please note that the district must provide equal access to all groups and that students need parental permission to attend any after-school event. Our focus remains on student safety and student achievement.
1. This isn’t a joke, a hoax or satire, but it is a fairly typical stunt by the Satanic Temple, which is an anti-religious advocacy group rooted in mockery. If there is any actual Satan worship in the organization or intended by it, it must be well-hidden. The group’s website doesn’t hint at any Satan worship whatsoever, or any worship of any kind. Yes, it is based in Salem, Mass., which is all part of the joke. It is, as far as I can determine, a purely secular organization that ostentatiously advocates ethical values and conduct. The group’s “Fundamental Tenets,” for example, are firmly based in ethics, with a progressive tilt; the group is pro-abortion. (Satan would also be pro-abortion, presumably.)
2. The group’s ethics comprehension is, however, open to question. The self-aggrandizing Tenet Four, for instance, extols the “freedom to offend,” which is much of what the Satanic Temple exists to do. Intentionally offending people because you disagree with them or dislike them and want to see them upset isn’t ethical. It’s mean, and a Golden Rule breach.
3. The conservative media fell right into the trap, attacking the “club” as proof that “Satanism” was infiltrating the public schools. this, of course, is exactly what the smug Satanic Temple wants, for those with religious beliefs to look hysterical, gullible, and foolish. This is certainly a clever trap: is a club named after the Prince of Darkness that is open to first-graders supposed to be shrugged off as harmless by parents and others?
4. It is a clever trap, and an unethical trap. The group is using small children as props, triggering “Think of the children!” hysteria to make its legal and secular points while attracting publicity as well as new members.
5. The short term intention of the stunt is to get religious after-school groups kicked out of the Moline-Coal Valley School District, and, if that works, other school districts as well. I see no way a school can accept religious group-sponsored clubs and not accept anti-religious clubs.
6. The school is, clearly, terrified of a lawsuit. I’m sure its lawyers explained that the Satanic Temple had the First Amendment on its side. Given the expense of fighting the matter out in court, the decision to allow a faux-after school group that might well never have any students in it even knowing that doing so would mean more anti-public school fury from the Right seems like a prudent one.
Ethics Alarms once had a regular commenter who was prolific and perceptive, and who was also a vocal, atheist opponent of organized religion’s prominence in society. I would love to hear his views on this episode.
And yours, of course.