“Tragedy, crime and shocking behavior sell more news than good news.”
Lydia Kaiser should know: she’s the spokeswoman for the Good News Club, a longtime ministry of Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) whose stated mission is to “evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and to establish (disciple) them in the Word of God and in a local church for Christian living.”
And while CEF has taken its Good News Club and other ministries to thousands of schools across the United States since its founding in 1937, another club — with an entirely different mission — has seemingly pushed its way into the headlines in recent years: the After School Satan Club sponsored by The Satanic Temple (TST).
The reasons behind the rise in notoriety for TST are many, according to Kaiser, who said media outlets play a key role in promoting the satanic organization.
“Sensationalism is picked up by the media and its consumers more easily,” Kaiser told The Christian Post via email.
That’s not just industry standard for more left-leaning media, but conservative outlets as well, said Kaiser, who specifically called out Fox News' Tucker Carlson as an example of conservative commentators who, while reporting on the satanic clubs, fail to bring up the context in which those clubs are started.
“Sadly, many news people (i.e., Tucker Carlson) spend just enough time on air to raise the ire of the watcher with one more ‘Isn't it awful?’ story and then quickly move on, not caring to bring up the aspect of the story that Satan clubs are only started in schools with Good News Clubs as a direct attack on teaching Christianity to children,” she said.
"News people love to interview the sensational looking leader of [TST] and don't care to interview the president of CEF, no matter how many times he is offered."
Still, when it comes to sheer operational strength, the number of Good News Clubs dwarfs that of satanic clubs by about 5,000 to 5, respectively. CEF also retains a state office in almost every state and has 400 local chapters where staff can train volunteers.
As far as curriculum, Good News Clubs “have not changed at all” when it comes to the fundamentals of teaching the way of salvation, the truth of the Bible and the need to follow Jesus, according to Kaiser.
And where flannelgraph figures and large colorful flashcards were once the norm, now digital graphics and more contemporary music and illustrations are used as part of U-NITE, an online platform CEF has launched for children with video, podcasts and devotionals.
The challenges, Kaiser said, stem more from a culture that has grown increasingly hostile to the Gospel message.
“We see more unchurched children, more children who don't know basics like the real meaning of Christmas being the birth of Jesus, and more ignorance from adults about freedom of religious practice on public property,” she said.
Pointing to TST’s strategy of aiming to tangle the issue of Good News Clubs and their satanic counterparts in bureaucratic red tape, Kaiser said the club’s ultimate objective is to “close down all clubs and thus get rid of Good News Clubs.”
In fact, according to the TST website, the satanic clubs “meet at select public schools where Good News Clubs also operate.”
Kaiser conceded that in the short term, that strategy has proved somewhat effective, such as in York County, Pennsylvania, and Greensborough, North Carolina, where earlier this year, schools refused to approve a TST petition to start a club and shut down the Good News Club while they studied the issue.
Eventually, both clubs were allowed to start up.
Other school districts that host satanic clubs, such as Lebanon City School District in Lebanon, Ohio, have pointed to the Good News Club as an example of a religious organization that it allows to use its facilities even though it doesn't endorse its message.
CEF has its own counter-strategy, said Kaiser, a two-pronged effort that includes reaching out directly to the school board as soon as a CEF chapter learns about plans for a satanic club at one of its participating schools.
CEF then provides statements and documents prepared by its legal team, Liberty Counsel, to the school board, which can then either immediately pursue legal action or wait until they hear from the community.
The best approach for parents, Kaiser said, is to call TST’s bluff and simply allow them to start a club, knowing few will permit their children to attend, leading to the club’s quick demise.
The other method involves educating the community on what the satanic clubs are actually teaching.
“Don't let them get away with the narrative that it's harmless,” said Kaiser.
In 2016, TST co-founder and satanist Luciean Greaves accused Good News Clubs of working to “indoctrinate children … into a superstitious paranoia of death, eternal torment and Hell.”
“Horrifically, they use their after-school clubs to train children to proselytize to other school-children to bring them into the CEF’s counter-productive, magical way of thinking,” he wrote.
That kind of teaching, Kaiser said, is why parents should work to counteract the TST’s influence by helping in their school's Good News Club.
What that doesn’t mean, she added, is teaching intolerance toward other beliefs.
“Tolerance is the best approach for the existence of Good News Clubs and for Christians,” Kaiser said. “If we promote intolerance, we will be the first to be booted out of public life due to the more vitriolic intolerance of people on the other side.
“We can be tolerant because we know our God is the only true God and more powerful than any other religion, so we don't have to be afraid of confrontation or debate. We also have very Good News to share with people who desperately need it.”
And as for Greaves’ claim that TST is a “religious organization”?
“While we don't believe The Satanic Temple is a real ‘church’ because it claims to not even believe in God or Satan, they clearly worship man,” said Kaiser. “Other people worship nature.
“Everyone worships someone or something and should be free to do so. The USA was founded on Christian principles by many Christians who believed that even God gave man the free will to choose who or what to worship.”
Earlier this month, Greaves compared reactions to the satanic club with that of parents who oppose Evangelical programs at schools and appeared to call Christianity a “mythology.”
"Obviously, we don’t view Satan as evil, and it really doesn’t matter to us what your mythology is surrounding Satan," Greaves said during an interview on Fox News. "You need to ask yourself if your distaste over us identifying as satanists is strong enough that you would abandon the principles of free speech and religious liberty."
Greaves, who co-founded ASSC in 2012, told Fox News that the program is “self-directed education” designed to stir up students’ “intellectual and creative interests.”
The Good News Club has been criticized in the past by church-state watchdog groups for its program of proselytism being brought to public school facilities.
In 2001, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Good News Club et al v. Milford Central School that Good News Club has the right to hold meetings after school hours.
"We conclude that Milford's restriction violates the Club's free speech rights and that no Establishment Clause concern justifies that violation," the Supreme Court concluded.
"When Milford denied the Good News Club access to the school's limited public forum on the ground that the club was religious in nature, it discriminated against the club because of its religious viewpoint in violation of the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment."
Ian M. Giatti is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.