Family Research Council's Travis Weber is advising parents, teachers and school administrators not to fall into the trap that The Satanic Temple group is setting by launching its "After School Satan Club."
Taking advantage of a United States Supreme Court ruling from 2001 holding that schools that have a "limited public forum" open to after school Christian clubs can not discriminate against other groups looking to use that forum to advance their worldview, The Satanic Temple has helped launch After School Satan Clubs (ASSC) in a number of elementary schools around the nation.
With the help of volunteers, the ASSC is being launched at public schools that already have Good News Clubs or any other after school Christian clubs in existence.
While the title of the club includes the name of "Satan" and could cause many parents and administrators to have serious concerns about the club's intentions, Weber, the director of FRC's Center for Religious Liberty, advises parents and school officials not to "take the bait" and let the clubs operate.
Weber states that the main goal behind the ASSC is not to worship Lucifer but rather to cause outrage and shut down the limited public forum at schools entirely, which would effectively shut down after school Christian clubs.
"These atheist and humanist activists simply don't like the fact that children could be exposed to the message of Christianity, and appear to want to pick a fight with Christians," Weber wrote in a blog posted on FRC's website. "They say they want religion totally eliminated from schools, and the group's homepage prominently displays: 'DONATE TO HELP US COUNTER EVANGELISM IN SCHOOLS.' Their main purpose appears to be to try to shut down Christian clubs in schools."
"They are aiming to do that by provoking school administrators into shutting down the limited public forum entirely," Weber continued. "As the group's website states: 'Our goal, ultimately, is to place an ASSC in every school where the Good News Clubs, or other proselytizing religious groups, have established a presence.'"
In the past, The Satanic Temple group successfully shut down a forum that allowed a Christian group in Florida to hand out Bibles at Orange County schools by threatening to hand out Satanic coloring books to students. In response, the Orange County school board voted to ban the distribution of outside religious materials at schools.
Weber fears that The Satanic Temple is trying to use the same approach to end the ability for Christian groups to gather on school grounds after class.
"The ASSC organization would love nothing more than for the school forum be shut down to all groups, including Christian groups. The forum should not be shut down out of concern for this group's presence (its name does not even line up with what it is teaching anyway)," Weber wrote. "It can be given a place among other student groups, and we can let the battle in the marketplace of ideas play out. Ultimately, neither rationalism nor demon worship can provide the hope and healing offered by Jesus."
Instead of trying to shut down or prevent such clubs from starting in their schools, Weber suggests that parents and administrators should instead embrace the opportunities that these clubs present.
Weber wrote that the opportunity lies in a couple of areas.
The first is that the formation of the ASSC presents the opportunity to ensure that children in those schools fully understand their right to start their own after school Christian club and are aware of the legal protections for religion in public schools.
The second opportunity is the possibility of starting spiritual discussions with ASSC members.
"The group's use of the term 'Satan' gives everyone an opportunity to discuss … Satan. Let's explain his role in the Bible, his power to tempt humans away from God to our own detriment, and the good news that Jesus provides a way out of that temptation," Weber explained. "Even if the ASSC organization wants to fall back on rationalism, let's welcome an invitation to open up the Bible and rationally examine its claims: that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again. He's either Lord, liar, or lunatic. But nothing else. All must make a choice."
Weber is not the only one who believes the After School Satan Clubs are only designed to provoke Christians and parents.
"The 'After School Satan Club' is simply another attention-seeking atheist club. The choice of mascot reveals that its leaders simply hate God, and are trying to provoke or spook parents and schools," Moises Esteves, vice president of USA Ministries for Child Evangelism Fellowship, told The Christian Post.
"Like those before it, this club will fizzle out, because parents don't view their children as pawns for a 'blend of political activism, religious critique and performance art' by angry atheists," Esteves continued. "When children are already struggling with many issues like violence, drugs, physical bullying and online bullying, gangs, etc., the last thing that parents want for their children is a Satan Club."