A California school district has defended its decision to approve the After School Satan Club, a program affiliated with The Satanic Temple, to use a local elementary school's facilities following complaints from parents.
Golden Hills Elementary School in Tehachapi, California, recently approved the After School Satan Club sponsored by the Satanic Temple and Reason Alliance to start meeting on campus starting in December.
News of the club's approval to use the campus facilities drew the ire of local parents and grandparents last week, who contend that the school district made a "mistake."
In a Wednesday statement to The Christian Post, Tehachapi Unified School District Superintendent Stacey Larson-Everson noted that the district is prohibited by law from discriminating against groups wanting to use its facilities or distribute flyers based on viewpoint.
"TUSD does not endorse any of the groups or content affiliated with groups that host after-school events on District property. The ASSC is not a District approved student club," she wrote.
"TUSD has long-held policies and procedures in place which allow varied community groups to use our publicly-funded facilities outside of the school day," Larson-Everson continued. "This is a common practice among school districts around the state and nation. Religious groups are among those that the District has allowed to rent our facilities over the years."
Superintendent Larson-Everson also stated that the district permits the distribution of flyers that advertise public services or activities, including summer camps, sports clubs and other events.
The Satanic Temple is a nontheistic organization that promotes social justice through Satanic imagery, while the Reason Alliance is a nonprofit advocating for religious pluralism. Although The Satanic Temple contends that the club doesn't teach Satanism, many parents believe the club is inappropriate.
"I think it's disgusting," Sheila Knight, a grandmother to a fifth-grade student, told KBAK.
"I understand the school has to allow them because they allow other after-school programs such as the Good News [Club], which is a Christian-based after-school program, that one I'm OK with, but I can't imagine why anyone would want their child to attend this Satanic group."
Brenda Maher, another grandmother with a grandson in the first grade, insisted that her grandson would not be part of the club, believing the school's approving it was a "mistake."
A spokesperson for The Satanic Temple believes that the club "fosters creativity," writing in a Wednesday statement to CP that the projects are "designed to benefit the community and promote empathy."
"Kids make toys for shelter animals, work on science projects, and design cards to cheer up children in hospitals," the spokesperson continued.
"We choose locations where community members reach out and invite us to participate so that we can serve as a constructive and positive alternative to other religious after-school clubs that often glorify fear and indoctrination. The kids that attend our clubs across the nation have a wonderful time, and are always excited to come back."
The leader of the new After School Satan Club, Paul Hicks, believes that the presence of the Christian Good News Club at the school that teaches kids about Jesus justifies the existence of his club.
He argued that the After School Satan Club provides an "alternative point of view."
"I'm not teaching these kids to be Satanic, I'm not teaching these kids that they need to hail Satan or identify as Satanists, what we're doing is we're thinking critical thinking, we're teaching science, we're teaching empathy and benevolence," Hicks told KBAK.
"From my understanding, the Good News Clubs sent out some flyers, which they are certainly entitled to do, and some parents got together and said we're not interested in this. And they knew of the After School Satan Club, and they requested our presence," he continued.
The After School Satan Club meetings will begin in December, with the school holding them in the cafeteria. However, parents must provide their children with permission to attend.
"Nobody has to engage with it who doesn't want to, and children are going to need to have permission slips signed by their parents to have any involvement at all," Satanic Temple co-found Lucien Greaves said.
On its website, the Satanic Temple states that it's "not interested in converting children to Satanism" and that sessions "will focus on free inquiry and rationalism, the scientific basis for which we know what we know about the world around us."
In April, the group filed a civil suit in Pennslyvania after the Dillsburg-based Northern York County School Board rejected the establishment of an After School Satan Club. The district voted down implementing the club at the Northern Elementary School in an 8-1 on April 19.
Mathew Kezhaya, general counsel for The Satanic Temple, told CP at the time that the complaint centered around whether the school board discriminated against the group.
"The First Amendment prohibits a government from considering the popularity of communicative activity when determining whether to facilitate that communicative activity on equal terms with other, similarly situated, groups," he stated.
Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: email@example.com.