(The Hill) — After School Satan Clubs have been steadily increasing in popularity and are not likely to slow down as their supporters rack up media attention and legal wins fighting for free speech. The clubs, associated with the Satanic Temple and currently only offered in primary schools, began at the beginning of 2020 and quickly gained attention from parents who wanted an alternative to religious clubs, according to June Everett, campaign director of the After School Satan Club.
“That’s kind of when things started blowing up,” Everett told The Hill. “I anticipate that every year moving forward is going to get busier and busier.”
On May 1, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled in favor of the Satanic Temple and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which sued when a Northampton County school district would not allow the club to meet at on its grounds. “In a victory for free speech and religious freedom, a federal court has ruled that the Saucon Valley School District must allow the After School Satan Club to meet in district facilities,” the ACLU announced.
The court also ruled that students do not need signed permission slips to attend.
The Satanic Temple was founded in 2014 and says its mission is to “encourage benevolence and empathy, reject tyrannical authority.” A member should also use “practical common sense” and stand up for justice, according to its website.
There are congregations around the country, and they tell those interested that if their goals are to “sell my soul, get rich, join the Illuminati, etc.” they should “look somewhere else.”
While the clubs are controversial—mostly for their name and association with the Satanic Temple—students are not actually getting proselytized or instructions in devil worship. “We’re definitely not interested in having children identify as Satanists,” said Rose Bastet, who has been involved with the Satanic Temple for four years.
Bastet is one of the After School Satan Club volunteers at B.M. Williams Primary in Chesapeake, Virginia. She started the process to get the club in the school back in October 2020. The process took so long, according to Bastet, because the school was “giving us the runaround” and she believes “they were in the background looking for any way that they could prevent us from meeting.”
The club was officially approved in February. “That’s when it hit the news,” Bastet said. “The media here just went insane.”
The school received a bomb threat days after the club had its first meeting. Although police said they couldn’t confirm the incident was connected to the After School Satan Club, Bastet said her name was mentioned in the threat. “The local Christian mom groups, everything, they really stirred up a ruckus, making it seem like we were doing something nefarious,” Bastet said, adding “they tried to intimidate me by releasing my legal name.”
Everett said the clubs are excellent alternatives to Christian after-school groups for agnostics, atheists, and religious minorities such as pagans, emphasizing that groups’ actual activities can encompass nearly anything.
Bastet said her club focuses on learning about different animals. “One of our meetings a couple of months ago, we learned about Virginia native bats,” she said. “This last meeting, we had one of the parents in the club volunteer to bring in a bunch of bones and fossils that she and her husband have found in Virginia.”
The program could change this coming fall, as Everett says they are considering teaching some of the seven core tenets of the Satanic Temple in the clubs, but that plan has not been finalized. Those tenets include “compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason” and that “beliefs should conform to one’s best scientific understanding of the world. One should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit one’s beliefs.”
“We just came out with a book that is like the children’s version—or I should say a very sweet way to interpret—the tenets in a very understanding way that children could understand. So we might start actually using this book to talk to the kids about our seven tenets,” Everett said. “We have a lot of big plans for next school year.”
The Satanic Temple has looked into expanding into high schools but says it is difficult because students must be more actively engaged to keep the club running, as opposed to primary schools, where the groups are adult-run and easier to implement.
“That means that it has to be a student-led club. They usually have officers and they usually have to present it to the board and they have to have a sponsoring staff member. Basically, all the things that the younger kids aren’t old enough” to do, Everett said.
She added that a new partnership with the Secular Student Alliance should help expand the After School Satan Club’s reach. “[Secular Student Alliance’s] specialty is really college level and high school kids. So with their partnership, we hope to use them to help us get into more high school and colleges,” Everett said.