Why After School Satan?

assc_colorblue_2Not long ago, a print magazine conducted an interview with Lucien Greaves, spokesperson for The Satanic Temple (TST), about a new TST campaign to place “After School Satan Clubs” in elementary schools where Evangelical “Good News Clubs” have established their own twisted and coercive presence. The published article ultimately contained but a few very brief quotes from the interview. Below is the interview in its entirety. The questions have been paraphrased

Interviewer: A question about a Washington Post article which quoted Principal Jose Olivas of the The Roskruge Bilingual K-8 School in Tucson as stating that the After School Satan Club “does not currently meet the minimum requirement of having a faculty sponsor.” What are the requirements and will you be able to meet them?

Lucien Greaves: Principal Jose Olivas didn’t seem to wait a moment after providing us with documentation of their school district’s requirements for outside clubs before announcing that we didn’t meet their “minimum requirements.” He certainly didn’t wait to find out if we could meet those requirements before making that announcement. The Tucson district’s legal counsel immediately emailed us and demanded that we take their school’s name off of our website as they assume there is to be no After School Satan Club in their jurisdiction. We have not taken their name off the website, as the site merely states that we are offering to present our curriculum in that school district, and we still intend to operate there. The “minimum requirement” that the school district is referring to — the one we presumably can not meet — is the requirement of having a faculty “sponsor” for our club. If Tucson feels that they are simply free to discriminate against our presence in their school by deferring the discrimination against us further down their chain of command, they are wrong. We are currently investigating what appears to be inappropriate preferential treatment given to the Good News Club by the Tucson school district, but ultimately I think we may just insist that the school assign us a sponsor, if a sponsor is required. If they do not, I believe we have a case for a discrimination claim.

Interviewer:  A question about a newspaper quote from a parent who states that in some cases the “Good News Club is the only free option for after school activities on certain days in the community” which is a “nightmare” for working parents.

However, Charles Haynes, director of the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute in Washington, has been quoted as saying:

“I don’t think the Satan club is interested in getting into the after-school business. They know the only way to make their point is to call the court’s bluff, saying what’s good for the Good News clubs is good for us.”

Additionally, Mat Staver of The Liberty Counsel remarked that, “The so-called Satanist group has nothing good to offer the students and its entire reason for existence is to be disruptive.”

What is your response to such claims? Are you interested in getting into the after-school business? What are the good things that you want to offer to students?

Lucien Greaves: It’s not exactly clear what Charles Haynes is saying when he claims that The Satanic Temple isn’t interested in “getting into the after-school business.” I assure you, we have every intention of following through with our requests to carry out the After School Satan Clubs, and I don’t think anybody seriously doubts that. What is clear, however, is that Charles Haynes and his “Religious Freedom Center” aren’t actually interested in “Religious Freedom,” rather, they are trying to establish some type of exclusive privilege for their superstition. It’s interesting that he feels that the court’s are “bluffing” when they maintain that religious viewpoint neutrality must be maintained in any public forum — all religions need be treated equally. We’re not calling anybody’s “bluff” when we assert our rights, the courts have been explicit in maintaining religious pluralism in every ruling favoring religious expression in public forums. It’s clearly the people of the Religious Freedom Center and the Liberty Counsel who are bluffing when they claim to be fighting for the general right to religious expression regardless of belief. I think that what’s being questioned here are our intentions — the idea is that we’re not interested in educating children, but that we’re only interested in spiting the Good News Clubs. The fact that we’re focusing specifically on schools that have Good News Clubs is, somehow, supposed to de-legitimize us. However, the After School Satan Club curriculum makes no mention at all of the Good News Clubs, contains rational, professional, appropriate educational material, and presents no items of religious opinion. The fact that we feel that the Good News Clubs create a need for an After School Satan Club — so that students may have an alternative to the superstitious apocalyptic ignorant nonsense spewed by the evangelicals who’ve invaded their space — is no different from the Child Evangelism Fellowship establishing the Good News Clubs because of their opinion that the “evils” of secular schooling have created a need for their presence. Why can’t they keep their bullshit little indoctrination cult in their churches? Perhaps they aren’t as interested in educating children as they are in undermining public schooling. The fact that Mat Staver would refer to the After School Satan Club as “disruptive” without ever having viewed its curriculum should be a strong indication of the type of ignorant person that he is. But then, Staver is also the asshole who acted as Kim Davis’s legal counsel, and he’s quoted saying that the US should have laws against homosexuality. Clearly, his legal reasoning is less-than-impressive.
ASSC mascot by Lucien Greaves

Interviewer:   A question about Jorden Lawrence, the attorney who helped litigate the Good News Club v. Milford Central School case at the U.S. Supreme Court. Lawrence argues in an article on TheFederalist that with these Clubs, he sees a “lack of respect for First Amendment traditions or for the dignity of other people to advocate views that differ from theirs” and a “snarky disdain for anyone who believes in religion, demonstrated in part by the use of ‘Satan’ in [the] organization’s name to evoke responses that have nothing to do with their beliefs.” What is your response to this claim? What is your position on First Amendment rights and religious freedom?

Lucien Greaves: Jorden Lawrence’s remarks are an instances of extreme irony that hilariously illustrates the hypocrisy of our opponents. Lawrence’s opposition to the After School Satan Clubs taking advantage of exactly the same forum he fought to open on the grounds of “Religious Liberty” can be exactly summarized as a “lack of respect for First Amendment traditions or for the dignity of other people to advocate views that differ” from his own. In fact, we’re not demonstrating a “disdain for anyone who believes in religion” by any means, and if Jorden Lawrence bothered to put any research into his writing, he might begin to comprehend that we consider ourselves every bit a religion, though we are unapologetically non-supernaturalist. The “use” of “Satan”, however, has everything to do with our beliefs, and there is a large body of writing that now elaborates modern religious atheistic Satanism that has always been available to the incurious Mr. Lawrence. I think that what is apparent is that Jorden Lawrence views “religion” as narrowly defined to the benefit of his own superstitious view. An interesting fact here, however, is that the legitimacy of our claim to an after-school club is not at all dependent upon our legitimacy as a religion, however one self-servingly defines it. Religious after-school clubs aren’t supposed to receive any preference over non-religious after-school clubs. The fact that Jorden Lawrence and Mat Staver continue to argue this moot point again suggests a legal reasoning that is less-than-impressive.
ASSC art by Morgan

Interviewer: Pointing out that Mr. Lawrence has also suggested that the Church of Satan disapproves of your plans to start these clubs and cites a blog post on the CoS website called “There Goes The Neighborhood” as proof. Have you been in communication with anyone from CoS on this issue? Do you think Mr. Lawrence is just trying to stir up friction between that group and the Satanic Temple? What is your group’s relationship to the Church of Satan?

Lucien Greaves: I personally find it hilarious that the Church of Satan, for all their unimposing inactivity, has become the new sweethearts of the evangelical theocratic right. As with everything we’ve ever done, the CoS disapproves, and there is zero chance, in fact, that we’ll ever do anything that they’ll approve of. Whatever it is, they’re obligated to oppose it. The CoS’s sole function now is to declare some type of squatters rights over Satanism, insisting that they are the sole arbiters of “true” Satanism. Their arguments against the After School Satan Clubs are either completely disingenuous, or embarrassingly misinformed. They claim to be opposed to the “proselytization”, somehow ignoring the fact that we’ve been very clear that we’re not teaching religious opinion or recruiting Satanists. They claim to oppose ASSCs on the grounds that they are “secularists”, somehow ignoring the various Church/State separation groups that support this and other efforts of TST.

Interviewer: Bringing up a National Post article wherein Sabrina Perkins, VP of the Vista PTO in Taylorsville, Utah wondered, “Why do they have to name it after a not-very-good person if they want to teach good things?” What is your response to such a statement? Do you think of Satan as a person or an idea? What kinds of “good things” does this person or idea espouse, in your belief system?

Lucien Greaves
: Satan, to us, is an icon symbolizing rebellion against tyranny. We don’t believe that the tyrannical, angry God of the Bible is a character worth emulating or worshiping. Biblical morals are archaic, backward, and often outright depraved. Throughout history, conscientious objectors to theocratic oppression have been “Satanized,” accused of heinous supernatural crimes, murdered, driven-out, forced to convert. The witches of the witch-hunts never existed. The Satanists of the Satanic Panic never existed. “Satanist” has too often been a pejorative applied to justify savage mob out-group purges. To insist that opposition to the religious majority can only be motivated by abject evil also serves to affirm the opposite: that the religious majority are the arbiters of all that is morally just. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. I truly feel that presenting Satanism as it is — a differing religious opinion that celebrates personal autonomy and the pursuit of knowledge — has a very powerful positive cultural effect. Differing, even contrary or “heretical”, religious views can be held by moral and productive people. The belief in an evil Satanic conspiracy against the common good has never been anything other than destructive, and we are not at all apologetic for doing violence to the superstitious witch-hunter’s narrative.

Interviewer: Finally, The Catholic News Service has evenreported on the After School Satan Clubs and acknowledges that they aren’t as “eerie” as your group’s name implies and admits that this is “more about bringing attention to what [the group] describes as an unfair after-school playing field than devil worship.” Do you consider this acceptance by the Catholic Church?

No. They are simply reporting factually. If anything, this is a case of the Catholics recognizing that the Good News Clubs are no less a threat to them than The Satanic Temple is. The Child Evangelism Fellowship, which is responsible for the creation and curriculum of the Good News Clubs, makes clear that they have nothing to do with the Catholic Church. To the Child Evangelism Fellowship, the Catholic Church are not “true” Christians, and they openly seek to indoctrinate public school children into their fringe isolationist fundamentalist way of thinking. The Catholics would be foolish to throw in with the Good News Club evangelicals who are openly seeking to convert their children away from the Catholic Church.