In case you missed it Tuesday night, Jim Jefferies did a segment on his show about the Good News Club and After School Satan, topics I often write about. The piece began with Jefferies discussing how predatory religious indoctrination groups like the Good News Club bring children in as young as they can with games, candy, and prizes but teach kids things like, “When you complain about the meals your mom or dad cooks, it’s a sin,” and, “God says that sin must be punished. The punishment for sin is death…”
Yes, they really do teach that (among other heinous things that equate to psychological abuse and manipulation).
Jefferies then went on to describe an alternative to the Good News Club that has recently popped up — After School Satan Club (ASSC). ASSC is presented as a science and critical thinking club for elementary school kids, but they’re not the first. They’re just the loudest and most controversial, purposely. Jefferies sat down with the national director for ASSC and, borrowing his interview style from the Daily Show, made her look silly and made ASSC look like a joke.
I’ve been saying this since they launched — the Satanic Temple’s After School Satan Clubs are going about teaching critical thinking all wrong. Their shock and awe approach might work in the public square with adults, but applying this concept inside schools with kids in the crossfire is the wrong approach. Let’s be honest. ASSC was invented in an attempt to scare school districts into kicking them out or not allowing them in at all. And if schools did that, by law they had to kick out Good News Clubs. That’s why, on their website, ASSC admits they’re only interested in entering schools where a Good News Club exists: “The Satanic Temple is not interested in operating After School Satan Clubs in school districts that are not already hosting the Good News Club.”
Why would an organization that’s truly interested in developing critical thinkers limit where they operate? Because their focus isn’t on the kids. It’s on the adults, and that’s unfortunate.
While Jefferies used a sarcastic comedic approach to illustrate his point, he echoes my sentiment from last year — marketing a Satan club to kids isn’t going to work. And it hasn’t. All it’s done is given the Satanic Temple some cheap headlines and distracted from what’s important — exposing the Good News Club for being an abusive, predatory organization that threatens kids with hell and eternal separation from their loved ones. This is what should be in the headlines, not a Satan club that doesn’t even talk about Satan, from a Satanic Temple that doesn’t believe in Satan. It’s a gimmick. Sure, it freaks Christians out and makes them think twice about putting up a Ten Commandments statue or praying before city council meetings. But has it had any effect on the Good News Club? Nope. They’re still going strong and growing every year, and ASSC has not been successful in getting any Good News Clubs kicked out of schools. Instead, they’ve made atheists look like trolls with nothing to offer but conflict. Now that ASSC is predictably failing, the fundamentalists who run the Good News Club, along with other Christian groups, are claiming that ASSC actually helped them grow due to the added media attention. We all know it’s a matter of time until they claim it as a victory for Jesus — good winning over evil.
So what’s the answer?
One thing we can all do is be vigilant. Look for church-state violations at the hands of the Good News Club or similar organizations. They’re constantly testing their limits and overreaching. Call them out. Report them to organizations like FFRF and AU. Most school districts also mandate that meetings for the Good News Club and all other outside organizations be open to the public. That means you can go and observe. I’ve done it. They really don’t like it, and it may force them to tone down their “sin” message a bit. The Good News Club hates transparency, so if you really want to make them uncomfortable, let them know you’re watching.
And if you feel strongly about offering an alternative to Good News Clubs, start a local Young Skeptics chapter. Young Skeptics is an after school program for elementary school kids that focuses on critical thinking and evidence-based learning. It was started in early 2015 as an alternative to the Good News Club but is not limited to only being in schools that have a GNC. Young Skeptics is inexpensive to launch and, unlike After School Satan Clubs, isn’t going to subject kids to ridicule from their classmates for attending a satanic or atheist club.
Think about it… wouldn’t it be great if religious parents sent their kids to a club that gave them a dose of critical thinking? I think so. So are religious parents more likely to send their kids to After School Satan or Young Skeptics? Should we be marketing a group like this to kids who are already being raised secular, or should we leave the door open for indoctrinated kids who might need critical thinking the most? As a co-fouder of Young Skeptics and someone who ran a local chapter, one of our most exciting moments was when a kid from the Good News Club came into our meeting and sat down to learn how to evaluate evidence.
Let’s save the scare tactics for adults where it might be most effective but take an inviting, fun approach when it comes to our kids. Results are what’s important here, not headlines.
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