Stop Suggesting After School Satan Clubs are the Answer to the Good News Club

AfterSchoolSatanI’m sick of hearing this nonsense.  Whenever I write an article or post something on social media related to the abuses of the Good News Club, I get at least one commenter saying, “That school needs an After School Satan Club.”  To quote the current occupant of the White House, “WRONG.”

As a passionate opponent of the Good News Club, as well as the Executive Director of Young Skeptics, the first of its kind after-school club focused on developing critical thinking skills, I’ve followed the news of the Satanic Temple’s After School Satan Club closely.  Being fully aware of the resources and support on the side of Good News Club, I’ve always had my reservations about how successful the Satanic Temple would be in this arena.  Don’t get me wrong, I applaud their efforts with ASSC and the other battles they’ve taken on to protect church/state separation, and I fully support their goals, however lofty.  But as I stated when ASSC first launched, there’s no shot in hell (pun intended) that this effort will be successful in removing the Good News Club from elementary schools.  And so far it hasn’t helped to remove a single GNC.

So stop suggesting After School Satan Clubs are the answer to the Good News Club.

The Satanic Temple does not have the volunteers or resources to open ASSCs in all of the over 5,000 US public schools the Good News Club currently operates in, despite their stated unrealistic goal to do so.  In addition to that, their goal isn’t even to instill what their curriculum teaches — critical thinking and understanding of the natural world.  If advancing critical thinking were their goal, they’d be in favor of opening clubs in any school, not just schools with Good News Clubs.  From the ASSC website:

Please keep in mind that The Satanic Temple is not interested in operating After School Satan Clubs in school districts that are not already hosting the Good News Club.

That doesn’t show me that education is their top priority. It shows me that a political fight using children as pawns is. Their goal is to take on the Good News Club by taking advantage of the shock value the mention of “satan” in schools evokes, causing school districts to ban their entry, and subsequently the entry of Good News Clubs as a result.  And if that were to work, then bravo.  But it hasn’t, and it won’t.  For those who are unaware, the Good News Club is run by a well-funded, well-lawyered international organization called Child Evangelism Fellowship.  They’re not going anywhere, and they won a Supreme Court case in 2001 to make sure of that.  In the nine schools that currently have an After School Satan Club, all nine still have a Good News Club, and the Satanic Temple has not been successful in getting any school district to kick both clubs out, despite anti-ASSC protests and the media coverage that accompanied them.  The Satanic Temple’s strategy may have worked for religious monuments and in-school Bible distribution, but it’s not working here.

So stop suggesting After School Satan Clubs are the answer to the Good News Club.

Then what is?  That’s hard to say, but it’s likely a multi-faceted approach that includes, but is certainly not limited to:

  • Awareness campaigns focused on GNC’s abuses and fundamentalist teachings in order to lower GNC attendance
  • Lobbying schools to help them realize the GNC breaks school district conduct policies
  • Attending GNC sessions to monitor their abuses and send a message they’re being scrutinized
  • Opening alternative, less shocking and more benign critical thinking clubs like Young Skeptics
  • Monitoring school communications to ensure religious favoritism rules are being adhered to

These are all things that any of us can do to alter the impact that the Good News Club has in our communities.  So when you hear about the abuses of the Good News Club, get up and act.  Don’t wait for someone else to do it, like FFRF, AU, AA, or some other watchdog group.  Those groups will have limited legal standing, if any at all.  And for love of everything unholy and completely secular, stop suggesting After School Satan Clubs are the answer to the Good News Club.  

THEY are not the answer. YOU are.

 

 

Kevin Davis

Kevin Davis is the head writer and editor for SecularVoices, co-founder of Young Skeptics, and author of Understanding an Atheist. He is known for local and national secular activism and has spoken at conferences and events such as Reason Rally 2016 and the Ark Encounter Protest and Rally.

View all posts by Kevin Davis →

72 thoughts on “Stop Suggesting After School Satan Clubs are the Answer to the Good News Club

      1. 2 Points:
        Yes you did say that — in the title.
        Relax dude, we KNOW that the Satanic Temp[le’s resources are strained and limited, and that there other options available. Those that are driven to do this, are intelligent enough to look into the alternatives.

    1. Galen, TST is ONE answer to the GNC, not THE answer. I support their work but, if you look at my other posts, you will see we take a different approach. TST and FFRF Maine work for the same goal but employ different strategies. Both are effective in their own way.

  1. I think we cling to the ASSCs because they are the only weapon we have in the fight against the GNCs. Good News Clubs are legal and parents are often in favor of teaching their child about their sinful nature. Consequently, we have no other obvious response and hate to see this go unanswered.

      1. They’re really the only one in play. You talk about what you could do, which is essentially the nothing that has been done for 15 years: explaining to people who will listen as to why you find GNC harmful. But I don’t see you getting anywhere there, and I find it laughable that you think, somehow, that ASSC isn’t doing that better than anything to date. If you were going to do anything, you’d do something different… till then you’ll just sit back and criticize.

        1. “If you were going to do anything, you’d do something different… till then you’ll just sit back and criticize.”

          I’m not doing anything but sitting back and criticizing? You’re grossly misinformed. I’m the founder and Executive Director of Young Skeptics, I’ve attended GNC meetings, been in local and national TV and print stories talking about the GNC, and actively contact schools who are advertising GNC functions, getting them to take down their communications. Get lost with that bullshit.

  2. You are correct that TST does not have the resources for large number of ASSCs to take on GNCs…However, surprisingly I don’t see too many other challenges to GNC from other church-state separation groups…FFRF, ALCU, Humanist groups, etc. TST at least got some media pointing out negative info about the GNCs and may have some school districts at least thinking twice before allowing new GNCs in their districts.

      1. You’re absolutely wrong, and I’m not at all sure why you’d even think for a moment that that is correct? They do have legal standing, AU is representing them, and they are preparing a suit in Tucson against GNC

    1. Damien, Any school district that allows any after school programs is legally obligated to allow the GNC. They can’t “think twice” and decide to discriminate against the GNC. Legal challenges, as Kevin notes below, are hugely expensive, would take years and would require SCOTUS to reverse its decision. The approach FFRF Maine is taking is to have the school administration mandate that all after school programs do no harm to children. Currently the GNC encourages children to bully their classmates for religious differences and that causes harm. Getting the GNC out of schools is not our focus, keeping children safe is.

      1. Yes, actually school districts can decide to allow NO after school programs by any outside groups. So they can think twice about how they handle after school groups and activities…

        …But I am glad to hear FFRF is working this issue as you described, and I stand corrected if FRFF has been more involved.

        1. Thanks Damien, I was focused on schools thinking twice about allowing new GNC’s to start. As you correctly stated, the school can decide not to have any after school programs, new or established, but that hurts the children. Our position is to allow after school programs so long as they don’t harm children. FFRF Maine is very involved in protecting children from the GNC but the national FFRF organization has a broader perspective. Thanks for your support.

      2. Now it’s obvious that you never bothered to learn about TST’s efforts before giving us your worthless opinion. TST makes very clear that revised standards of conduct against proselytizing, coerced conversion, and authoritarian conditioning are completely legal. If you don’t understand that, you never understood ASSC or the laws surrounding GNCs, so it’s not surprising you’ve done nothing of value.

        1. Hi Broker, We are all working for the same thing, protecting our children. It does no good to misinterpret what I said and wrongfully conclude that that I don’t understand TST efforts or that my statement of facts are worthless. To work together for common goals it is helpful to understand what each group brings to the table. TST can be effective in their way and FFRF Maine has been effective in their way. We work with school department superintendents to up date their policies and ensure they are followed. We think this approach allows the school to continue to have after school programs and still protect children. If you disagree, please let us know how we can improve our efforts to protect children and give them the opportunity to attend after school programs that will enhance their education and not harm them.

  3. The Baphomat statue is where it is at. Yeah, I expected ASSC to be more successful when I first heard of it. Now I just like it to piss Christians off. After all, TST is not serious about skepticism like YS is. Even if it was, Satan will distract from skepticism.

    Could TST oppose the Ten Commandment monuments that Oklahoma wants to put in public schools instead? Baphomat was a success, removing one monument. And it will probably build into a lawsuit soon against Arkansas. So that should be the battles TST sticks to.

    Individual action in social media is better than ASSC or even YS. After all, you can call the school out for censoring criticism of GNC.

    1. ORigel, In my opinion, individual action on social media, without following it up with action, amounts to preaching to the choir. For sure it is a step in the right direction but, by itself, not effective. If by calling the school out for censoring criticism of GNC means forming a group to meet with, and work with, the school administration to help them protect our children, I’m with you.

      1. First you post comments on school social media. If they’re censored, then the school is endorsing GNC and you take action against it. Like writing the school a letter. I think social media is a good way to sniff out a church-state violation to take action against.

    2. “Satan will distract from skepticism.” This is the height of ignorance. TST is clear that Satan is an literary metaphor. Ignoring mythology, rather than showing people it is malleable isn’t solving anything.

      1. Can you explain how to teach skepticism to elementary kids in a lesson plan saturated with references to a metaphorical Satan? I think YS is better for that; at least they have their lesson plans online.

        I know TST Satan is a literary Satan. But I doubt TST will make people realize the error of religion; it is for humanists.
        .
        I find TST clever and I like them. But I must admit that too much Satan will fuel Evangelical misconceptions about atheists. They think there are no atheists in foxholes and we’re angry at God and that we’re hedonists. Are most people going to dig deep enough to learn that TST doesn’t worship the Devil?

        I hoped shock factors would drive GNC out of schools. But if there should be freethought clubs to actually teach skepticism, let it not be ASSC.

        1. Who said anything about loading the curriculum with references to Satan? I really don’t know how much I can take the “skepticism” of any of the commenters here seriously when you don’t bother learning the first thing about the topic you’re commenting on. TST has made clear, again and again, that their curriculum has nothing to do with Satan and contains no items of religious opinion. However, they feel it’s important that the children know the program is carried out by self-identified Satanists because, in an environment where GNC is preaching one God or eternal torture, they’ll see that different people can hold entirely different beliefs and put different values to the same symbols. That is a vital lesson in skepticism, and entirely undermines superstition.

          1. I like TST, but I don’t know its clubs’ curriculum and how well it fares next to YS. And I think the Satanic imagery- even if it goes no farther than the name- will even alienate nontheist parents that are too lazy to learn ASSC is not a cult club or whatever. I liked ASSC for its primary mission of shutting down GNC. But it has not shut down a single club yet.

            So ASSC is not the answer to GNC, it’s a answer and maybe not the most effective one.

            You can’t deny that TST didn’t really want to open any clubs- look at the trailer for ASSC on the ASSC website. The trailer is meant to scare parents.

            Critical thinking is more effectively taught by a club whose purpose is NOT so bent towards ending GNC. And does not use Satanic imagery on the exterior of the package.

            In other words, I believe in a variety of approaches including ASSC. But if I had to choose one approach, it would be something along the lines of Kim Davis’s.

            And good point on the seeing different values have meaning and morality.

          2. “It has not shut down a single club yet.” This is the most pathetic argument of them all. “It has only started, but hasn’t shut down a club yet, so let’s stop.” And again, you obviously don’t know what you’re talking about. ASSC HAS opened in several in several schools, and they have children registered in the clubs. Stop pretending that your powers of understanding are so much more superior than the rest of the world’s. “They just won’t understand.” And stop with this asinine argument that both states the ASSC is somehow delegitimized because it’s strictly on opposition to GNCs, while also claiming it somehow distracts from the fight against GNCs. You really think ASSC shouldn’t be attempted till TST can open one in EVERY school that has GNC? For that matter, the author of this piece talks about his efforts against GNC. Exactly how many has he shut down? This kind of criticism is coming from what authority??

          3. We are outliers, being plugged into the atheosphere to tell us that Satanists are working for what we are working for. Most non-believers are not involved in the movement, and only think theistic Satanism exists. Before becoming an atheist activist, when I was one “agnostic atheist” I believed that Satanists didn’t exist but in the mind of theists.

            Maybe those people will get put off by the trailer for ASSC. It has creepy high pitched music and I couldn’t help get the feeling that the kids in there were (forgive me) being stalked by pedophiles even though I was well-acquainted with TST by then.

            You have to face the fact that TST is way too small compared to GNC to fight it well. Several schools? That’s nothing compared to GNC. GNC has more money and more voluteers, as well as clubs in 5 percent of elementary schools. Impossible for TST to be the cure-all. They are not the answer, you are.

            I support ASSC, but we can do more, collectively, than what one organization can do. The nearest TST chapter to me is several hours away. They aren’t coming to any school near me. (Luckily, there is no GNC at my local district either).

            Watch the trailer, and see if you can still say that TST’s purpose is establishing clubs.

            http://afterschoolsatan.com/

  4. As a parent, I very much welcome their presence and hope my kid’s HS (still a few years in the future) gets one. My kid will likely go to neither club, but the mere existence of an ASSC I expect will provide us with the meat for at least one conversation about the value of free speech, the first amendment, and so on.

    So IMO it *is* an answer, though maybe not to the question “what will get Good News Clubs out of schools”. Its an answer to the question “what does religious freedom mean in the US, not just in theory but in practice?”

    1. Eric, Currently ASSC’s are only in schools where there is also a Good News Club. The GNC only operate clubs in elementary schools because children of that age group generally have not developed the critical thinking skills the older children in Jr. HS or HS have.

      The 1st amendment guarantees the separation of church and state. It also allows the religious freedom to practice your faith in your place of worship and in your home. Constitutionally, the problem arises when religious people work to create laws or public practices that everyone must. Examples would be prayers, bible reading, bible distribution and religious instructions in schools. With an evangelical, fundamentalist Christian as secretary of the education department, we can expect all of the above to happen in all public schools. Please don’t wait until your children are in HS to take action. I urge you work to protect your children today.

      1. Well there’s no GNC in his elementary school, so I’m already in the ideal situation. I still don’t have the negative opinion of them KD has, though I would probably agree with everyone here that neither is better than both.

  5. I think After School Satan clubs play an important role in educating.. not the kids, but the parents and teachers. You admit that you don’t have any brilliant alternatives, but you know, when those Satanists come along, a lot of adults who should have know better get a crash course in basic civics.

    1. Anne, please see our (FFRF Maine) alternative approach. I am in no way saying our approach is better but it does have the advantage of allowing all after school programs to run providing they abide by the school’s child protection policies and do not harm our children.

  6. I’m a proponent of ‘the more tools in our toolkit the better’ philosophy. ASS isn’t everything, but it is something. We can do the other things as well.

  7. While the TST goal is to get the GNC out of public schools, an admiral goal, their tactics seem to me to be throwing out the baby with the bath water. FFRF Maine’s approach is to work with school administrators to ensure the school policies that protect children are up to date and followed. As an example, one school we worked with had policies that had not been updated in 15 years and, although anti-bullying for sexual orientation policies were in place, anti-bullying for gender identity was not. We also found that although anti-bullying policies for religious reasons were included, they were rarely followed. School policies work best when they protect our children from bullying, no matter what the source, including after school programs. If ANY after school program is found to be the source of bullying, for any reason, that program should not be allowed to influence our children, at taxpayers expense, in our public schools.

    1. Then why does TST Maine keep reaching out to TST to start an After School Club? Does your chapter actually communicate with one another?

      1. Is TST Maine up and running again? I thought Mercy was not actively working the chapter right now. I have emailed Mercy several times in the past to see how our groups could work together and would welcome the opportunity to start working together. I will email her now and thanks for letting me know TST Maine is active again.

    2. My membership with FFRF is due for renewal. Seeing this type of “We’re doing it right – you are not” BS from FFRF Maine is making me rethink my membership.

      1. Could you explain what it was I said in the above post that leads you to interpret it as “We’re doing it right – you are not”? That was not my intention and it would help us to know how what we said could be misinterpreted. Thank you

        1. “(TST’s) tactics seem to me to be throwing out the baby with the bath water. FFRF Maine’s approach is to work with school administrators to ensure the school policies that protect children are up to date and followed.”

          1. OK, I see how that could be misinterpreted as we think we are doing it right etc. Correct me if I am wrong but isn’t the TST goal to get the GNC out of schools by encouraging parents to lobby the school to get rid of them, knowing that would mean ALL programs would be denied? Hence the baby and bathwater comment. We have no problem with TST and we applaud their efforts. We just think their strategy MAY deprive student from participating in programs that don’t harm them. Since, I think, the Maine TST does not have any volunteers right now, I was thinking of calling Doug to see if we can offer him some help in Maine.

          2. So I wrote to FFRF to make sure that you do not speak for the organization. They confirmed that you do not and added:

            “FFRF has done a great deal of work to help the Satanic Temple, including litigation with and for them. There are unquestionably public relations complications as one of the greatest myths we have to overcome from ignorant religionists is the idea that “atheists” are “satanists.” Of course atheists don’t believe in devils anymore than in gods. But notwithstanding that, we are very appreciative of the S.T. help in curing state/church violations. I also have to smile every time I see their tongue in cheek material.

            FFRF is in the process of developing its own curriculum and we think the more, the merrier – it will take a lot of work to combat the Good News Club, a huge, well-heeled international child evangelist organization with countless volunteers on the ground.”

  8. There is more than one approach to just about everything. Just because someone else’s solution isn’t your cup of tea doesn’t mean they have to stop.

    1. No, but if someone else’s solution doesn’t accomplish squat, and/or just embarrasses other people involved in the cause and dumbs down the debate, that DOES mean we should at least call out the BS and encourage people to stop wasting their resources on it.

        1. If they’re not getting GNCs out of schools, then what are they really doing about such endorsement? And are you sure more serious organizations like FFRF aren’t doing a better job of that?

          1. You don’t realize that TST works with the FFRF and that Americans United for the Separation of Church and State are their legal counsel for ASSC? Because they haven’t shut down GNC in the first semester you think they should fold up shop? I’m glad we have more motivated people than you. Not sure how you imagine ASSC is wasting resources of yours?? And how do you know how many GNCs ASSC has prevented? The first question now when GNC arrives is whether or not the Satanists will show up. Also, they’re gearing up to sue GNC in Tucson for impropriety. Sorry it’s all too slow for you, but I don’t see you getting a damn thing done

      1. Any thoughts on a ‘good’ name? Slogan? And what’s the motivation to do it? It’s a drag doing something like this, week in and week out.

        I’m sure a better message can be designed but who will deliver it? And why?

        The GNC may be the equivalent (mentally) of NAMBLA but both have the motivation to pay for access to children.

        I’d like to know how the local volunteers feel about the GNC. What possesses them? Are they all believers in this terrible message?

  9. You never know what will work until you try.

    “Local Mom Gets Attacked Online by Good News Club Supporters for Standing up for Church/State Separation”

    And that’s without TSC.

  10. All of what is described in this piece as being the “actual” solution to GNC are things that The Satanic Temple is very actively doing, and it seems that multitudes are more aware of GNC abuses now. And talk about the whole point soaring way over the head of the author when it’s suggested that they should be in any school. No, definitely not. Why would they open the door to religiously identified groups in schools and take attention away from GNC. This is the kind of petty whining we always see from people who get nothing done. You can “raise awareness” to other secularists, and then you can have your little identity clubs, but in order to convince the people who will never see a problem with GNC, you need to show them why this groups in schools are problematic in general.

  11. Any sort of reference as a “Satanic Club ” will bring heavy resistance from the community. “Satanic” still has connotations and images of all sorts of sacrifices, horrible crimes, and other evil activity. Communities get alarmed if there is Satanist activity present.

  12. I’m seeing a lot of arguing in these comments about who has the best strategy to defeat the Good News Clubs

    …by a bunch of people who are salty that they didn’t do anything about those Good News Clubs and are pissed that TST beat them to it and are effectively doing something about it. Unlike the atheists that sit there and cry and moan about how nobody is “doing it right” – while doing nothing at all.

  13. Still looking for ideas for a club for kids.

    How about

    “College for Kids”

    “Giving your child the tools they need to succeed at school and later at college but in a fun, enjoyable way” ??

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