We already know folks at the Christian legal defense group Liberty Counsel are tripping over themselves when it comes to dealing with the After School Satan clubs promoted by The Satanic Temple. Now they’re flat-out lying to public schools about the nature of the ASS clubs, and we have proof.
After initially saying “they have a First Amendment right to meet,” Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver did a 180 and told supporters that they were preparing to file lawsuits against ASS clubs if the situation presented itself.
So let’s bring up a couple of important details I mentioned the other day:
1) These Satanic clubs are only being formed in schools that already have a (Christian) Good News Club. It’s all about equal treatment under the law.
2) The Satanic group is all about teaching ethics and kindness, not indoctrinating children into atheism or Satanism. And it’s not an anti-Christian group.
3) The districts will have to decide whether to accept both clubs under the umbrella of religious freedom or reject the Satanists and risk a lawsuit.
With that in mind, we now know how Liberty Counsel is advising public school districts to respond to the Satanic clubs. And, as usual, their message is full of hyperbole and lies.
Just look at some of the things Liberty Counsel told Roskruge Bilingual School in Tucson, Arizona in a letter sent this week and obtained by TST leaders:
[The Satanic Temple] especially hates Christianity, and seeks to force permissible expressions of Christian belief from the public sphere, through various publicity stunts and antics. In the past, for instance, TST has presented state and local governments with the false choice of either accepting a statue of “Satan” to go alongside a Ten Commandments monument, or in removing the monument itself, despite the fact that courts have upheld Ten Commandments monuments as being completely legal on government property. See Van Orden v. Perry… Now, TST is seeking to intimidate school districts with another false choice, of either allowing an “After School Satan” club, or eliminating other privately-sponsored after school clubs, especially the Good News Club.
So many problems in that single paragraph…
1) The Satanic Temple doesn’t hate Christianity. The After School Satan clubs aren’t Christian-bashing groups. Liberty Counsel seems to think any religious group that’s not pro-Christian must be against them. That’s how the Christian Persecution Complex works. But it’s wrong.
2) No one is forcing Christians out of the public sphere. They are still welcome to preach and proselytize and annoy the hell out of everyone they meet. Kids can bring Bibles to school, pray before meals, try to convert their friends, and join Christian clubs. Any conflict in this area has only occurred when Christians wanted special treatment from the government. The Satanists asking for permission to form an after school club is not putting Christianity out of business. At worst, Christians would be treated the same as all other religious groups.
3) The Ten Commandments controversy isn’t a false choice. The very Supreme Court case Liberty Counsel cited states that a Ten Commandments monument could remain up on government property because it was part of a larger display that wasn’t religious in nature. (What they don’t tell you is that another Supreme Court case, decided on the very same day, found that a stand-alone Ten Commandments monument on government property was unconstitutional.)
That’s why the choice isn’t false. In Oklahoma, where there was a stand-alone Ten Commandments monument — you know, the illegal kind — the Satanists requested space for their own monument, arguing that the government could accept all donated displays from religious groups… or it could remove the illegal stand-alone Christian one. The State Supreme Court eventually forced the government’s hand, saying the Ten Commandments monument had to come down.
4) The TST isn’t intimidating the school districts. They’re merely reminding administrators of the law. School officials cannot approve a Christian club and deny a non-Christian group that obeys all the rules. If the After School Satan club meets all the requirements to form a group at a particular school, administrators cannot say no to them.
So what is Liberty Counsel’s advice to officials?
Banning all non-school clubs, or Good News Club permission slips, however, is not required in order to protect children from hateful groups like the TST or its “after school club.” School districts may simply require parental permission for any student participation in all privately-sponsored clubs, and trust to the good judgment of parents.
That’s convenient, isn’t it? Don’t let the kids decide whether or not to attend the club. Let their parents decide. They’ll inevitably say yes to the “wholesome” religious group while rejecting the “evil” Satanic group. It plays to the exact kind of prejudice and fear the Satanic group is trying to eliminate. (Christians use the same tactic to stifle Gay Straight Alliance groups.)
For what it’s worth, The Satanic Temple has already taken this into consideration. In the Washington Post article announcing the formation of ASS clubs, the group laid out how meetings would work:
The curriculum for the proposed after-school clubs emphasizes the development of reasoning and social skills. The group says meetings will include a healthful snack, literature lesson, creative learning activities, a science lesson, puzzle solving and an art project. Every child will receive a membership card and must have a signed parental permission slip to attend.
So, once again, they’re playing by the same rules as Christians. It’s up to school officials to decide whether to allow both groups (and others to come) or cancel all after school clubs out of spite. Both choices, however, would be legal.
For a group that loves to brag about how much it fights for religious liberty, they sure as hell hate to see it applied to anyone but themselves.
(Portions of this article were published earlier)