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‘After School Satan Club’ for elementary kids is met with ‘hostility,’ lawsuit says

Miami Herald
A Tennessee school district doesn’t want an “After School Satan Club” to meet at its elementary school and is accused of defying the First Amendment with efforts to “thwart” it, according to a new federal lawsuit.

The club is sponsored by the Satanic Temple, a non-theistic church recognized by the IRS and self-described as “the primary religious Satanic organization in the world.”

The After School Satan Club was launched at Chimneyrock Elementary School in Memphis, Tennessee, for students who “may not feel welcomed or more comfortable at other, more traditional religious clubs,” and after two parents expressed an interest in it, the lawsuit filed March 19 says.

Memphis-Shelby County Schools doesn’t support the Satanic Temple or the club, according to the suit, but approved the program in December out of legal obligation — to the disappointment of some parents, McClatchy News previously reported.

The club has been met with “overt hostility” and “disdain” from school officials, the lawsuit says.

The Satanic Temple, based in Salem, Massachusetts, has established more than five clubs in U.S. public schools and hopes to launch more clubs in other districts, according to the suit.

‘After School Satan Club’ is declared the ‘enemy’

The chair of the Shelby County Board of Education, Althea Greene, discussed “canceling ‘the agenda’” of the Satanic Temple during a Dec. 13 news conference, the suit says.

She declared the temple, and its club, the school district’s “enemy,” saying “Satan has no room in this district,” according to the suit.

The district has refused to treat the Satanic Temple equally in comparison to a Christian Good News Club, which meets weekly at the elementary school, the suit says.

It has charged the Satanic Temple higher weekly rental and security fees for hosting the club on school grounds than it charges the Good News Club, according to the lawsuit.

The district “cannot pick and choose how much it charges an organization … based on how much it does or does not favor the organization’s viewpoint,” the lawsuit says.

The Satanic Temple is suing the Shelby County Board of Education for “serious” First Amendment violations, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the organization representing the temple, said in a March 20 news release.

It is accused of discriminating against the temple and its club.

“The Satanic Temple simply wants to be treated equally to other groups renting school facilities,” June Everett, the ordained minister of the Satanic Temple and the After School Satan Club’s campaign director, told McClatchy News in a statement on March 22.

The Memphis-Shelby County Schools Board of Education maintains that its policy for renting school facilities “applies to various groups, regardless of affiliation,” according to a statement provided to McClatchy News.

“Our legal team is actively working on the lawsuit, and as a school board, we are committed to ensuring that students, staff, and families are supported as we finish the school year successfully,” the school board said March 22.

Does the Satanic Temple worship Satan?

The Satanic Temple has seven tenets that are central to its mission as an organization.

“One should strive to act with compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason,” the first tenet says.

The temple doesn’t worship Satan but considers Satan to be “a literary figure who represents a metaphorical construct of rejecting tyranny, championing the human mind and spirit, and seeking justice and egalitarianism for all,” the suit says.

Why the ‘After School Satan Club’ was created

The “After School Satan Club” is against public schools exposing students to different religious organizations, according to the temple’s website.

It “will only open a club if other religious groups are operating on campus,” the website says.

The club offers students community service projects, activities related to nature and science, and creativity, according to the lawsuit.

Its program is inspired by “Satanic virtues” and “helps children build social and emotional skills and provides a framework for helping them understand the world around them,” the lawsuit says.

The school district’s ‘illegal tactics’

The first After School Satan Club was held at Chimneyrock Elementary School on Jan. 10, according to the lawsuit.

Since then, the school district has changed what time the club is allowed to meet from 4:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., which caused logistical issues, so the club moved to 8 a.m., the lawsuit says.

This forced the club to change its name to the “Before School Satan Club,” according to the suit, which notes the Good News Club also meets at the same time.

In addition to changing the club’s start time, the district is accused of canceling the temple’s rental applications and refusing to “communicate with the Temple regarding” these rates, the Freedom From Religion Foundation said in its release.

“It’s clear that such illegal tactics are fueled by hostility” and meant to stop the club, according to the organization.

The lawsuit says the district has “chilled” the Satanic Temple’s speech and wants the court to declare that the school district is violating the Constitution.

The temple seeks $1 in nominal damages.

Nominal damages, a small monetary amount, are awarded to declare a plaintiff was “right but suffered no substantial harm,” according to

“The After School Satan Club (and Before School Satan Club) are requesting fair and equal access to rent school facilities without being discriminated against,” Everett told McClatchy News.

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