An Illinois school district is defending an elementary school after it received criticism from parents for handing out flyers promoting a controversial After-School Satan Club for students in the first through fifth grades sponsored by the Satanic Temple.
"Hey Kids, let's have fun at After School Satan Club," read the flyer distributed by Jane Addams Elementary School in Moline, Illinois.
The flyer says the program is about "science projects, puzzles and games, arts and crafts projects, nature activities," according to a tweet.
Many parents criticized the Moline-Coal Valley School District after the flyer appeared on social media, CBN News reports.
"Kick every board member off that allowed this to occur. Vote in new people with common sense, morals and ethics," wrote a parent on Twitter.
The school district was quick to come to the defense of the elementary school's decision.
"The district does not discriminate against any groups who wish to rent our facilities, including religious-affiliated groups," it said in a statement. "Religiously affiliated groups are among those allowed to rent our facilities for a fee."
It added, "The district has, in the past, approved these types of groups, one example being the Good News Club, which is an after-school child evangelism fellowship group. Flyers and promotional materials for these types of groups are approved for lobby posting or display only, and not for mass distribution."
It further sought to explain, saying, "Students or parents are then able to pick up the flyer from the lobby, if they so choose, which is aligned to District policy. Please note that the district must provide equal access to all groups and that students need parental permission to attend any after-school event. Our focus remains on student safety and student achievement."
The Satanic Temple says on its website: "Proselytization is not our goal, and we're not interested in converting children to [s]atanism. After School Satan Clubs will focus on free inquiry and rationalism, the scientific basis for which we know what we know about the world around us... We prefer to give children an appreciation of the natural wonders surrounding them, not a fear of everlasting other-worldly horrors."
A letter from Rachel Savage, Moline-Coal Valley Schools Superintendent, said a district parent had asked the Satanic Temple to offer the program to the elementary school "to offer parents a choice of different viewpoints," because the school was offering a "child evangelism fellowship club."
"Flyers were not distributed to all students," Savage said, according to New York Post.
In November 2016, Point Defiance Elementary School in Tacoma, a school district in Washington state, became the second in the nation to approve the After School Satan Club program for elementary school students.
"Satanic Temple of Seattle spokesman Tarkus Claypool ... said a parent brought the Bible club to their attention over concerns the club was teaching children to evangelize to other children. Claypool said their curriculum teaches children logic, self-empowerment and reasoning and they don't worship a deity," according to local news station Q13 Fox.
A month earlier, the Satanic Temple had launched a nationwide After School Satan Club to counter Christian student organizations in public schools.
The group's creation came in response to the Christian Good News Club that was meeting at public schools throughout the nation.
Douglas Mesner, spokesperson and co-founder of The Satanic Temple, who goes by the name Lucien Greaves, told The Christian Post at the time that the Christian club's presence at public schools "created the need for a counter-balance in the extracurricular options."
Moises Esteves, vice president of USA Ministries for Child Evangelism Fellowship, told CP at the time that he believed the Satan club was "yet another atheist PR stunt" that "has no staying power."
"The 'After-School Satan Club' is simply another attention-seeking atheist club. The choice of mascot reveals that its leaders simply hate God, and are trying to provoke or spook parents and schools," said Esteves. "Like those before it, this club will fizzle out, because parents don't view their children as pawns for a 'blend of political activism, religious critique and performance art' by angry atheists."
In 2001, the United States Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in the decision Good News Club v. Milford Central School that the Christian group had the right to meet on public school property after school hours.