The Satanic Temple is planning to introduce a new after-school program to select public elementary schools across the nation later this year.
Doug Mesner, co-founder of the group, argues that if Christian evangelical groups are already participating in after-school programs, Satanic groups should be allowed as well.
"It's critical that children understand that there are multiple perspectives on all issues, and that they have a choice in how they think," Mesner, who goes by Lucien Greaves, said.
The group's website notes that the "Educatin' with Satan" program will teach children a number of concepts, including "critical reasoning, independent-thinking, fun and free thought."
The website goes on to say that while many believe the group worships the devil, this is not exactly true. The group does not teach about the literal existence of Satan, instead using the name as a symbol for rebellion against tyranny and authoritarian rule. The website adds that the group believes in science above all.
The group said that meetings of the after-school program will include a healthy snack, a reading lesson, a creative learning lesson, a science lesson, puzzle solving, and an art project, writes Katherine Stewart for The Washington Post. Those who attend will receive a membership card.
The head of the Satanic Temple Utah chapter, Chalice Blythe, noted that the group believes it is important for children to hear multiple points of view, to have the ability to think critically for themselves, and to feel empathy and benevolence for other people.
In order to make the after-school program a reality, the group said they plan to make use of the same approach used by the Child Evangelism Fellowship to ensure its Good News Club program, which focuses on lessons from the Bible, made it into schools across the country, writes Mary Bowerman for USA Today.
A 2001 ruling by the Supreme Court states that schools cannot discriminate against religious groups requesting the use of public school buildings for after-school programs, adding that these groups must be treated in the same manner as non-religious groups and be allowed to organize.
According to Mesner, the new program would include an hour-long meeting once a month. He said that while the Good News Club teaches children that they "are sinners and going to Hell," the Satanic Temple "will be providing a scientific after school club to balance the superstition being put forward by the Evangelical groups." Those who wish to participate will be required to bring in a signed permission slip.
School districts in nine states located near Satanic Temple chapters have already been contacted by the group. All schools contacted have either previously hosted, or currently host, a Good News Club program. Mesner said that since an article on the program first ran in The Washington Post, the group has received numerous emails from volunteers in other states who are willing to help host after-school clubs.
Mesner added that he thinks Satanists being in public elementary schools will have a positive influence.
"People will see that as an ironic statement that the message of Satanism is a positive message, but that's true," Mesner told USA TODAY. "When they see people â¦ living normal, healthy, productive lives and being decent people it makes them think more critically of the claims being put forth from Evangelicals."