In late July 2016, the Washington Post and other mainstream media reported that a New York-based group called the Satanic Temple was petitioning public school administrators around the U.S. to allow the introduction of After School Satan Clubs in elementary schools. The Temple’s co-founder, Doug Mesner (aka Lucien Greaves), an atheist, said the group’s agenda is to promote multiple points of view and was conceived of in response to the proliferation in schools of Good News Clubs, which promote evangelical Christianity:
“While the Good News Clubs focus on indoctrination, instilling children with a fear of hell and God’s wrath, After School Satan Clubs will focus on free inquiry and rationalism,” Greaves said. “We prefer to give children an appreciation of the natural wonders surrounding them, not a fear of an everlasting other-worldly horror.”
Some on social media reacted to the news by expressing their fears about children being taught to worship the devil and participate in Satanic rituals, but the Satanic Temple — whose activities are described as a “blend of political activism, religious critique and performance art” — does not subscribe to or promote a literal belief in the devil, the Washington Post explained:
The Satanic Temple doesn’t espouse a belief in the existence of a supernatural being that other religions identify solemnly as Satan, or Lucifer, or Beelzebub. The Temple rejects all forms of supernaturalism and is committed to the view that scientific rationality provides the best measure of reality.
According to Mesner, who goes by the professional name of Lucien Greaves, “Satan” is just a “metaphorical construct” intended to represent the rejection of all forms of tyranny over the human mind.
Those who do subscribe to a literal belief in Satan may find the group’s “promotional video” somewhat disturbing, however, in that it incorporates well-known tropes associated with devil worship in pop culture, such as Satanic symbolism, demonic music, backmasking and horror film sound effects:
Greaves is blunt: “We are only doing this because Good News Clubs have created a need for this. If Good News Clubs would operate in churches rather than public schools, that need would disappear. But our point is that if you let one religion into the public schools you have to let others, otherwise it’s an establishment of religion.”
The Satanic Temple’s seven fundamental tenets, which include “One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason,” and “The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend,” are listed on the group’s web site.
Bugbee, Shane. “Unmasking Lucien Greaves, Leader of the Satanic Temple.”
Vice. 29 July 2013.
Stewart, Catherine. “An After School Satan Club Could Be Coming to Your Kid’s Elementary School.”
The Washington Post. 30 July 2016.