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Lebanon elementary school to host After School Satan Club

Logo of the Satanic Temple After School Satan Club
June Everett

The Satanic Temple is renting space at Donovan Elementary School in Lebanon for an after school program called After School Satan Club. Students will get to explore a variety of different interests, like music and nature.

The temple is a national, non-theistic and human rights group. The temple has been launching clubs in schools that also house Christian Good News Clubs since 2016, including in Salt Lake City, Utah and Moline, Illinois.

In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled in Good News Club v. Milford Central School that public school districts cannot discriminate against after school groups who want to rent space, including religious groups. Everett says this ruling has blurred the lines between church and state, and is why the temple is targeting schools that house the Christian club.

“We would prefer that the church, or any kind of church groups, stay completely out of the public sector. But since they're there, and we're allowed to be there, that's the reason we want to offer a safe place,” Everett said.

Everett says she received emails from Lebanon parents who wanted to start an After School Satan Club in their schools, after their kids came home with permission slips to join the Good News Club. The parents wanted an alternative, she said.

“It's a safe place where kids can be kids, where they can have fun,” Everett said. “We're letting our volunteers really cater things to the kids that are participating so that it doesn't ever seem boring. And it’s very self directed.”

Kyle Latchow is the Ohio Director of the Christian Evangelism Fellowship, which operates over 5,000 Good News Clubs across the country. He says that the First Amendment allows people to practice their religion within the government, and the clubs are transparent with what they teach.

“We teach the Bible accurately. That's not hidden,” Latchow said. “It's on the permission slip.”

Latchow said in his experience, he has not heard any concern from parents on how they run their clubs. Everett, however, said the Satanic Temple has received a lot of backlash from the Lebanon community, including threats to dox the parents who reached out.

“I've been in touch with them on a daily basis, especially since the club was approved, so that we can make sure everything's going smooth and that there's no actual threats of violence or anything towards their property, their kids,” Everett said.

Lebanon schools said in a statement that they understand parents’ concerns, and that this is not a school-sponsored event. The statement goes on to say that the school does not and cannot discriminate against any groups that want to use their space.

The first meeting is this afternoon, and they will meet once a month after that. At today’s meeting students will be planting sunflower seeds. Everett says they’re looking to start a program in Canton next.

Mawa Iqbal is a reporter for WYSO. Before coming to WYSO, she interned at Kansas City PBS's digital magazine, Flatland. There, her reporting focused on higher education and immigrant communities in the Kansas City area. She studied radio journalism at Mizzou, where she also worked for their local NPR-affiliate station as a reporter.