A California elementary school with plans to host an after-school Satan club, just days before Christmas, is facing major backlash from parents.
Organizers from the After School Satan Club will hold monthly meetings at Golden Hills Elementary School in Tehachapi, California starting in December, Bakersfield Now reports.
The move has sparked outrage among some parents.
"Tehachapi said yes, and I think they made a mistake. I know my grandson will not be a part of this club," said Brenda Maher, grandparent of a 1st grader.
"I think it's wrong and it shouldn't be in the school," another said.
The club was created by the non-theistic religious organization Satanic Temple and began to gain national attention in 2016. According to their website, the group's sole purpose is to give students an alternative to Christian evangelical after-school clubs.
"The Satanic Temple does not advocate for religion in schools," the group claims on its website. "However, once religion invades schools, as the Good News Clubs have, the Satanic Temple will fight to ensure that plurality and true religious liberty are respected."
The Tehachapi club organizers said they decided to implement the club at the school in direct response to the Good News Club, a weekly Christian program for children 5 to 12 years old.
"There's currently a Good News Club there which is teaching kids to go save souls for Jesus, at the school. We want to give an alternative point of view," said Paul Hicks, the Satan Club leader.
In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled that public schools must allow the same access to its facilities to both secular and religious groups. This includes both Good News Clubs and After School Satan Clubs.
The Tehachapi Unified School District said in an open letter that they cannot discriminate against any group based on viewpoint, and they are not endorsing any organization that wants to use their facility.
"I think it's disgusting, I understand the school has to allow them because they allow other after-school programs such as the Good News, which is a Christian-based after-school program, that one I'm OK with. But I can't imagine why anyone would want their child to attend this Satanic group," Sheila Knight, grandparent to a fifth-grader at Golden Hills, said.
According to the group's flyer, parents must give their child permission to attend. According to SFGate, at least three children have signed up to be part of the After School Satan Club.
Hicks added that the group is only present at the school because a parent requested it.
"From my understanding, the Good News Clubs sent out some flyers, which they are certainly entitled to do, and some parents got together and said we're not interested in this. And they knew of the After School Satan Club, and they requested our presence," he said.
He contends the after-school program doesn't actually promote satanism but rather critical thinking and empathy.
"I'm not teaching these kids to be satanic, I'm not teaching these kids that they need to hail satan or identify as satanists," he declared. "What we're doing is we're thinking critical thinking, we're teaching science, we're teaching empathy and benevolence."
But some parents aren't buying it.
"'So several people have told me that the new Satan after-school club at Golden Hills elementary is not a religion, but a philosophy club … Then why did they choose Satan?'" asked concerned citizen Joe Lathrop in the Facebook group "Tehachapi Ask, Raves and Rants." "Why not the Jean-Paul Sartre existentialism club? Why not the Descartes club?"
He added, "They put Satan in the name for a reason. People should stop being intellectually dishonest and just own up to the fact that they want kids to worship Satan as a secular god."
As CBN News reported, a catchy, semi-animated promotional video from the group included a song encouraging young children to embrace Satan as an imaginary friend.
The video repeatedly states "there is no hell" and goes on to claim that "Satan doesn't actually exist, he's an imaginary friend..."
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