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An Illinois elementary school is the latest home of an After School Satan Club and local Christians can’t seem to handle it. Yesterday, as the club held its first meeting, a small group of Christians (including a local pastor) protested outside the building, unable to comprehend the ideas that Christianity isn’t the only game in town and public schools can’t discriminate on the basis of religion.

The history of the club

To understand what’s going on here, a little history lesson may help.

When Congress passed the Equal Access Act of 1984, white evangelicals were thrilled. It meant the government couldn’t stop the formation of after-school Bible clubs at public schools throughout the country; Christians now had the right to use public school space just like any other club. The late Jerry Falwell was ecstatic, saying, “We knew we couldn’t win on school prayer, but ‘equal access’ gets us what we wanted all along.”

That decision, however, eventually opened the door to Gay-Straight Alliance and Secular Student Alliance groups — unintended consequences of the law Christians fought so hard to pass.

This idea has also extended to public elementary schools, where the rules are much more stringent.

In 2001, the Supreme Court said all public schools with “limited public forums” couldn’t discriminate on the basis of religion, and ever since, Christians have been forming Good News Clubs at elementary schools. These groups, sponsored by Child Evangelism Fellowship and run by volunteers, aim to spread fundamentalist Christianity to little kids before they’re old enough to think critically. By 2011, they were in an astonishing 5% of the nation’s elementary schools.

So in 2016, Satanists decided to play their game.

They launched their own version of a public school religious group — but their After School Satan programs weren’t about indoctrination. Instead, the Satanists chose to “focus on free inquiry and rationalism, the scientific basis for which we know what we know about the world around us.” Think of it as a science club with a devilish twist. Anyone was welcome to attend, and they would follow whatever rules the school districts had in place for similar groups.

AfterSchoolSatan

The reaction has been predictable. Whenever these groups pop up, Christians are outraged, as if they alone should control the religious discourse at a school. Evangelist Franklin Graham even called on his followers to pray for these ASS clubs to be shut down… even though that would be a violation of the law. (Graham doesn’t care.)

What’s happening in Illinois

Thursday marked the first meeting of an ASS Club at Jane Addams Elementary School in Moline. There are four additional meetings planned for the remainder of the school year. We know all this because flyers advertising the club were available on a table in the school’s lobby and a picture of one quickly went viral.

The Moline-Coal Valley School District must have been inundated with complaints because they soon issued a statement making clear that, legally, they had to allow the group to meet because all rules were followed and they can’t discriminate against Satanists. Still, at least one parent posted that flyer on a now-deleted Facebook post, leading to reactions like “Wait what????? How is this even a thing? Who approved this? I just know they’re about to catch hell because I would be going tf off.”

I doubt Satanists are worried about catching hell. But still, that person’s ignorance doesn’t outweigh the legal rights of Satanists. The school wasn’t involved in advertising the group. Teachers didn’t hand out flyers. The information was available for parents to take in the lobby just like flyers for any other group.

Superintendent Dr. Rachel Savage also said in a letter to parents this week that the group formed at the request of a local parent — in case anyone was wondering who was behind all this.

“A parent from within our district reached out to the national after-school satan club, informing them that Jane Addams Elementary School, in Moline, offers a child evangelism fellowship club and asked that they bring their program to that school as well, to offer parents a choice of different viewpoints.”

I don’t know who that person is, but whoever you are, I salute you. The best response to a Christian club is creating a better alternative.

Conservative Christians weren’t satisfied. They generally can’t handle the fact that non-Christians exist, and they love crying about persecution. FOX News even found a perfect example of a Jesus-loving whiner:

Patti Garibay, founder and executive director of American Heritage Girls, a Christian alternative to the Girl Scouts, told Fox News Digital in an email, “At a time when youth are experiencing a mental health pandemic, it is outrageous that a school district would allow a club based on the master of confusion.”

I can’t decide if Garibay is too dumb to look up what the ASS Club actually promotes, too ignorant about how the law works, or too obsessed with playing Christian Bingo to the point that she strung together a sentence with faith-based buzzwords that makes no sense outside her bubble. Whatever the case, her opinion is irrelevant.

It’s telling that she, like the other Christian complainers, failed to note what the flyer said about the goals of this club: “After School Satan Club does not attempt to convert children to any religious ideology. Instead, The Satanic Temple supports children to think for themselves.”

That’s what these Christians can’t handle. They can’t cope with children thinking for themselves. Are they lashing out against science projects, nature activities, or puzzles and games? They should let us all know so we can mock them even more.

In the meantime, we’ll just have to settle for making fun of a half-dozen Christian protesters from Grace Fellowship Church in Davenport, Iowa who crossed state lines (and the Mississippi River) to show up outside the elementary school on Thursday because they couldn’t handle… children learning about science.

I know this is hard to see, but one of those men cites Romans 1:18-32 on his sign. That section includes a verse that arguably calls for gay men to be executed. This Christian bigot put that verse on his sign — while standing outside an elementary school — because the idea of kids thinking critically offended him so much that he began thinking about murder.

No wonder people say this church is cult-like.

The pastor who attended the protest told a local reporter that “while the laws of the state might allow such a club to meet in the public school, the laws of God do not”… whatever the hell that means. I’ll take it as an acknowledgment that even they know they have nothing to complain about other than the existence of non-Christians. Do members of this church also protest outside synagogues and mosques?

As far as I can tell, the club’s first meeting went just fine. Maybe that’s because participants weren’t concerned about spreading hate like the Christians outside the building.

Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.