If Republican leaders in Iowa give millions of dollars to private religious schools through a controversial voucher program, there’s a chance it’ll support a Satanic school as well. That’s what non-theist Joe Stutler told lawmakers on Tuesday during a hearing for House Study Bill 1, a piece of legislation that’s being called a “top priority” by the state’s GOP leadership.
Governor Kim Reynolds and her allies want to spend $341 million per year to pay for students to attend private (often religious) schools. Usually, the biggest complaints about voucher programs come from church/state separation supporters, who don’t want public money supporting religious education; special needs families, who say their kids may not be accepted or supported by private schools; and LGBTQ people, whose mere existence is a black mark for many Christians.
Knowing that lawmakers were well aware of those complaints and didn’t give a damn about any of them, Stutler took a different approach during yesterday’s public hearing about the bill. He told the legislators he supported the bill… and that he would be opening “Little Devils Academy” (tag line: “Bite The Apple”) if the bill passed in order to spread the Gospel of Satan to little kids.
Good evening. My name is Joe Stutler. I’m a disabled combat veteran who lives in Marion, Iowa.
I’m here today… I would generally be opposed to bills like this because there’s definitely issues. However, watching the elections over the past few years, it’s clear that Republicans are going to have Iowa stay red for quite a while. So, you know, I learned years ago, can’t beat ’em, join ’em… And following some things I learned in Germany… when I was stationed over there… learning the lessons of the 1930s Europe, probably time to brush off my German, as it were.
So having said that, I’m starting Little Devils Academy. Little Devils Academy is going to be a K-12 school aimed at very specific targeted groups because, quite frankly, I want a nice chunk of this grift money, too. As long as you guys are gonna be handing out money, why not let a veteran handle it?
I’m already in discussions with The Satanic Temple. They’re very interested in this bill and in our curriculum. So… this is something that we really need to do. You really need to get this bill passed… You got to give the devil his due, and you got to give him your tax dollars, too.
So as long as you’re gonna be handing out money, I want a piece of that, too.
… Long story short, you’re gonna be handing out money to schools that are run by all kinds of organizations that have all kinds of weird stuff going on. Of course if you’re going to be supporting religious schools, you’re supporting the devil.
So, ya gotta give the devil his due. Satan wants your money, and I want a piece of this lovely grift action. Thank you, Trump-publicans.
Truly expert-level trolling.
I asked Stutler this morning how serious he was about opening this school if and when the voucher bill passes, and he said it wasn’t out of the question. “Depends on how this goes and what kind of support I can get,” he explained. He wasn’t kidding when he said he had been in touch with The Satanic Temple.
More than anything, though, he just wanted to show the Republicans that a bill like this had consequences they may not have considered. In their rush to reward private religious schools, they may be opening the door to things they oppose. Do they realize how this could backfire?
It’s not the first time he’s used this approach either. In 2018, Stutler delivered the first ever secular invocation in front of the Iowa State Senate. It was perfectly civil and respectful, but it was a reminder that allowing invocations at all opens the door to non-theistic ones, too.
Stutler also told me that, while the speakers in that particular hearing room were rushed in and out fairly quickly, he got a cheer when he walked out into the rotunda of the Capitol, where others had been watching the proceedings on a monitor. Some Christians even asked him, “Are you serious?” Stutler tried explaining to them that they were missing the point, but who knows if that got through to them.
For now, the bill appears headed towards passage.