Reading Time: 3 minutes The Satanic Temple's "Snaketivity" Display last year in Lansing, MI Photo credit Jex Blackmore via Facebook
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Last week U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a 25 page memorandum detailing Justice Department guidelines on religious liberty. Most press coverage chose to focus on the undoing of Obama era policies regarding LGBTQ+ discrimination. I want to talk about school curriculum instead, because us Satanists are all about education and spreading knowledge.

The Satanic Temple’s “Snaketivity” Display last year in Lansing, MI Photo credit Jex Blackmore via Facebook

One of the more overlooked parts of Sessions’ policy guidelines is his statement on grants and government programs. He writes (emphasis mine):

“Religious organizations should be given the opportunity to compete for government grant or contract and participate in government programs on an equal basis with nonreligious organizations. Absent unusual circumstances, agencies should not condition receipt of a government contract or grant on the effective relinquishment of a religious organization’s Section 702 exemption for religious hiring practices, or any other constitutional or statutory protection for religious organizations.”

To me, that says religious schools can apply for school voucher and charter school programs even if their curriculum doesn’t meet standards, provided those deviations are due to their ‘religious beliefs’. Such programs could also potentially violate anti-discrimination laws on the same basis.

Under that rubric almost any standard could potentially be eliminated.

How Does School Choice Play into This?

That’s not a good thing with someone like Betsy DeVos at the head of the Department of Education. DeVos wholeheartedly endorses ‘school choice’ and increasing voucher programs.

Such programs are, in my estimation, an attempt by religious groups to backdoor religious indoctrination and church groups into getting government subsidies. Want evidence? Of course you do.

In a recently published paper in the Oxford Review of Education Jonny Scaramanga (note: Jonny is a fellow Patheos Nonreligious blogger at Leaving Fundamentalism) and his co-author Michael J. Reiss assess the validity of an International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE) as a benchmark for preparedness for university applications. (Jonny’s Ph.D. thesis on the Accelerated Christian Education programs the ICCE purports to validate is available online if you want to do a deep-dive on this stuff.)

The new paper is an eye-opening read into just how indoctrinating these Christian education programs can be, which is of interest because of The Satanic Temple’s childhood education initiatives via the After School Satan Clubs program.

As near as I’ve been able to tell, there aren’t any direct links to the Good News Clubs that ASSC seeks to balance out, but it’s clear that the ‘teaching’ goals of these religious homeschool programs and GNC’s are similar. If, as Sessions’ memos and DeVos’ statements suggest, programs like these become increasingly eligible for vouchers or other ‘school choice’ programs then they are essentially funneling government funding to religious indoctrination programs.

For example, there are currently 40 private schools in North Carolina using these A.C.E. materials to teach students and 111 of these schools operating in Florida. They teach anti-science Young Earth Creationism, rote memorization instead of higher order thinking, and use cartoons to propagate some very regressive moral standards.

Education Standards Matter

Standardized public education has its flaws, certainly. But programs that teach reason, critical thinking, and good science should not be something that is up for debate when it comes to receiving government funding for educational purposes. Expansion of programs like A.C.E. only furthers the intellectual and ideological divide between fundamentalist organizations and the rest of us.

FOR INFERNAL USE ONLY Jack Matirko was raised in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, but it didn't take. His projects include The Left Hemispheres Podcast, The Naked Diner Podcast, and An Ongoing and...