July 31, 2016

Don't Enable the Christians


I read today that the Satanic Temple has announced plans to bring After School Satan Clubs to public schools as a way to counter similar Christian groups operating and recruiting inside public schools, and I feel deeply conflicted. I get that this isn't about teaching the religious practice of Satanism. I get that this is about rational thinking, skepticism, and developing logic. I get that this is about radical inclusion and testing Christian tolerance. But I also get that Christians thrive on persecution and love nothing more than having an enemy at which to point their fingers. 

Seeing as these Christian groups are operating under the "community use of schools" set of rules that allows anybody to use school property after-hours so long as the fees and background checks are met, this has more to do with school boards who are finding creative ways to not only serve their communities but also meet their budget shortfalls than it does with the churches behind the Good News Clubs. Do you get it? It's not the churches you have to persuade, but the school boards. 

I'm a big fan of logic and rationality, so I support the end result that the Satanic Temple claims they want to achieve - teaching children critical thinking skills -  but if the goal is to get religious groups out of school, I don't believe it's going to happen as a result of adding more religious groups to school. I think that the Christians who oppose this will accept that a minority of opposing viewpoints in scattered parts of the country is a worthwhile compromise to maintain a majority of Christian viewpoints throughout the entire country. Even Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel feels that way: 
“I would definitely oppose after­-school Satanic clubs, but they have a First Amendment right to meet. ... I suspect, in this particular case, I can’t imagine there’s going to be a lot of students participating in this. It’s probably dust they’re kicking up and is likely to fade away in the near future for lack of interest.”-via Katherine Stewart / Washington Post
Say what you will about Mat Staver and his Liberty Counsel - and there's a lot to say - but his opinions are often translated into Christian legal strategies around the country. If he's okay with this, then that should tell you something about just how far After School Satan will go toward getting religious groups out of schools. 

I wish I could be more hopeful about this, but I see this getting shot down by school boards using rules which say they're allowed to make an exception if they believe it's in the safety of students or would make the school property itself unsafe as a result of vandalism, protests, unwanted attention, etc. I also see After School Satan polarizing Christian attitudes and encouraging more and greater conversion efforts. That's a dynamic that I have no desire to support.

The Satanic Temple is fundraising to help pay for all their registration fees, healthful snacks, and activity supplies, but I'm not sending them anything because I oppose all religious groups in schools and would rather give my money to secular, atheist, and humanist groups such as the Young Skeptics who are already doing the same.

Let children be children. Let the teachers who are already employed by the schools teach logic and rational debate. And after a child has achieved the age of majority, he or she can choose for him or herself which religions if any he or she wants to follow.