In a predictable twist, a prominent Religious Right attorney who recently said after public school Satanic clubs have a “right to meet” is now threatening to sue if those clubs are actually allowed to form.
As we reported earlier this week, the Satanic Temple is seeking to create “After School Satan Clubs” in public schools in several states in response to the activities of local Good News Clubs.
The Satanic Temple is a humanist group that supports separation of church and state and rebellion against traditional religious dogma. Its proposed after-school sessions would emphasize things like critical thinking and science.
Good News Clubs, which also meet after school hours, are run by an outside organization, Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), which works aggressively to indoctrinate children into fundamentalist Christianity. CEF members believe that children as young as 5 are sinners who can make faith professions; they even use “wordless books” aimed at children who haven’t yet learned to read.
Even though such clubs operate in public schools, the U.S. Supreme Court said back in 2001 that if public schools have a policy of allowing outside groups to use their space, they must treat all equally. This means that schools with these policies cannot exclude religious clubs, but it also means that schools cannot give them special treatment.
Liberty Counsel's Mat Staver says Good News Clubs have the right to meet in public schools but Satanic clubs don't.
Initially, at least, it seems Liberty Counsel head Mat Staver didn’t have a problem with the concept of After School Satan Clubs. Staver, who represents anti-gay Rowan County, Ky., Clerk Kim Davis, said just last month that there is no legal basis for preventing the clubs from meeting after school.
“I would definitely oppose after-school Satanic clubs, but they have a First Amendment right to meet,” Staver said. “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.”
It seems this week things have changed in Staver’s world. Now he’s looking to sue, having offered his services for free to any school that receives a request to form a Satan club.
“The so-called Satanist group has nothing good to offer the students and its entire reason for existence is to be disruptive,” Staver thundered in a media statement. “Schools do not have to tolerate groups which disrupt the school and target other legitimate clubs. No sane parents would consent to allow their child to attend this group. Full of sound and fury, this group will soon fade away.”
It’s nice to see that Staver knows some Shakespeare. And while it’s difficult to say if any schools will take Liberty Counsel up on its offer, given Staver’s own admission that Satan clubs have the right to meet, it seems unlikely that he will succeed.
The Religious Right fought hard to make sure Good News Clubs can meet in public schools. The tradeoff for that victory was the right to equal access – meaning if an evangelical Christian club can meet, a Satan club has that same right. It’s all or nothing.
But as usual, the Religious Right wants it all while conceding nothing to its opponents. Sorry to break it to you, Mat, but that’s not how this works. You pried open the door so the Good News Club could enter public schools. You shouldn’t be surprised that others want to come in as well.