The trailer for the Satanic Temple’s proposed after-school club practically doubles as a two-minute horror movie: there are clowns and spiders, creepy bronze statues, and a cameo from Baphomet himself, the demonic goat that’s become a kind of mascot for Satanists. It makes sense then, that when the Satanic Temple announced plans to launch one of its nationwide after-school programs at Chase Elementary School in Panorama City, it didn’t exactly go over so well.
“We would be completely shocked if they said, ‘Sure, come on in,'” says Satanic Temple’s L.A. chapter head Ali Kellog — but that doesn’t mean she isn’t still trying. She sent a letter to L.A.U.S.D. superintendent Michelle King earlier this month requesting to use school facilities after hours, promote the club at back to school nights, and distribute permission slips to all the kids’ parents. (King’s office didn’t respond to our request for comment).
But as far as Kellog sees it, the club is completely within its legal rights, thanks to a 2001 Supreme Court ruling that gave Child Evangelism Fellowship — which operates the Good News Club at thousands of schools across the country, including Chase Elementary — full access to public campuses. For that reason, After School Satan was dreamed up partly as a counter-point to religious groups that have a presence on public campuses.
“We’re just simply asking that we have the same representation that those groups do, which we don’t right now,” Kellog says. “Those groups get government funding, which is something that we’re looking into right now.” In the meantime, they’re also looking to independently crowd-fund $40,000 to get the program off the ground — if and when they get the ok from L.A.U.S.D. and the eight other school districts they’ve applied to across the country, including in Atlanta, Portland, Seattle, and Tucson.
Terrifying YouTube video aside, Kellog says After-School Satan Club is more of a science-based daycare than any kind of demon fest you might have imagined, given its name. “It’s essentially teaching them scientific reasons and logic and trying to teach them to go about questioning the world from a very young age,” she says. “The curriculum involves a lot of science and art projects. Activities like making bracelets to learn about evolution, each bead representing a different time period.” The club also plans to provide healthy snacks, field trips, and museum visits.
So, what does any of this have to do with Satan? For starters, the after-school group is, in fact, the brainchild of the Satanic Temple. But their mission has nothing to do with Satan worship, despite what their promotional materials might have you believe. Rather, non-theistic followers of the Satanic Temple subscribe to seven basic tenets that include things like compassion, empathy, and scientific understanding.
The group, which often stirs controversy by incorporating Satanic imagery into its protests and events, is also politically active in campaigning for issues such as reproductive freedom, marriage equality, and prisoners’ rights. “It’s the same thing that Lucifer did in the Bible, which is challenging authority and challenging the powers that be, and we think that you can actually change a society by teaching it scientific reason,” says Kellog. “We think it’s just illustrating the point that people are so vehemently trying to keep us out of the school districts and trying to prevent us from doing this.”