LAUSD douses plans for local After School Satan Club
Mike Szymanski | October 20, 2016
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On a technicality, LA Unified turned down the Satanic Temple of Los Angeles from starting up an After School Satan Club on one of their elementary school campuses.
But it doesn’t mean the idea is banned until hell freezes over.
The district’s decision had nothing to do with the merits of the after school class curriculum. Instead, the district issued a statement reading: “The proposed club does not meet the minimum requirement of having the school’s approval and, therefore, will not be offered at the school.”
The district didn’t allow the Satanic Temple to have a table at Back-to-School nights or allow them to distribute flyers at school because, according to a statement released Friday “as a public agency, the District cannot appear to endorse particular programs with which it is not affiliated.” LA Unified doesn’t allow third parties to participate in Back-t0-School nights either, said district spokesperson Shannon Haber.
The Satanists requested permission to start a group at Chase Elementary School in Panorama City where there is also a Good News Club that espouses Christianity and prayer.
The Satanists are testing the idea at school districts across the country and specifically are targeting schools that have Good News Clubs, which teaches Bible verses and Christian values in after-school programs. So far, the only district approving such a club is in the Seattle area.
The local Satanists haven’t been rejected because of their content, because they haven’t yet submitted the proper LA Unified civic center permits required for such requests, Haber said. Those are basic applications for all requests available at the district’s Leasing Office. “If an organization does not meet the basic requirements, it will not be approved for permit or license at the school,” the district’s statement reads.
Ali Kellog, the chapter head of the Los Angeles Satanic Temple, said their group wanted to eventually have the after-school club at all of the 47 LA Unified schools that also have Good New Clubs.
“We feel like we would be a good science-based alternative to the Good News Clubs,” said Kellog, whose group is part of 16 international chapters. She said there were problems in figuring out the appropriate procedures at LA Unified and her requests for meetings with the district staff, the superintendent and school board members have been denied.
LA School Report is awaiting a public records request to find out the number and names of after-school clubs at the school campuses.
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2001 brought by the Child Evangelism Fellowship of Missouri stated that public schools cannot discriminate against after-school clubs. It allowed groups of any faith to use the classrooms, including Satanism.
Kellog noted that their After School Club does not promote the existence of a devil or any deity but instead uses Satan “as a metaphor for fighting religious tyranny and oppression.” Their club is geared to 5- to 12-year-olds to include ideas of “healthy skepticism” as well as a science lesson, puzzle solving and art projects.
John Luck, the project manager of Good News Across America and the director of development for the Child Evangelism Fellowship based in Warrenton, Missouri, said he is not threatened by the After School Satan Club of they occupy the same schools in Los Angeles as his groups. He noted that all the clubs are voluntary, and both groups allow parents to attend or drop in at any time.
Luck said, “We are not concerned about what they want to do. They are trying to paint us as narrow, but they are saying there is no God, and I say that that’s a pretty exclusive club. It’s a shame, but also a sham, that they are engaging in this fight.”
The Satanists are evaluating what action they will take against LA Unified and their next steps, including possible legal action. They do plan to fill out the proper applications, too.
* Added the latest statement by LA Unified clarifying their position about why the requests were rejected.