After School Satan Clubs in Public Schools? Hell No. Here’s Why

tst-baph-statueDo Satanists have an absolute right to teach their anti-Christian message to elementary students in public schools?

Earlier this summer, the Satanic Temple released this incredibly creepy promotional video to advertise its new After School Satan Clubs.

Shortly thereafter, Centennial Elementary School, a public school in Mount Vernon, Washington, decided to open its doors to the Satanic Temple, and is permitting an After School Satan Club chapter to hold meetings and events for students on school grounds this school year.

The Seattle Satanic Temple is also considering starting chapters of the club in the Tacoma and Puyallup school districts.

This is not the first time the Satanic Temple, known for their elaborate stunts of political theater, has raised the ire of traditional, God-fearing Americans. They won a court challenge allowing them to place a Satanic holiday display on Florida Capitol grounds in 2014, placed another Satanic “nativity” scene on Michigan Capitol grounds the next year, and successfully goaded a Florida School District into prohibiting the distribution of Christian materials in schools by threatening to distribute Satanic coloring books to students.

The Satanic Temple’s leadership is hoping their entry into public schools will result in the termination of Christian after school clubs by spooking school administrators into preventing all religious groups from hosting voluntary clubs in schools for students.

Every school approached by the atheist organization to start an After School Satan Club also hosts a Good News Club, an interdenominational Christian after school program that many principals credit with noticeably improving behavior among students.

The Satanic Temple – which assures parents it is atheistic despite its copious use of recognizable Satanic imagery and rhetorical appeals to Satan’s rebellion against God – is claiming the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom gives it the right to start after school clubs in public schools. This is especially ironic considering that the American founders who ratified the First Amendment believed that humans beings, created in the image of God, are given religious liberty by God – the same God that the Satanic Temple denies.

Federal courts have already decided that parody religions, which lack sincerely held religious beliefs and are used to advance political agendas, are not entitled to religious protections under the First Amendment. When a “Pastafarian” member of the Flying Spaghetti Monster religion (FSMism) sued the Nebraska State Penitentiary where he was a prisoner for refusing to accommodate his religious requests, the U.S. District Court of the District of Nebraska decided,

“The Court finds that FSMism is not a “religion” within the meaning of the relevant federal statutes and constitutional jurisprudence. It is, rather, a parody, intended to advance an argument about science, the evolution of life, and the place of religion in public education. Those are important issues, and FSMism contains a serious argument—but that does not mean that the trappings of the satire used to make that argument are entitled to protection as a ‘religion.’”

The District Court refused to give religious protections to Flying Spaghetti Monster religion, which was formed for political advocacy with the intention of promoting militant atheism and a radical reinterpretation of separation of church and state.

Similarly, the Satanic Temple is a secular advocacy group that seeks to intolerantly mock and parody traditional religions and supplant our Judeo-Christian national heritage.

The “whole purpose” of the After School Satan Clubs “seems to be driven by an animosity toward Christian clubs; hence the provocative name,” said Family Research Council’s Travis Weber.

It is evident, then, that in the words of the U.S. District Court, the Satanic Temple is “not entitled to protection as a ‘religion’” because its brand of Satanism is not a “sincerely held religious belief.”

Additionally, the framers of the Constitution would likely find it inconceivable that the First Amendment is being used to defend the inclusion of atheistic clubs, using the name of Satan, in public schools.

Joseph Story, an early Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, wrote in his Commentaries on the Constitution,

“The real object of the [First] amendment was, not to [encourage], much less advance [Islam], or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity, but to exclude all rivalry among Christian [denominations], and to prevent national ecclesiastical establishment, which should give to an hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government.”

He later wrote that,

“Probably at the time of the adoption of the [U.S.] constitution, and of the [First] amendment to it… the general, if not the universal, sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the state, so far as was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience, and the freedom of religious worship.”

In fact, the Supreme Court formally declared the United States a Christian nation, legally and historically speaking, in Holy Trinity Church v. United States (1892). And nearly five decades earlier in Vidal v. Girard’s Executors (1844), it stated that public schools have a responsibility to teach the Bible and the Christian religion.

These court cases and the intentions of our founders suggest that the Satanic Temple cannot justify its anti-Christian After School Satan Clubs by appealing to the First Amendment.

Liberty Counsel, a religious liberty law firm, says it will provide pro-bono legal counsel to public schools that refuse the Satanic Temple’s request to start After School Satan Clubs.

“School administrators do not have to tolerate groups that disrupt the school and target other legitimate clubs,” said Mat Staver, president of Liberty Counsel.

Schools would be wise to recognize that they are under no legal obligation to allow After School Satanic Clubs, and concerned parents should demand no less of their local schools.

This post was originally written for the Family Policy Institute of Washington: http://www.fpiw.org/blog/2016/08/23/satanists-look-to-move-into-washington-elementary-schools/.

Separation of Church and State and Public Schools: Police Dispatched to Stop First Grader from Reading Bible Verses During School Lunch

dsc00009Officials at a public elementary school in Palmdale, California, dispatched a deputy sheriff after a first grader shared Bible verses with his friends at lunch.

Like many other loving mothers, Christina Zavala would send her seven-year-old son, Caleb, notes in his school lunch bag that included Bible stories. At the urging of his friends, Caleb soon began sharing the stories with them at lunch.

One of Caleb’s classmates excitedly shared one of the stories with their teacher, who then “informed Christina that [Caleb] could no longer read or share Bible verses or stories at lunch. Her note said, ‘Please tell your son that there is a separation of church and state,’” according to Liberty Counsel, a religious liberty nonprofit organization that is representing the family.

Ms. Zavala correctly informed the teacher that her son had a constitutional right to talk about his faith with his classmates during lunchtime. After Caleb’s mom continued sending the notes in his lunches, the teacher again publicly reprimanded him, causing him to leave school in tears.

Caleb was then told that he would have to wait until after school to share the Bible verses and stories with his friends, but shortly thereafter, the school again changed its policy, telling him that he could not share the notes while on school property. Caleb complied with the school’s demands.

Later in the day, a deputy sheriff, called by someone working for the school district, arrived at the Zavala family home, “demanding that [Caleb’s] note-sharing cease altogether because ‘someone might be offended,’” according to Liberty Counsel.

Yes, you read that right – the elementary school was so concerned about one of its students sharing Bible stories and Scripture with his classmates that it called the police.

“You have ignorance of the law, hostility toward Christianity, and a gross abuse of police power,” Roger Gannam, a lawyer with Liberty Counsel, said in an interview with Fox News.

Separation of Church and State

Does the First Amendment require schools to prohibit students from talking about the Bible or sharing their faith at school? Of course not.

One of the most commonly misunderstood principles of the American founding is the meaning of the phrase “separation of church and state.” Modern secularists falsely contend that separation of church and state – which appears nowhere in the Constitution – prohibits public schools from teaching Christian principles as truth in the classroom, bars legislators from appealing to religious principles in debates about public policy, disallows city council sessions and high school graduations from opening with prayer, and forbids schools and courthouses from displaying the Ten Commandments.

These assertions are incompatible with the vision and intent of those who framed our Constitution.

The First Amendment to the Constitution states, in part, that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Not only does the First Amendment preclude the establishment of a particular denomination, but it also prevents the government from interfering with a person’s free exercise of their religion – which includes the right of a first grader to share Bible stories with his classmates at school.

What about the establishment clause? A report adopted by the U.S. Senate in 1853 defined “established religion.” For a religious denomination to be considered established, Congress must fund it through the national treasury, give special political rights to its members, and compel nonmembers to attend services and participate in its sacraments through compulsory attendance laws.

Obviously, none of the scenarios previously given rise to the standard of Congress establishing a particular religion or denomination – and the First Amendment in no way implies that a school has the authority to prohibit a first grader from talking about the Bible with his friends at lunch.

The Founders’ Vision for Public Education

Our current system of public education would be unrecognizable to the founding fathers who conceived the First Amendment. It is indisputable that they believed that public schools should teach the general principles of Christianity, including the Bible.

In a letter to his cousin John Adams, Samuel Adams wrote that the foremost purpose of education was

“Inculcating in the minds of youth the fear and love of the Deity and universal philanthropy, and, in subordination to these great principles, the love of their country; of instructing them in the art of self-government, without which they never can act a wise part in the government of societies, great or small; in short, of leading them in the study and practice of the exalted virtues of the Christian system…”

Fisher Ames, one of the primary authors of the First Amendment, lamented that the proliferation of textbooks in the classroom diverted precious education time away from the Bible:

“It has been the custom of late years to put a number of little books into the hands of children… Why then, if these books for children must be retained (as they will be), should not the Bible regain the place it once held as a school book?”

Similarly, Benjamin Rush, a prominent founding father commonly referred to by historians as the Father of Public Schools Under the Constitution, wrote in his essay, “A Defense of the Use of the Bible as a School Book,” that the Bible “should be read in our schools in preference to all other books.”

The U.S. Supreme Court once affirmed that public schools had a responsibility to teach the Bible and the general principles of the Christian religion. Chief Justice Joseph Story, writing the unanimous opinion for the Court in Vidal v. Girard’s Executors (1844), declared,

“Why may not the Bible, and especially the New Testament, without note or comment, be read and taught as Divine Revelation in the [school] – its general precepts expounded… and its glorious principles of morality inculcated? Where can the purest principles of morality be learned so clearly or so perfectly as from the New Testament?”

The founding fathers would be aghast if they could see a public school calling law enforcement because a first grader shared Bible stories with his friends over lunch. They would likely be equally concerned that the school cited “separation of church and state” as the basis for its actions.

If only our founders could see us now.

This post was originally written for the Family Policy Institute of Washington: http://www.fpiw.org/blog/2016/08/02/police-called-to-stop-7-year-old-boy-from-reading-bible-verses-at-public-school/.