NEW DETAILS: National Satan Club organizer talks about decision to use Lebanon school

Donovan Elementary School has been requested for the After School Satan  Club to meet for children in grades one through five.  CONTRIBUTED/LEBANON CITY SCHOOLS

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Donovan Elementary School has been requested for the After School Satan Club to meet for children in grades one through five. CONTRIBUTED/LEBANON CITY SCHOOLS

The national organizer for After School Satan Clubs said they want to create a safe place for kids to hang out and be kids as well as offer alternative programming to the Christian Good News Club.

The response came one day after Lebanon City Schools told parents in the community that the group will be renting space at Donovan Elementary for an afterschool program.

June Everett, campaign director for the After School Satan Club and an ordained minister for The Satanic Temple, said the clubs meet at select public schools where Good News Clubs also operate.

She said trained educators provide activities and learning opportunities, which students are free to engage in, or they may opt to explore other interests that may be aided by available resources.

“The environment is open and parents are welcome to participate,” she said. “While the classes are designed to promote intellectual and emotional development in accordance with TST’s tenets, no proselytization or religious instruction takes place.”

Everett said the clubs require parental permission slips for children to participate in and that the age group for the clubs, first through fifth grades mirror the same grade levels as the Good News Club, which have operated out of Donovan Elementary School for a number of years. The club will meet from 3:50 to 5 p.m. on Jan. 27, Feb. 24, March 24, April 21 and May 19.

Lebanon Schools Superintendent Isaac Seevers on Thursday sent a letter to parents and the community about social media advertising The Satanic Temple After-School Satan Club that is planning to meet at Donovan Elementary School.

In the letter, Seevers said, “the district understands the concerns and confusion raised over a certain group that has advertised online for an after-school facility rental. The Satanic Temple After-School Satan Club is NOT a district or school-sponsored event. Lebanon City Schools do not endorse the activities or intent of this group or any other religiously affiliated groups offering after-school activities on our campuses.”

In many religious traditions, the name Satan refers to a devil.

The After School Satan Club started meeting Jan. 13 in a Moline, Illinois, school, according to Everett. She said the organization initially started in 2016-17 in Utah, Washington state, and Oregon. However, they did not continue when the COVID-19 pandemic began and had a two-year pause that allowed a restructuring of the program, Everett said.

According to information obtained via a public records request, The Satan Temple made a request on Oct. 27 to use Donovan Elementary. The request was denied on Dec. 3 because the application did not have a local resident on the facilities use application. A local resident who will be the club’s volunteer leader agreed to that role and a policy revision for special interests using buildings was approved by the board on Jan. 10. The district is not charging a fee for use of the facility, according to Wendy Planicka, district spokeswoman.

Informational flyers and permission slips were made available at the school on Thursday, according to Planicka. She said only one permission slip had been returned to the school office as of Friday afternoon.

Planicka said Donovan Elementary houses about 820 third- and fourth-graders

The local volunteer was contacted by the Dayton Daily News and declined to comment, referring all questions to Everett.

The Satanic Temple says on its website that the group does not worship Satan and believes that religion should be divorced from superstition.

“To embrace the name Satan is to embrace rational inquiry removed from supernaturalism and archaic tradition-based superstitions,” the group says. “Satanists should actively work to hone critical thinking and exercise reasonable agnosticism in all things.”

Many Lebanon residents expressed anger that a group named for Satan would be allowed at the school.

Seevers said the school district is not legally allowed to discriminate against any groups who wish to rent its facilities, including religiously affiliated groups. Seevers said district’s focus remains on student safety and student achievement, and the district has no other involvement except for the approval of the rental of the space.

“Either the district’s facilities are to be made available to all groups or to no groups, according to a 2001 Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Good News Club, citing if public schools rent their facilities to secular groups, they must also rent to religious groups,” Seevers’ letter said.

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