Satan Club to meet at Lebanon school; district addresses confusion

Many residents angry; National Satanic Temple says it’s an anti-superstition group that teaches critical thinking

Lebanon City Schools have sent a letter to parents and the community about The Satanic Temple After-School Satan Club that is planning to meet at Donovan Elementary School starting next week.

The letter, signed by Superintendent Isaac 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 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.”

According to the group’s online post, the club would be open to all children in first through fifth grades, regardless of religious background, and would meet from 3:50 to 5 p.m. on Jan. 27, Feb. 24, March 24, April 21 and on May 19.

The online posting said children would participate in science projects, puzzles, games, arts and crafts projects and nature activities. It also said children would learn benevolence and empathy, critical thinking, problem solving, creative expression and personal sovereignty.

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.

District officials said a local resident and taxpayer of Lebanon City Schools contacted The Satanic Temple and requested that they begin a chapter in Lebanon and to start the after-school club. Officials said the outside group completed the required application, the facility use agreement, and provided the necessary documentation, and were approved.

The group’s online posting said the clubs are taught by volunteer teachers who have cleared criminal background checks and have been vetted by The Satanic Temple for professionalism.

Seevers’ letter said the district has approved other religiously-affiliated groups, including the Good News Club, which is an after-school child evangelism program. The Good News Club has met after school at Donovan Elementary School for years.

According to the district, The Satanic Temple After-School Satan Club intends to meet at public schools where Good News Clubs also operate.

“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.

He also said flyers and promotional materials for these types of groups (including The Good News Club and The Satanic Temple After-School Satan Club) are approved for posting or display only, and not for mass distribution. Flyers will not be sent home with students. Students will need signed, parental permission to attend this or any other after-school event or club, the district said.

Tom Isaacs, superintendent of the Warren County Educational Service Center, said he was not aware of similar meetings in other county school districts. He also said no outside organizations are permitted to use ESC facilities.

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