BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Tehachapi’s Golden Hills Elementary School is getting a new after school club, but it’s not your typical dance or photography club.
Instead, they’ll be getting the “After School Satan Club,” sponsored by the Satanic Temple and Reason Alliance.
The Satanic Temple is a nontheistic religious organization, that is not to be confused with the Church of Satan.
The After School Satan Club was created within the last ten years, and meant to educate children and encourage critical thinking, and not teach Satanism, according to Lucien Greaves, the co-founder and spokesperson of the After School Satan Club.
“We keep religious matters out of the teachings of the after school Satan clubs and people often ask us, well then why include Satanism at all, being that people are going to be offended by it? Well, the fact of the matter is, there’s nothing to be offended by and we don’t want people to be unaware of who we are when we run these programs, as we think there would be a more intense backlash if we were trying to hide it,” said Greaves.
Still, many guardians of students at Golden Hills Elementary School in Tehachapi are upset about the introduction of the ASSC, and said it doesn’t belong in schools.
“I think it’s disgusting, I understand the school has to allow them because they allow other after school programs such as the good news, which is a Christian based after school program, that one I’m okay with, but I can’t imagine why anyone would want their child to attend this Satanic group,” said Sheila Knight, grandparent to a 5th grader at Golden Hills.
The Tehachapi Unified School District said in a statement that by law, they can’t discriminate against groups wanting to use their facilities based on a viewpoint, despite not endorsing any groups that host after school events on the property.
Despite this, some guardians still think it was the wrong choice.
“Tehachapi said yes, and I think they made a mistake. I know my grandson will not be a part of this club,” said Brenda Maher, grandparent to a 1st grader.
Paul Hicks will be the leader for the new Tehachapi After School Satan Club, and is also a critical thinking professor.
He said Christian based clubs like the Good News Club is one reason why they think schools need the After School Satan Club.
“There’s currently a Good News Club there which is teaching kids to go save souls for Jesus, at the school. We want to give an alternative point of view,” said Hicks.
Although Satan is in the name, conversations about Satan aren’t on the club’s agenda.
“I’m not teaching these kids to be Satanic, I’m not teaching these kids that they need to hail Satan or identify as Satanists, what we’re doing is we’re thinking critical thinking, we’re teaching science, we’re teaching empathy and benevolence,” said Hicks.
According to a flyer from the Satanic Temple, the monthly meetings will begin in December after school in the cafeteria, but parents have to give permission before their children can attend.
“Nobody has to engage with it who doesn’t want to, and children are going to need to have permission slips signed by their parents to have any involvement at all,” said Greaves.
For some parents, the name Satan is enough to steer them away, but Greaves said the name has a purpose.
“It’s important to us that people do know we self-identify as Satanists even if we’re not teaching Satanism, just so people have an idea that that perspective about what Satanic practitioners are is completely wrong.”
Hicks also explained the Satanic Temple doesn’t go knocking on doors asking people to join, but they only come when they’re asked, meaning some parents in the area requested their presence. Despite this, many are still upset.
"From my understanding, the Good News Clubs sent out some flyers, which they are certainly entitled to do, and some parents got together and said we’re not interested in this. And they knew of the After School Satan Club, and they requested our presence," said Hicks
T-U-S-D emphasized that the ASSC is not a District approved club, and has sent out a letter to families about the club for transparency.