This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The devil, it seems, is in the details.
And when it comes to the After School Satan Club at a Taylorsville elementary school, the details have more to do with the culture wars than with making papier mache Beelzebubs.
The After School Satan Club is an effort of the Satanic Temple (based in Salem, Mass., of course) to counter religious after-school clubs across the country. The club at Vista Elementary apparently is Utah's first, and the Granite School District has sent a letter to Vista parents explaining that 1) the club has a legal right to rent school space after classes and 2) the district is not hooking up with the Prince of Darkness.
The Satanic Temple's web site, featuring a catchy "Educatin' with Satan" header, explains the project as an answer to evangelicals' Good News Clubs. "While the Good News Clubs focus on indoctrination, instilling them with a fear of Hell and God's wrath, After School Satan Clubs will focus on free inquiry and rationalism, the scientific basis for which we know what we know about the world around us."
Utah's Satanic Temple chapter president took that further. "We are nontheistic, we don't actually worship a literal Satan. We're very aware that not everyone is going to understand what it's about. They'll see the word 'Satan' and just make assumptions."
Yes, satanic references tend to throw people off, and isn't that the point, Satanic Temple? This could have been called the "Rational Thinking Club," but that wouldn't have accomplished the purpose. Think of it as a science club with snark.
There are good lessons to be learned here about the Constitution's careful balancing of religion in public life. The presence of both the Good News Clubs and the Satan Clubs is the result of court decisions allowing for uses of public buildings without a public endorsement of those uses.
But those lessons mostly go over the heads of grade schoolers. Someday, when they're more grounded in the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Supreme Court's interpretation, they may look back at the Satan Club and chuckle.
What seems less likely is that the club will become a viable vehicle for encouraging the critical thinking needed in every child, religious or not. That shouldn't wait until after school.