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A Tennessee school is facing criticism after it revealed plans to permit an “After School Satan Club” to use its building starting January 10th. The club is run by The Satanic Temple (TST), which promotes the club as a program that “focuses on science, critical thinking, creative arts, and good works for the community.” The club states that proselytization is not its goal and seeks to “provide a safe and inclusive alternative to the religious clubs that use threats of eternal damnation to convert school children to their belief system.” TST states it does not start a club at a school unless the school is also in use by religious afterschool programs, such as The Good News Club.

Parents of students at Chimneyrock Elementary School in Cordova were alarmed to receive notices about the club starting and contacted officials at Memphis-Shelby County Schools (MSCS), which oversees Chimneyrock. According to TST, they were contacted by parents within the school that were interested in starting a club. Including Tennessee, there will be five states running After School Satan Clubs. At a meeting to address parent concerns, interim school superintendent Toni Williams said permitting the club to host meetings at the school’s library was a matter of law. “I want to assure you that I do not endorse, I do not support the beliefs of this organization at the center of the recent headlines. I do, however, support the law. As a superintendent, I am duty-bound to uphold our board policy, state laws and the Constitution,” she said. Attendance at the club is not mandatory for students, nor is it being sponsored by the district. Williams encouraged critics to seek a middle ground. “I challenge you not to push away in fear but to push in with support. We can support the First Amendment and our students at the same time.” 

Speaking to Fox News, father Reggie Clark didn’t mince words. “I can’t say that I was shocked because I wasn’t shocked. [They] have already taken God out of school and prayer out of school and they invited the devil in,” he said. He criticized the district’s decision to allow the club. “They failed the community. They failed our children because, again, they [would] rather dodge a lawsuit than actually protect our children.” He also did not buy into TST’s claims of not forcing proselytization. “If you want to exercise the First Amendment right, do like any other proper 501(c)(3). You go to your building and give people a choice to. But when you are forcing and demanding yourself in a school system, especially with our children, we’re talking about babies, five through nine years old. You’re forcing yourself into the school… that’s what I have an issue with.” Another member of the community, Rev. Bill Adkins, pastor of Greater Imani Church, called the situation “absurd.” “We cannot allow any entity called Satanic Temple to have private time with our children. I can’t go into the school building and pray. But yet we can rent a facility to the Satanic Temple, and they can give a party for children. It’s ridiculous. It’s absurd.”

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