This fall, just for the hell of it, Lucien Greaves of Cambridge, Massachusetts, is hoping that parents will consider something besides after-school sports, music lessons and chess clubs for their children.
“Why not sign kids up for the After School Satan Club?” says the cofounder of The Satanic Temple, a group that is taking on Evangelical Good News clubs by renting school space in nine states this month to offer an alternative to after-school religious programming.
Greaves, 40, who describes his group as an “atheistic religious organization that uses the symbol of Satan to inspire civil justice,” says that Satanic Temple volunteers will run clubs in cities from Seattle to Atlanta with the goal of ending up in all 50 states to “counterbalance” groups run by the Child Evangelism Fellowship that have been meeting in public schools since winning a lawsuit heard by the Supreme Court in 2001.
“If they would get rid of the Good News clubs, there wouldn’t be a need for the After School Satan program,” Greaves tells PEOPLE. “They’re training these kids to fear hell and go out and indoctrinate other kids, so we feel that our presence is also needed.”
The devil will even get his due in Mormon-dominated Utah, where the Satanic Temple plans to rent space in Taylorsville’s Vista Elementary once the new school year gets underway.
The Granite School District has received dozens of calls and emails from concerned Vista parents, but spokesperson Ben Horsley says there is no reason to fear After School Satan.
While the law requires that the district give every group the same opportunity to rent school facilities, “none of them are receiving special treatment,” he tells PEOPLE. “Neither the Good News Club or the After School Satan Club are allowed to advertise on school property or have direct access to our students. They simply get rental access to space in our buildings. We are not endorsing any private entity’s activities, nor will we do so in the future.”
Satanic Temple volunteers will round up participants on their own, but parents don’t need to worry about the group’s activities, says Amy Monsky, lead curriculum developer for The Satanic Temple. There will be no pagan worship or experiments with fire.
Instead, she says, children will learn about art, science, philosophy, culture, nature and ethics, and will learn to build on their strengths and foster character-building relationships.
“We’ll begin with a lesson to build a positive self-image and end with an opportunity to give back back to the community with a self-selected act of community service,” Monsky tells PEOPLE. “We want students to know they are enough and to believe in themselves, and we want them to feel safe so they are free to open themselves up to new experiences and reach their full potential.”
Comments from parents on the Granite School District’s Facebook page ranged from disgust at the prospect of a Satanic club meeting in the school cafeteria to excitement that something has come along to balance the religious majority in Utah.
“I seriously can’t wait,” wrote one parent, Summer Smith. “My daughter is so excited for this. The actual content of the club looks very reasonable and fun.”
Not everyone, though, is hell bent on having their children attend.
“I will take my kids out of school and home school them if these God-hating people come in to their schools,” wrote Maki Tiatia.
As for Lucien Greaves, he’s simply happy to open up the demonic dialogue.
“Our goal is that when people see things from our perspective, they’ll look beyond the stereotypical assumptions about our group,” he tells PEOPLE. “It really is possible to identify as a Satanist and live a moral, productive life.”