Marietta Daily Journal, Friday 10/21/16, Front Page
Director: Good News Club strengthens children’s values
Editor’s note: The following is a statement from the local director of the Good News Club.
For the past several months, we have been hearing about the Satanic Temple’s desire to initiate an afterschool program in an elementary school here in Cobb. Like many of you, my first reaction was a strong desire to keep this wacky group as far away as possible from our children. It also disturbed me that this group was deliberately targeting our own Good News Clubs. For almost a decade in Cobb, these after-school clubs have been teaching moral and character development as well as respect for authority, based on Biblical principles. As I learned more about who was actually behind the Satan Club, you can imagine my surprise to see that the group had actually plagiarized our own Good News Club parental permission slips word for word, except for the pitchfork-toting demon cartoon guy.
Parents are required to sign our form, which gives permission for their children to voluntarily attend the weekly after-school club. No one is forced to attend. As I reflected on their outrageous campaign press release and creepy video, I realized the club’s goal was not to actually teach the kids about Satan at all, but to shut down any alternate voices, such as the Good News Club. They are smart. They knew parents would be horrified about a “Satan Club” opening in their school and they had hoped that the Cobb BOE would turn around and shut down all clubs, including their main target, Good News Clubs.
In my time as a Local Good News Club director, I have only seen positive results from our efforts. Relationships between children and their parents, peers, teachers and principals have strengthened. The Good News Club kids have also become much better prepared to deal with the difficult battles that face them in today’s culture. Not only that, but the children have a blast and are eager to attend each and every week.
It’s a shame that the Satanic Temple spends so much time and effort (both locally and nationwide) targeting the Good News Club program, which is obviously having a positive and lasting impact on those children that attend.
Good News Club Local Director, Cobb County
Marietta Daily Journal, Friday 10/21/16, Front Page
EDUCATION I STILL ELEMENTARY
Satanic Temple wants district to end preaching in schools
By Mary Kate McGowan
EAST COBB — The Satanic Temple wants the Cobb School District to deny its application to start an afterschool club at Still Elementary School, according to the head of its Atlanta chapter.
The group wants the Cobb School District to honor separation of church and state and equal treatment of all religions by removing all religious clubs from the public school system.
“That really is the better application of the law,” said Fred Mephisto of east Cobb, head of the group’s Atlanta chapter. “Our program is literally the second-best option. The best option would be no programs. We would prefer that by a long shot.” The Salem, Massachusetts-based Satanic Temple, which formed in 2012, is a political group known for attracting headlines for its efforts to get public agencies to adhere to the separation of church and state and equal treatment of all religions, such as trying to install a satanic statue at the Oklahoma Statehouse, reciting a satanic prayer at a Florida city council meeting and performing a ceremony at the gravesite of the mother of the Westboro Baptist Church’s founder.
On Aug. 1, The Satanic Temple announced its intention of opening nine After School Satan Clubs at elementary schools across the nation, including a program at Still Elementary in Powder Springs.
Still Elementary was chosen because the school hosts the Good News Club — an after-school Christian evangelical program — Mephisto said.
Marietta resident Crystal Springer, a mother of two Still Elementary students, said the proposed after-school program does not thrill her. She said it is the parents’ job to educate children at home on religion.
“In a way, it’s not really the school’s job to minister to our kids anyway,” she said.
Springer, whose sons are in second and fifth grade, said she does not represent all of the opinions in the Still community, but the community as a whole was surprised with the program’s announcement.
“We had people all over the spectrum. Some were definitely concerned,” she said. The group submitted its application to start the program at Still on Sept. 16, and Mephisto said he is still waiting on the district’s response. Springer said she does not know if the Cobb School District will approve The Satanic Temple’s application “If it comes, it comes,” she said. “I’m not losing a lot of sleep because our God is bigger than that.” She said students at Still will continue to thrive at the school even if the afterschool program is approved.
“I recognize that we shouldn’t discriminate against any religions,” she said.
WAITING FOR WORD
Earlier this month, Cobb School District spokesperson Donna Lowry said the district was reviewing the application just as it would other facility-use agreements. She said the district’s facility use office was checking to see if the Satanic Temple met all of the outlined requirements, which may include an inspection of the temple’s audited financial statements.
Lowry said there is no timeframe the facilities office has to respond within, and the school board will not vote on the issue.
Thursday, Lowry deferred to Grant Rivera, chief of staff for the Cobb School District, for comments related to The Satanic Temple, but Rivera could not be reached for comment. Mephisto said he thinks the district is stalling.
“My feeling has been that they’re going to go as slow as they possibly can just in hopes of me going away by way of attrition,” he said.
With no plans of going away, he said The Satanic Temple views the district’s lack of response as a denial of the application.
“There comes a point in which legal representation says, ‘They’ve stalled enough that we have a case here,’” Mephisto said.
He said The Satanic Temple, which has 19 chapters in the U.S., prefers dealing with cases in court.
The Satanic Temple’s Atlanta chapter has applied to use a classroom at Still Elementary that can hold up to 20 people — including 16 students — to meet for up to an hour-and-a-half immediately following school.
Mephisto said at least two adult volunteers — who have passed background checks and have educational experience — will lead the monthly meetings.
The after-school program would include a “healthy snack, literature lesson, creative learning activities, science lesson, puzzle solving and (an) art project” to teach curriculum based on “secular moral values, critical thinking and self-determination” principles, according to the temple’s application.
Participating children would receive a membership card and must have a signed parental permission slip.
Mephisto said The Satanic Temple will not release the program’s curriculum until after the program is approved. The after-school program’s proposed curriculum is not meant to destroy people’s religious beliefs, he said.
Nevertheless, the program’s Satan-related name has left some people uneasy. Mephisto said including Satan in the after-school program’s name is a tactic his group uses to attract attention in a way a “humanist-secular alliance” would not.
“We get a lot more attention this way. It draws a reaction out from people,” he said.
The organization has previously used similar tactics when a member recited a satanic prayer at a Florida city council meeting to protest the council allowing any kind of prayer before city government meetings and for performing a prank ceremony at the gravesite of the mother of the Westboro Baptist Church’s founder.
“They’re so worried that we’re going to get to do ours that they stop everyone from doing it,” he said.
Mephisto said The Satanic Temple uses humor to gain attention.
“That doesn’t mean you can just write us off as trolls,” he said. Mephisto said The Satanic Temple is not associated with the Church of Satan as the temple views Satan as a literary symbol of man’s enlightenment.
“We’re not exactly trying to be the destroyers of Christianity that we tend to be painted as,” he said.
By identifying as a religion, Mephisto said the group’s name also affords The Satanic Temple constitutional protection under the separation of church and state. “Getting attention is just a way to achieve our ends to happen. That’s why Satan is in the name,” he said. “I wish it wasn’t like that, but it is. We just have to use the tools in our toolkit.” With The Satanic Temple’s application in limbo with the Cobb School District, Mephisto said the group is “essentially ready to go.”
He said he is not aware of any parent from Still Elementary expressing interest in the after-school program, but parents from other counties, schools and homeschools have reached out to him. Despite the lack of popularity with the Still community, Mephisto said The Satanic Temple wants to open the afterschool program at the west Cobb elementary school because of the Good News Club’s presence. He said Still Elementary itself is irrelevant to the temple’s case as the temple only wants to set a precedent of eliminating all religious programming.
“This just does not belong in public school. It’s using resources that are not equally representing the population,” he said.