A new after-school club at Golden Hills Elementary School in Kern County’s Tehachapi, called the “After School Satan Club,” is drawing community outrage.

That’s largely the point.

For years, the Satanic Temple, a group the Washington Post described as a “nontheistic religious organization advocating for secularism and scientific rationalism,” has been launching these clubs in public schools where evangelical Christian groups — namely, the Good News Club — have their own meetings.

In 2001, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Good News Club when a New York school district sought to prevent the group from holding meetings on school grounds after school hours. The Supreme Court ruled that the district could not discriminate against groups based on their viewpoints, and because comparable secular groups were allowed to operate, the Good News Club must also be accommodated. The ruling not only opened the door for religious groups meeting in public schools, but also for the proliferation of After School Satan Clubs as intended counterweights. The clubs created controversy in Moline, Illinois, and Lebanon, Ohio, earlier this year.

“The initial reaction is definitely that of shock and disgust,” Lauren Mae, a mother in Tehachapi and a volunteer with the After School Satan Club, told SFGATE in an email. “There’s also a lot of confusion between The Satanic Temple and The Church of Satan, which are two different things. They definitely do seem to think that we are devil worshippers, which we are not. We don’t believe in a supernatural Satan.”

“The Satanic Temple does not advocate for religion in schools,” the group states on its website. “However, once religion invades schools, as The Good News Clubs have, The Satanic Temple will fight to ensure that plurality and true religious liberty are respected.”

The group says that in club meetings, it is “not interested in converting children to Satanism” and that sessions “will focus on free inquiry and rationalism, the scientific basis for which we know what we know about the world around us.”

During a TV segment from Bakersfield CBS affiliate KBAK, parents at Golden Hills Elementary School expressed strong displeasure with the fact that the After School Satan Club exists.

“I think it’s disgusting,” one parent told the TV station.

“I think it’s wrong and it shouldn’t be in the school,” said another.

Mae said that some people changed their minds after learning that the group is not actually encouraging children to worship Satan.

“Some have reacted very positively,” she wrote. “Others refuse to accept that what we stand for is genuine. It’s typically still being seen through the lens of someone that believes Satan is a real being, and we believe differently.”


Mae said that at least three children have signed up to be part of the After School Satan Club, and that some people who oppose the club are planning to protest outside. There was one threat of violence that was subsequently reported to the Tehachapi Police Department.

Enough community complaints accumulated that Tehachapi Unified School District Superintendent Stacey Larson-Everson had to write a letter Tuesday explaining why the group has to be allowed to operate.

“By law, the District cannot discriminate against groups wishing to use TUSD facilities or distribute flyers to students based on viewpoint,” the letter reads before adding, “It is very important to note that the District does not endorse any of the groups or content affiliated with groups that host after school events on District property.”

When asked how she might respond to Christians who’d find the After School Satan Club gratuitously antagonistic, Mae wrote, “I would want them to defend their questioning as to why they think certain sects of Americans don’t get to enjoy the same religious freedoms as their peers” and challenged the Good News Club.

“[After School Satan Club] is an opportunity for children to participate in an intellectually stimulating program that fosters inquisitive thinking, and I’m excited to send my children,” she wrote. “I refuse to send them to the Good News Club, who teaches children to proselytize to their peers by threatening them with eternal damnation, none of which [After School Satan Club] does.”