‘Satanic Temple’ members to volunteer in Florida schools in protest of DeSantis push for religion in education

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‘Satanic Temple’ members to volunteer in Florida schools in protest of DeSantis push for religion in education

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Satanists are ready to volunteer in Florida’s schools in response to Governor Ron DeSantis’s push to integrate more religion into the state’s public school system under a volunteer school chaplain program that went into effect last week. 

Members of The Satanic Temple (TST) say they are ready to serve as “volunteer chaplains” under a new Florida law that took effect July 1, allowing volunteer school chaplains “to provide support, services, and programs to students,” The Guardian reported

Lucien Greaves, TST co-founder and spokesperson, told Fox News Digital that should a Florida school district seize on the opportunity to introduce a chaplaincy program into their schools, TST “will be happy to participate.”

Lucien Greaves, a co-founder and spokesman for the Satanic Temple, told Fox News Digital that the group started the after-school program as an alternative to other religious groups that were “proselytizing” to children. (Josh Reynolds for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

“When passing the school chaplain bill into law, Florida’s bloviating incompetent Culture War-obsessed governor, Ron DeSantis openly lied to the public and stated that Satanic chaplains would not be allowed,” he told Fox News Digital. “In the depths of his ignorance, he fails to recognize a basic and fundamental constitutional truism: it is no place of the government to dictate that some religions have certain rights over others.”

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After DeSantis signed the law in April, Greaves challenged him to a debate on religious freedom after the governor said satanists specifically would not be allowed to participate under the law as it is his belief it is “not a religion.” But the group argued it would be, as it is recognized as a church by the IRS. 

“Some have said that if you do a school chaplain program, that, somehow, you’re going to have satanists running around in all our schools. We’re not playing those games in Florida,” DeSantis assured the crowd. “That is not a religion. That is not qualified to be able to participate in this. So, we’re going to be using common sense when it comes to this. You don’t have to worry about it.”

In response, Greaves told Fox News Digital that the statement shows DeSantis is “speaking from complete ignorance and/or incompetence.”

“We are recognized as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt church, and our religious status was again affirmed by a federal judge in 2020,” he said. “What DeSantis did in proclaiming that we are not a religion was to simply misinform school districts that, if they take him seriously and attempt to abridge our religious freedom, risk opening themselves to legal liability at significant cost.”

“I suspect DeSantis did not care whether what he says from the podium, as long as it sounds good in the moment, and he’s gambling that people will forget it a week later. It will be our job to remind them when Satanic chaplains are in the schools,” he added. 

HB 931 requires district school boards and charter school governing boards to assign specified duties to volunteer school chaplains to provide support services and programs for students, Fox News Digital previously reported. 

Desantis and Greaves

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said satanists would not be able to participate in a new State chaplain program being offered to schools, and now Lucien Greaves, co-founder of The Satanic Temple, is challenging him to a debate on religious freedoms. (Getty Images)

Principals of schools with volunteer school chaplains must inform parents of the services and would be required to publish a list of the chaplains on its website. In addition, school districts would require volunteer school chaplains to meet certain background screenings and have written parental consent before students participate or receive the services. 

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But, the law largely leaves it up to schools and school districts to determine how chaplain programs are implemented and only requires schools to list a volunteer’s religion, “if any.” DeSantis has stated the goal of the bill is to incorporate the tenets of Christianity into public education. 

“You’re basically saying that God has no place [on campus]. That’s wrong,” DeSantis said of the bill’s signing in April. 

When news of TST’s intentions first broke in February, DeSantis Communications Director Bryan Griffins response was: “HELL: NO.”

But critics of the bill see it as an overreach of the separation of church and state and TST has threatened to sue the state of Florida if any of its members were banned from serving as chaplains in the program.

Lucien Greaves, spokesman for The Satanic Temple, with a statue of Baphomet at the group's meeting house in Salem, MA.

Lucien Greaves, spokesman for The Satanic Temple, with a statue of Baphomet at the group’s meeting house in Salem, MA. (Getty Images)

Greaves previously told Fox News Digital the governor has made multiple comments about the organization without any knowledge of who its members are and what they believe. He said the legislation indicates DeSantis is unaware of how the law works and that the bill he signed into law “does in fact allow Satanic chaplains in schools.”

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Despite its name, TST does not believe in the existence of Satan or the supernatural, according to its website. It is non-theistic; in its Frequently Asked Questions of its website, it explicitly says it does not worship Satan.

“The Satanic Temple believes that religion can, and should, be divorced from superstition. As such, we do not promote a belief in a personal Satan,” the website states. “Satan is a symbol of the Eternal Rebel in opposition to arbitrary authority, forever defending personal sovereignty even in the face of insurmountable odds.”

“Satanists should actively work to hone critical thinking and exercise reasonable agnosticism in all things,” it also says on the site. “Our beliefs must be malleable to the best current scientific understandings of the material world — never the reverse.”

After School Satan Clubs” hosted by TST, have cropped up at schools around the country in recent years, including in states like Tennessee, Virginia, Pennsylvania and California. Greaves has described the kind of activities that the after-school program facilitates, as a self-directed learning process that includes games, solving puzzles and activities, but the program has been met with widespread pushback from parents. 

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Fox News has reached out to Governor DeSantis’s office for comment. 

Fox News’ Greg Wehner contributed to this report. 

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