Satanic Smokescreen: Good News Clubs Push Back on 'After School Satan' Clubs
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After School Satan Clubs have drawn headlines and national attention in recent years, targeting public schools that have already approved Good News Clubs to host meetings during after-school hours.
In a scattering of communities from California to Virginia, parents have protested the Satan clubs, asking their districts to not approve their applications to meet. That's left school administrators with a difficult decision: accept all clubs no matter the viewpoint or shut down after-school clubs altogether.
The After School Satan Club (ASSC) has not hidden its agenda. Organizers say they'll only open a club if religious groups are already meeting on a school's campus.
Its website explains: "ASSC exists 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."
In December, the ASSC applied to start a club at B.M. Williams Primary School in Chesapeake, Virginia.
Just a few months earlier, a local church that had a long history of volunteering at the school, had started a Good News Club.
"It really was the next logical step," Pastor Chris Williams of Centerpoint Community Church told CBN News. "We had this group that was already ministering to these families, already had these relationships."
Williams said he was unaware of the Satan Club before it applied and wondered how its application would affect their club.
"They're opposed to our views and they're trying to counter and even undermine our presence there so I'm concerned in that regard," he said. "I think the wrong kind of attention could force the school board to say we can't do any of these clubs."
Parents packed the Chesapeake public school board meeting on Dec. 12th with the majority expressing concern. One mom told the board, "We can't be so afraid of being mocked or called names or canceled that we open the door wide open to evil in our community and most importantly to our children."
The Missouri-based Child Evangelism Fellowship started in 1937 and operates clubs in the U.S. and around the world. It reached more than 15 million children worldwide in 2021 with more than 55,000 club meetings. In the U.S., thousands of clubs meet and share the Gospel with children.
A 2001 U.S. Supreme Court decision opened the doors for the clubs to enter public schools, ruling that government bodies like school boards that create limited public forums cannot restrict speech on the basis of viewpoint.
"Our Good News Clubs took off after the decision," said Fred Pry, associate vice president of USA Ministries for Child Evangelism Fellowship, speaking with CBN News recently.
Pry describes the clubs as a high-powered Sunday School with Bible teaching, music and lots of engagement. The club's mission is centered around the Great Commission. "Our purpose for them is to share the Gospel, invite children to come to know Jesus as their personal Savior," he said.
Pry pushes back on the Satan Club's claim that Good News Clubs try to scare children with talk of hell.
"We simply say that the punishment for sin is separation from God eternally. We don't describe hell," he said.
The Satan Clubs also maintain that they don't seek to convert children and that the Good News Clubs do evangelize and encourage children to witness to other children. Pry says that evangelism is clearly taught in the Good News Clubs. "When these boys and girls come to know Christ, part of them following Christ is sharing their newfound faith," he said.
Pry says that ultimately, the Satan Clubs don't pose a significant threat in light of God's sovereignty and the role of parents. "The reality is, parents are the gatekeepers for all the clubs in schools," he said. "All of them need permission slips signed by the parents so parents hold the power. Parents are the ones who control the Satan clubs because if no children sign up, Satan clubs are not going to exist."
Mat Staver, legal counsel for the Good News Clubs, says that the 2001 Supreme Court decision, along with a ruling last year that the city of Boston must let a Christian group fly its flag over city hall, lay a firm legal foundation for the rights of the Good News Clubs to meet at public schools after the school day has ended. He calls the Satan Club strategy a smokescreen.
"They're only intended not to be legitimate clubs but to make schools intimidated so they would close the forum to Christian clubs like the Good News Clubs," he said.
In Chesapeake, the school district informed the Satan Club in early January that it has security concerns and that the club must hire public safety officers for the meetings and hold them at 6 p.m. So far, the Satan Club has yet to meet.
Pastor Williams says that even if the church-sponsored Good News Club couldn't meet at the school, it remains committed to serving its staff, students and their families. He says that in the end, he's not concerned.
"Jesus himself told us centuries ago as he spoke to his disciples that he would build his church, he would build his kingdom and the gates of hell in any format aren't going to prevail against his church," he said.
CBN News reached out to the Satan Clubs for an update on its club in Chesapeake and a spokesperson said it had no comment.
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