A Satanist ‘children’s ministry’ in Tennessee has announced plans to teach the tenets of Satanism to students who don’t want to study the Bible and would prefer to worship the devil.
Knox County officials say they are considering a program that will allow students to miss class for Church-sponsored bible study, with local school board members preparing to vote on the proposed program.
But the Satanist group responded to the proposal by launching the Satanic Children’s Ministry of Knoxville, because they believe schools should not promote religion, and if they do, all religions should be represented, including devil worship.
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If Bible Release Time is approved, SCMK plans to implement its own Satanism Release Program for students who don’t want to attend the bible study.
Daily Mail report: A spokesperson for the group said in a written statement the organization was legitimate and that between five to 10 children were initially expected to take part if the plan went ahead, but there ‘may be more people interested’ than initially thought.
The group, who says five people are on its board, refuses to identify itself ‘due to threats of violence’.
The Knox County School Board will vote on the Bible Release Time program in December. The program would fall under a Tennessee statute that excuses students to attend an hour-long released time course in religious moral instruction if authorized by the local school district.
‘We would prefer that the school board vote down any policy written for religious release programs but if they do not, we are prepared to roll out a program,’ a spokesperson for the group told DailyMail.com on Tuesday.
‘We have the financial backing and volunteers needed to make it happen.’
Superintendent Bob Thomas reportedly agreed to a trial run at Sterchi Elementary School after the Elgin Foundation and The Church at Sterchi Hills proposed the idea.
The Elgin Foundation already sponsors several bible release programs across East Tennessee, including in Anderson, Roane, Scott and Union counties.
‘We just educate churches and schools in the legality of it,’ Executive Director Tim Rogers told WVLT.
‘We ask schools to just simply accommodate schools parents who would participate in that.’
In a statement announcing its answer to the bible program, SCMK said: ‘The Elgin Foundation and The Church at Sterchi Hills will broadcast that their program is “opt-in” and children do not have to attend. They do not announce that their goals are to promote proselytization in our public classrooms by teaching children to do this for them.
‘They will send the kids back with toys, candy, and propaganda to help them achieve these goals. This creates problems in the classroom not just for us as Satanists but also any Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or atheist child in the classroom as the children involved in the Bible Release Time are taught to challenge the beliefs of their classmates and promote that their god is the one true god.
‘We do not send our children to schools to be converted by outside religious organizations. We send them to get a state-approved education.’
The statement continued: ‘Satanic Children’s Ministry would prefer not to introduce our own program. We do believe in separation of church and state; however, if another religion is allowed to introduce a program to indoctrinate children, we feel the need to step up and ensure our children have their own program to attend.
‘Our children would already be losing precious instructional time due to the schools accommodating Elgin’s program, so we might as well sign them out and allow them to receive their own religious education focusing on the tenets of Satanism.
‘Our preferred outcome is that all parents of Knox Co realize the importance of keeping religion out of public schools completely.
‘It is in the best interest for all children to keep these programs out of school all together and in homes and churches where they belong. They create divisiveness among students based on their religion creating conditions that are optimal for bullying.’
The statement concluded by calling on Knox County residents to contact their local schools and school board representatives about blocking the implementation of release time programs.
The SMKC spokesperson told DailyMail.com that many Knox County teachers have expressed support for the organization and its intentions.
‘They may not be for the actual program, but they seem to appreciate the fact that it is shining a light on the problem with allowing one church to have their religious release program in the school,’ the spokesperson said.
‘From our conversations, it sounds like many teachers at Sterchi Elementary are against the program as it takes away from their instruction time.
‘The school completely rearranged the class schedule to make room for The Church at Sterchi Hill’s Bible Release Program and that alone seem like a promotion of a religion within the school.
‘The overwhelming majority of people we have talked to are against a policy allowing release programs, but the principal at Sterchi Elementary and certain school board members – against their constituent’s wishes – are pushing for it.’
SMKC has said that if the bible release program is approved, it fully intends to follow through with its own version.
‘Our goal is to teach children the empathy, compassion, and kindness that the tenets [of the Satanic Temple] promote,’ the spokesperson told DailyMail.com.
‘We initially thought we would just be signing out our own children with this program but amid the outrage, we have learned the interest in our program extends beyond our families.’
SMKC has repeatedly asserted that it is not affiliated with The Satanic Temple or the Church of Satan and said that the majority of its members do not believe in a literal Satan, but see him as a symbol of free thought.
The group announced on Thursday that it had filed for 501(c)3 non-profit status. A spokesperson said it would not release the form until the organisation was approved and legally obligated to do so.
‘We need time for the outrage to die down.’
When asked about SMKC’s proposal, Elgin Foundation Executive Director Tim Rogers told DailyMail.com: ‘We trust that the public school boards in our area will respect the right of parents to have their children released from school for religious and moral instruction under the guidelines of state and federal law.’
The Church at Sterchi Hills and Knox County Superintendent Bob Thomas did not immediately return DailyMail.com’s requests for comment.
DailyMail.com also reached out to Knox County School Board members about how they plan to vote on the issue.
Virginia Babb of District 4 responded: ‘I have never supported the Bible release program and it has nothing to do with the Satanic Ministry wanting to offer their own program.
‘Should a policy be passed allowing for Bible Release than I support any organization who meets the criteria of the program to be able to offer it.’
Other board members did not return request for comment, but WVLT reported that Susan Horn of District 5 and Terry Hill of District 6 are planning to vote to approve the bible program, while Evetty Satterfield of District 1 is undecided.
It is unclear which way the remaining five board members are leaning.