Florida bill would allow Satanic Temple 'chaplains' in schools

"Our ministers look forward to participating in opportunities to do good in the community, including the opportunities created by this bill, right alongside the clergy of other religions."

Katie Daviscourt Seattle WA

The Satanic Temple released a statement on the proposed Florida bill that would allow volunteer chaplains in public schools, stating that it looks forward to the opportunity.

Penemue Grigori, the Satanic Temple's director of ministry, wrote about the bill in an email and said: "Any opportunity that exists for ministers or chaplains in the public sector must not discriminate based on religious affiliation," according to the Tallahassee Democrat.

"Our ministers look forward to participating in opportunities to do good in the community, including the opportunities created by this bill, right alongside the clergy of other religions," said Grigori.

Florida Senate Bill 1044, also called School Chaplains, aims to assist in addressing the mental health needs of students by permitting school districts and charter schools to develop a policy to "provide support, services, and programs to students."

Prior to meeting with a chaplain, students must obtain parental authorization and chaplains are required to submit background checks. Additionally, it requires school administrators to notify parents about the chaplains and that districts post a list of them on their website.

Analysts say the bill paves the way for the Satanic Temple to come into contact with children because the bill would not be allowed to exclude religions.

The IRS recognizes the Satanic Temple as a tax-exempt religious organization, and the group constantly challenges laws and regulations that permit religion in the public sphere or government in the name of religious freedom and the First Amendment. Because of the new bills, they have already expressed interest in assisting students in Florida.

Ryan Jayne, senior policy counsel for Freedom From Religion Foundation Action Fund, told the Tallahassee Democrat: "I think there is a 100 percent chance you see satanic chaplains, and also of course other religious minorities that the majority-Christian population might not be a fan of."

"The Satanic Temple is a church, whether people like it or not. And the idea that you can just exclude a disfavored minority religion from a bill, it just runs straight into the First Amendment," said Jayne.

Republican state Senator Erin Grall, who sponsored the bill, told reporters she has concerns about satanic chaplains.

"I think that as soon as we get in the middle of defining what is religion and what is not, and whether or not someone can be available and be on a list, we start to run up to constitutional problems," said Grall.

"So I think that us making sure that it's open and available to anybody who wants to put themselves through the background screening, and let parents know they’re available for that service, is the best way to go," she added.

Over the past few years, the Satanic Temple has been attempting to push its way into public schools across the United States through its "After School Satan Club" as a counter to Christian and faith-based school programs.

The After School Satan Club includes games, puzzles, science projects, arts and crafts, and community service projects with an emphasis on rationalism, according to the group.

"The After School Satan Club does not believe in introducing religion into public schools and will only open a club if other religious groups are operating on campus," the Satanic Temple states on its website.

The Florida School Chaplain Bill passed in the House. It was approved in a Senate committee hearing earlier this week and will move to a final vote on the Senate floor.

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