A Satanic “children’s ministry” claims to be hoping to take advantage of a pilot program allowing them to “proselytize” children during school hours after a Knox County, Tennessee elementary school granted a local church the same right.
According to WVLT 8, a little-utilized law allows students to be released from school for one hour in order to attend a “course in religious moral instruction authorized by a local school district.”
In a Facebook post drawing attention to the issue, Sterchi Hills member Clark Stepp explained not only the legality of release programs, but the calling for each Christian to participate or create one at their school:
“These release time programs are legal and completely OPTIONAL,” Stepp wrote. “A lie accepted by many Christians that has been misunderstood and misused for far too long is ‘separation of church and state.’ This simply means the state cannot mandate one religion for all to follow. This doesn’t mean we can’t practice or allow our children to practice their faith in the public realm.”
“Release time education has been contested in our courts and upheld numerous times,” the post continued. “In 1952, the Supreme Court ruled that parents absolutely have the right to retain some instructional time for their children during public school hours. This makes sense for kids who don’t have the means to attend private Christian school, but their parents still wish for them to have religious education. This Supreme Court ruling has been upheld both at the federal and state level since.”
Upon hearing the news of the pilot program, however, a group calling itself “The Satanic Children’s Ministry of Knoxville” felt they had cause to rejoice:
We are so excited! We just sent off for our 501(c)3!
We want to thank Sterchi Elementary, The Church at Sterchi Hills, and Knox County Public Schools! We could not have done this without you!
We’ve been struggling to find the best way to kick off our Children’s Ministry. We knew the key would be getting inside our local public schools but there was no way presenting our Satanic Release Program to the Knox Country School Board that we’d get approved on our own. We’ve been waiting patiently for another program to be introduced because once Knox County allows one religious organization to come into the schools with a release program, they have to let us all in!
We are so proud to announce that pending the school board vote in November approving The Church at Sterchi Hill’s Bible Release Time program, Satanic Children’s Ministry of Knoxville will be coming to your local elementary with our Satanic Release Program! For one hour once a month, your children can be released from their school to come learn about Baphomet!
Let your children come check out our program! We have so many activities planned to help them learn the tenets of Satanism. We’ll even send your children back to school with candy, prizes, and educational materials so they can share our program with their classmates!
We can’t wait!
We are so excited! We just sent off for our 501(c)3! We want to thank Sterchi Elementary, The Church at Sterchi…
While local news stations are in a tizzy reporting on the apparent slippery slope of release programs, Stepp, however, claims that the actions of the Satanic “ministry” are little more than a stunt:
“Sadly, but also to be expected, there is a vocal minority who stands against allowing parents to exercise this right,” Stepp wrote. “They are are already busy writing letters to the school board, raising straw man arguments saying why this program should be shut down and why children at other schools in Knox County should not have the opportunity to attend a Bible release time classes. (In over 80 schools, we have never had a school that started this program and later decide that they should discontinue it).”
“This minority has most recently started a fb page posing as a satanic children’s ministry of Knoxville,” he continued. “This is another bogus scare tactic with intentions of convincing our school board to undermine the rights of parents and students in our communities. The truth is if there really was a satanic ministry or ministry of any other religion that wanted to have a release time program it is already legal to do so as long as parents request that their kids attend. We know that this simply would not be the case.”
As of this writing, the “Satanic Children’s Ministry” does not have a website, and their Facebook page was tellingly created just last week:
For their part, the “ministry” issued a press release on November 2 encouraging Knox County parents not only to fight the church’s release program but their own as well.
If Stepp’s explanation is correct, this is little more than a pathetic attempt to impose secularist totalitarianism on children.
Release programs do not introduce religion into government schools as the “ministry” complains. They allow families to break up the humanistic indoctrination their children receive in public schools with some small measure of religious education, something our God commands and our First Amendment protects.
Contact Knox County Superintendent Bob Thomas and encourage him to hold firm against this “ministry” and allow this much-needed program to continue!
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