SALEM, Mass. — It’s a hot summer night, and leaders of the Satanic Temple have gathered in the crimson-walled living room of a Victorian manse in this city renowned for its witch trials in the 17th century. They’re watching a sepia-toned video, in which children dance around a maypole, a spider crawls across a clown’s face and eerie, ambient chanting gives way to a backwards, demonic voice-over. The group chuckles with approval.
They’re here plotting to bring their wisdom to the nation’s public elementary school children. They point out that Christian evangelical groups already have infiltrated the lives of America’s children through after-school religious programming in public schools, and they appear determined to give young students a choice: Jesus or Satan.
“It’s critical that children understand that there are multiple perspectives on all issues, and that they have a choice in how they think,” said Doug Mesner, the Satanic Temple’s co-founder, who goes by the professional name of Lucien Greaves.
On Monday, the group plans to introduce its After School Satan Club to public elementary schools, including one in Prince George’s County, petitioning school officials to allow them to open immediately as the academic year starts. Chapter heads from New York, Boston, Utah and Arizona were in Salem on July 10 talking strategy, with others from Minneapolis, Detroit, San Jose, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Florida participating online.