“We know that there is a very real war in the heavenlies,” said Derrick Wilburn, an organizer with Advocates for D20 Kids, during a Sept. 14, 2022 presentation at Church For All Nations in Colorado Springs. “This battle takes place all the time, and the battle over all children, in Northern Colorado Springs, in specific, is getting very, very real. … We are seeing an uptick in activity that is clearly Satanic in nature, even if it isn’t necessarily Satanic, it’s just not something that we would embrace as Christian believers.”
Advocates for D20 Kids is a conservative activist group that focuses on Academy School District 20, raising concerns about LGBTQ issues, critical race theory, and the content of library books. Willburn, who also hosts the podcast Uncle Tom Talks on Joe Oltmann’s Conservative Daily website, was warning the audience at Church For All Nations about members of The Satanic Temple (TST) speaking during a May 12, 2022, D20 board meeting.
“These ladies are self-professed, ordained Ministers of Satan,” he said, before playing edited clips of public comment from June Everett, the national campaign director for the After School Satan Club, and another TST member, Mel Monster. “It’s getting brazen. Out of the closet. In your face. Peter 5:8 [‘Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’], right here in Northern Colorado Springs. The dirt that we walk on, those of us that live here, contains Compassion International, Focus on the Family, David C. Cook, and other ministries that are making a difference in the world. The war over where we live is getting very real. We now have candidates on the ballot, who could potentially be elected in November, who endorse all of this. That’s how real it’s gotten.”
To combat the Satanic influence, Wilburn encouraged the audience to take part in spiritual warfare.
“We have to pray,” said Wilburn, who’s a former vice chair of the Colorado Republican Party. “The plans are in place to prayer walk our schools. Pick a school. Pick a high school. Let’s meet there and walk the perimeter and pray that thing, because we know that there’s a struggle in the air. Let’s meet before our school board meetings and prayer walk that building, and cover those doors and anoint those doors with oil where necessary.”
The practice of anointing with oils is actually a Hebrew practice, mentioned in Exodus, “Take the following fine spices: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much (that is, 250 shekels) of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of fragrant calamus, 500 shekels of cassia — all according to the sanctuary shekel — and a hin of olive oil. Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer. It will be the sacred anointing oil. Then use it to anoint the tent of meeting, the ark of the covenant law, the table and all its articles, the lampstand and its accessories, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the basin with its stand. You shall consecrate them so they will be most holy, and whatever touches them will be holy.”
Like the shofar, the musical ram’s horn used during Jewish high holidays, anointing oil has been appropriated by evangelical Christians.
After Wilburn’s comments at Church For All Nations, Pastor Mark Cowart, who regularly appears on Andrew Wommack’s Truth and Liberty Livecast, spoke to the audience about the Seven Mountain Mandate, the idea that Christians should control the seven spheres of influence, or mountains, in society — family, religion, education, media, entertainment, business, and government.
TST’s After School Satan Club campaign seeks to contest Christian dominion over the mountain of education. Everett, whose children attended a charter school in Colorado Springs, became involved with TST in 2017 after seeing the impacts of Christian proselytizing in public schools firsthand.
“One day I pick my kiddo up,” she recalls. “My son, he was in first grade, and he’s all upset. I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’ He said, ‘Well, I think we need to start going to church.’ Something along the lines of ‘We’re going to burn in hell. They’re going to take you away from me and daddy, and I’m going to burn in hell if we don’t start going to church.’ I was like, ‘Well, who told you this?’ and he told me a couple of kids on the playground had told him this. I knew there was a Good News Club there at the school. I didn’t know exactly what their deal was, but I started looking into it a little more.”
Good News Clubs are weekly Christian programs, sponsored by the Child Evangelism Fellowship, for kids 5-12 years old featuring a Bible lesson, songs, memory verses, and games.
“I went to work the next day and my manager, I was talking to him about it and he’s like, ‘You’ve heard the Satanic Temple, right?’” Everett says. “He’s like, ‘You know, they have a whole after-school program to offer an alternative to the Good News Clubs and maybe you should look into it.’ So I looked into it and I reached out to leadership at the time for TST Colorado, and he was like, ‘You know, you should start coming to meetings and check us out, see what we’re all about.’”
Everett took over as TST’s national After School Satan Club campaign director in December of 2020. She says early attempts at starting After School Satan Club were “kind of a shit show.”
The first After School Satan Club popped up in Tacoma, Washington. While it garnered massive media attention when it launched in 2016, it only actually served one student, and closed down in January 2017. Former members of TST’s Washington congregation would go on to become defendants in an ongoing defamation lawsuit filed by TST, which sought $140,000 in damages.
“It was up to that chapter to run it, and they had a really hard time finding insurance and they really had a hard time figuring out the process and what you got to do and how hard you had to beat on these superintendents to get them to answer you and get them to reply and get the boards to do what they need to do,” explains Everett. “It wasn’t very successful and we had like three clubs launch in that 2016, 2017 timeframe, but there wasn’t much to it.”
Nikki Muongo connected with TST during a dispute over adding “In God we trust” to the city hall dais in Ballwin, Missouri in 2014. According to Muongo, TST founder Lucien Greaves asked her to lead the congregation in St. Louis. Muongo’s attempts at starting an After School Satan Club in her area were ultimately unsuccessful.
“Our experience with the ASSC was underwhelming,” she said in an email. “The process started in 2016 but never manifested due to TST organization ineptitude bordering on (what felt like) sabotage. The initial process was to find a club sponsor, then handle all of the documentation with the school district, coordinate with [TST] national and executive ministry. National Council had been working with an educator to develop club materials. As far as support, executive ministry was very interested in our progression, but as this process was new to them as well, it was hit or miss many times. We received many suggestions but there was little concrete direction, it was a disorganized beginning at best. We never held any club meetings. All of our months long of hard work evaporated into smoke. The curriculum was still being built at the time.”
Those lackluster early attempts have led many former members to suggest that TST’s After School Satan Club is just another sensational publicity stunt aimed at generating conservative outrage and media coverage, which it certainly has.
TST has recently made the news for its efforts to start an After School Satan Club in Chesapeake, Virginia. Those efforts are temporarily on hold after the local sponsor backed out due to the backlash.
“The community is freaking out and there’s all this hysteria and they’re lining up the board meeting so people can come scream and yell at us,” says Everett. “It’s a heckler’s veto, and you’re like, ‘That’s unconstitutional.’ I had people like, ‘You’re just doing it to troll and you’re just doing it to make people mad.’ Absolutely not. We had 13 kids signed up for this club in Virginia, and I had 13 parents emailing me back me like, ‘That’s bullshit. I’m pissed.’”
Under Everett’s leadership, TST has successfully started After School Satan Clubs in multiple states, including Kern County, California, which in 1982 became the focus of “Satanic panic” allegations involving organized sex rings and Satanic ritual abuse. According to Ross Cheit, author of The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology and the Sexual Abuse of Children, 26 people were convicted of child molestation, but by 1996 18 of the convictions were overturned. Like many of the “Satanic panic” cases during the period, while there was no evidence of Satanic pedophile rings, there was credible evidence of child sexual abuse.
“Their main focus is to get these Satan clubs into elementary school,” said Martin Mawyer, founder of the ‘pro-family, pro-religious freedom and pro-traditional values’ Christian Action Network during an appearance on the Chuck and Julie podcast in December. “They’re not interested in middle school or junior high or high school, they’re going after the elementary kids. It’s just another example of how the political left wants to make these elementary kids, ages from five to 12, some type of political pawn. To promote the weirdest thing and use them, hold them up, sacrificing their future to make and score some type of political point. That’s what they’re doing. They’re trying to make a political point here. They’re trying to say if schools are going to have religious clubs, then they’re going to have to allow in Satan clubs.”
Everett points out that TST’s right to start After School Satan Clubs was affirmed by a Supreme Court decision involving their nemesis, the Good News Clubs. “There was a case in 2001 where the Supreme Court heard a case and it was called the [Good News Club v Milford Central School]. Milford County School District in New York at the time said no to the Good News Club because they thought this is kind of crossing that line of separation of church and state, and [they didn’t] feel comfortable appearing that [they were] endorsing an evangelical Christian denomination. It went all the way to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court decided if a school if a public school district opens its doors — and here’s the special part — to a third-party organization, so not school-sponsored events, if they open it up to any third party organization that’s running, you know, a running club or a chess club or taekwondo class, they have opened up a limited public forum and the government cannot discriminate against religious organizations based on viewpoint. If those religious organizations want access to the facility and they can follow all the rules and they complete all the requirements, the government can’t say no.”
It isn’t just the Christian conservatives who have concerns about the After School Satan Clubs. Muongo says the backlash from conservatives is worse than any benefit from the After School Satan Club. “When we attempted to establish the Springfield MO club, we underestimated the impact of what could happen to the kids participating, their ostracization from teachers, staff, and students alike,” she said. “That was an unfortunate regret and should be a strong consideration going forward. Using children as pawns in a game against the powers that be is never okay. The temple claims the club is not about indoctrination, but what else could it be? Isn’t guiding children to “do good in the name of Satan” still a form of proselytizing? The Secular Student Alliance already exists and is doing a wonderful job of filling the reason void in an ethical manner. What is the purpose of TST’s club then, if not to mock Christians by using children as the medium? It’s no secret the temple started off as a joke, there is nothing to indicate it is any more than that now. Children shouldn’t be the butt of this joke, they deserve so much more. [Greaves] claimed on Twitter that one club sponsor quit due to harassment. This was an adult. What do we expect the minor members of this club will face, and why isn’t that at the forefront of everyone’s concerns?“
Everett says After School Satan Clubs offer nonreligious and secular students alternatives to religious programming in schools. “We tried to launch After School Satan Club in Northern New York County School District in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania,” she says. “They didn’t have a Good News Club at the school, but they did have what is called the Release Time Religious Instruction Program. The school basically allows parents to send in their permission slips for these kids. A school bus from a church comes and picks them up like in the middle of the day, takes them down to the church for an hour and brings the kids back. The mom that contacted me was an atheist. I was like, That’s kind of fucked up.’ [Her] kids are left behind while three quarters of their class goes away on a special fund field trip once a week to Lifewise Academy?”
TST’s attempts to start an After School Satan offer an alternative “Back to School Night” event drew significant media scrutiny and community consternation. Despite the pushback, Everett says their program is now being offered.
“They actually allowed us to start a release time religious instruction program,” she says. “We just launched it a month ago. My volunteer is picking the kids up at the same time the Lifewise Academy does, taking them down to the public library. They’re doing all kinds of fun crafts and different community projects, and then she brings them back. This past week, they went on Thursday, and they had three additional kids signed up. So it’s called our HAIL program. It’s the Helions Academy of Independent Learning.”
Muongo remains unconvinced. “Would I trust my child in a TST club?” she asks. “In short, no. What I learned in my time at the temple was TST is no different than any other hypocritical religion, as leadership has a difficult time following their own tenets. The tenets, while well and good, are simply an abbreviated version of the Humanist Manifesto from my standpoint. If TST can’t follow their own tenets, they’re not principled enough to educate my child in a classroom setting.”
There are currently no After School Satan Clubs in Colorado.
This is Part Two of a multi-part series on The Satanic Temple. Read Part One here. Read Part Three here.