There are certain political groups that we rightly exclude from the political commons. Not because in doing so they are antithetical to our ideas of liberalism (lowercase-L) or democracy (lowercase-D), but because they are antithetical to the moral tradition from which both liberalism and democracy spring forward.
Of course, our Founders were wise enough to give classical liberalism and the democratic spirit the guidelines required to thrive. Through constitutional limitations on the power of federal overreach, the various factions as defined by Madison are balanced by the traditions and processes which guarantee our liberties and basic rights.
So there’s a reason why Nazis are not welcome to participate in public life, even if they are tolerated in the public square as something to be mocked. There’s a reason why the Ku Klux Klan doesn’t receive a forum, even though they are mocked ruthlessly in the film and entertainment industry.
And there’s a reason why the ASS Club doesn’t get to be in our public schools. From WAVY 13:
A flyer advertising the club started circulating on social media promoting the club, which is set to launch at B.M. Williams Primary School on Dec. 15.
“We are non-theistic,” said Rose Bastet, a volunteer organizing the new club. “I understand the apprehension behind the satanic name, but he is just an imaginary figure that we look to because he is the eternal rebel that fought for justice and humanity.”
What spurred the ASS Club to petition to form a group in a primary school of all places? Christian groups — theistic groups, one might add — decided they wanted to sit around and read Sacred Scripture as part of a student-led group:
According to the organizers of the After School Satan Club, this all started when an email promoting the Evangelical Good News Club came to parents from B.M. Williams Principal Brighid Gates back in September. A flyer came along with it, describing the Bible and scripture lessons that are a part of the club.
Of course, the problem here is that the school district, in an effort to uphold both liberalism and democracy, decided that the ASS Club needed equal footing:
Cotton confirmed that the school district approved a building use request from an organization known as the “After School Satan Club” (ASSC) to host gatherings after school hours at B.M. Williams Primary School on North Battlefield Boulevard. The request was approved since the club met the criteria under CPS Board policy regarding community use of facilities.
One wonders whether this same school district would approve of a neo-Nazi group asking to use community spaces? Or the local branch of the Ku Klux Klan asking to have “Bible studies” and proclaiming to just want a safe space for their kids and their future, etc.
The problem with all three of these examples — Nazism, the Klan, Satanists — is that none of the three can exist within a society which holds any sacred values whatsoever. All three are antithetical to politics, all three are antithetical to society, all three are hostile to either politics and/or religion.
In short, there is no “freedom of religion” or “freedom of conscience” to defend here, precisely because all three of these groups are ultimately opposed to and contradictory to the purposes of defending what we commonly recognize as liberties.
Satanism is an anti-religion. Not in the sense that atheism is anti-theism, but rather in the sense that Satanism represents an unparalleled violence against the good, true, and beautiful. Unlike politics and ideas which ask us to choose in a public square, such ideologies as us to decide, divide, accuse and ultimately turn our country into two camps: friends and enemies.
Such organizations are not religious; they are anti-religious. While they are free to espouse their beliefs, what they are not free to do is malappropriate the very engines and tools created by those who do believe in freedom of religion — which is to say, the freedom of a thing we all recognize as pertaining to God.
That such an ideology would find a home in a Virginia primary school is odious in the extreme, and a clear sign that our modern ideas of liberality and democracy come unhinged and unmoored when divorced from the deeply rooted traditions which created both.
That such a group called the ASS Club would be formed among kindergartners in response to an evangelical Christian group? Well, discerning readers can be the judge as to where that spirit comes from.
St. Michael the Archangel, ora pro nobis.