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‘That Is Not a Religion’: DeSantis Bars Satanists from Florida School Chaplaincy Program

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Counseling services

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Florida has recently passed a law permitting chaplains to provide counseling services in public and charter schools. Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill, emphasizing that while chaplains are welcome, Satanists will not be allowed to participate.

Concerns

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This decision was made to address concerns raised by Christian and conservative organizations. “Some have said if you do a school chaplain program that somehow you’re going to have Satanists running around in all our schools,” DeSantis said in a news conference. “We’re not playing those games in Florida. That is not a religion. That is not qualifying to be able to participate in this, so we’re going to be using common sense when it comes to this, so you don’t have to worry about that.”

Religion

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“We’re not playing those games in Florida. That is not a religion. That is not qualifying to be able to participate in [the chaplain program.] We’re going to be using common sense… you don’t have to worry about that,” DeSantis added.

Florida Senate

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The bill passed the Florida Senate in February, with the House version receiving approval at the beginning of the previous month.

Chaplains

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The legislation’s text said, “Each school district or charter school may adopt a policy to authorize volunteer school chaplains to provide supports, services, and programs to students as assigned by the district school board or charter school governing board.”

New law

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Under the new law, volunteer chaplains must undergo a background check. School administrators are also mandated to disclose the religious affiliation of each volunteer chaplain and obtain parental consent before a student can receive counseling.

Discriminate

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“Any opportunity that exists for ministers or chaplains in the public sector must not discriminate based on religious affiliation,” The Satanic Temple’s Director of Ministry Penemue Grigori said back in February. “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.”

Ryan Jayne

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Ryan Jayne from the Action Fund of the Freedom From Religion Foundation stated, “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.”

Meg Kilgannon

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Meg Kilgannon, the Senior Fellow for Education Studies at the Family Research Council, informed The Washington Stand “It is wonderful to have such a strong statement denying the legitimacy of Satanism as a religion or church from Gov. DeSantis. But I worry that appeals to common sense will not hold in the most ideological school systems, even in Florida.”

Faith

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“Regardless, this is an important step in acknowledging the role that faith plays in our lives and how important it is that the big questions students have about morality, life and death, and God’s plan for their lives are best answered by a parent or priest, pastor, or chaplain,” Kilgannon said.

DeSantis

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DeSantis has previously spoken out against Satanism, stating that he does not consider it to be a legitimate religion.

Destroyed

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In December, following an incident where military veteran Michael Cassidy, known for his Christian beliefs, destroyed a Baphomet idol placed in the Iowa state capitol building by The Satanic Temple, the Florida governor commented in a social media post. “Satan has no place in our society and should not be recognized as a ‘religion’ by the federal government. I’ll chip in to contribute to this veteran’s legal defense fund. Good prevails over evil — that’s the American spirit.”

Satanism

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I firmly believe that Satanism should not be acknowledged as a “religion” by the government. I will support this veteran by contributing to their legal defense fund.

Supernatural

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The Satanic Temple provided a response to the question on its website: “Do you worship Satan?” stating, “No, nor do we believe in the existence of Satan or the supernatural.”

Eternal Rebel

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TST added, “Satan is a symbol of the Eternal Rebel in opposition to arbitrary authority, forever defending personal sovereignty even in the face of insurmountable odds. … Our metaphoric representation is the literary Satan best exemplified by Milton and the Romantic Satanists from Blake to Shelley to Anatole France.”

Signing the bill

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With DeSantis signing the bill, Florida’s new law will come into effect on July 1st.

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