'Satanic group' willing to move forward with release program for students in Knox County
excuses student to attend an hour-long released time course in religious moral instruction authorized by a local school district.
Some Knox County School Board members told WVLT Superintendent Bob Thomas gave the okay to test the program at Sterchi Elementary after the Elgin Foundation and The Church at Sterchi Hills approached the school about the opportunity.
Executive Director Tim Rogers said the foundation sponsors several established bible release time programs across East Tennessee, including Anderson, Roane, Scott and Union County.
"We just educate churches and schools in the legality of it. We ask schools to just simply accommodate schools parents who would participate in that," Rogers said.
Now, a group calling themselves The Satanic Children's Ministry of Knoxville is speaking out after Knox County Schools announced the pilot release program.
The ministry said they aim to provide a satanic release program and equal opportunity for children who do not wish to participate in studying the Bible.
"We believe church and state should be separate and that includes the schools," said a representative from the Satanic Ministry. "Unfortunately, organizations such as Elgin Children’s Foundation and Emerald Youth have been attempting to dismantle this separation in Knoxville for quite some time now. We have done our best to counteract the indoctrination that they are working on bringing into schools but the only way we can successfully do that at this point is to exercise our own religious freedom by implementing a program of our own."
The ministry said one of their main tenants is to stand against bigotry and hate.
"Our goal is to teach children the empathy, compassion, and kindness that the tenets [of the Satanic Temple] promote. We initially thought we would just be signing out our own children with this program but amid the outrage, we have learned the interest in our program extends beyond our families."
The ministry said the vast majority of Satanists do not believe in a literal Satan, but rather use him as a symbol of free thought. The ministry has no official connection to the Satanic Temple or the Church of Satan.
The Ministry said on Facebook they hope that the school board will vote to allow the program at a December meeting.
"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!" they said on Facebook.
WVLT reached out to all school board members asking how they would vote on a proposed release policy. Only four out of nine responded:
Susan Horn, District 5 - Would approve
Virginia Babb, District 4 - Wouldn't approve
Evetty Satterfield- District 1 - Undecided
Terry Hill, District 6 - Would approve