“Not Playing These Games in Florida”- DeSantis Denies Satanists From Joining School Program

By: Lauren | Published: Apr 30, 2024

Republican Ron DeSantis is well known for his staunch stances; from LGBTQ+ rights to religion in schools, the Florida governor has never been shy about his feelings toward what he calls left-wing ideology.

Now, the most recent example of the governor’s crusade to keep Florida conservative is making headlines: DeSantis announced that public schools in the Sunshine State will offer religious guidance to students, but Satanic leaders will not be allowed to participate.

DeSantis Signs Florida’s Chaplaincy Program

On Thursday, April 18, 2024, Governor DeSantis signed HB 931, which established a state-wide chaplain program. The bill explains that schools can now invite volunteer chaplains onto school property to offer students the option for additional counseling.

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A priest holds open a Bible outside

Source: Freepik

The word chaplain was very specifically chosen for the bill as it is defined as a cleric or lay representative of a religious tradition. In other words, counselors from any religious background are welcome to volunteer.

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Emotional Support for the Next Generation

DeSantis, along with other Floridians who approve of the bill, hopes that the volunteer chaplains will be able to offer spiritual support to students who want and need it.

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A school counselor smiles while speaking to a student

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As DeSantis explained, “There are some students where they need some soul craft. That can make all the difference in the world.”

The Volunteers Will Undergo a Background Check Before Working with the Children

Technically, the volunteers don’t need to have any specific qualifications, such as a college degree or counseling certification.

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Close-up photograph of paperwork for a criminal background check with black glasses and a pen

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However, DeSantis promised parents around the state that each and every applicant would undergo a detailed background check and interview by the school before they were allowed to offer counseling to their kids.

Florida Parents Reportedly Worried About Satanists

The stipulations on hiring counselors were certainly important to Florida parents, but some had another concern. Several parents apparently reached out to the governor’s office and expressed that they were worried Satanists would soon be “running around” in schools.

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis holds up his hand in celebration at an event

Source: Reddit

To which DeSantis replied, “Some have said if you do a school chaplain program that somehow you’re going to have Satanists running around in all our schools. We’re not playing those games in Florida. That is not a religion.”

DeSantis Claims Chaplains of Satanism Will Not Be Allowed in Florida Schools

According to the governor, “[Satanism] 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.”

Illustration of world religions with several stick figure people with the symbols of religions above their heads

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However, DeSantis’ comment has received immediate backlash as many are arguing it clearly violates the nation’s First Amendment.

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What Does the First Amendment Have to Say About All This?

The First Amendment of the US Constitution reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” And since the case of McCollum v. Board of Education (1948), that amendment now applies to the nation’s public school system.

Close-up photo of a replica of the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution

Source: Adobe Stock

Essentially, that means that, according to the Constitution, public schools and the educators they employ cannot favor or disfavor any religion within its facilities.

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Educators Cannot Endorse a Religion in America’s Public Schools

Even before DeSantis’ controversial statement, this bill to allow religiously affiliated counseling at public schools was already walking the line of legality.

A teacher points to a student with their hand up in class

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Teachers, principals, counselors, and even food service employees in schools cannot ask children about their religious affiliation, encourage religion, or speak against it. However, because these chaplains won’t technically work for the school as they are volunteers, DeSantis found a way around that law.

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DeSantis’ Comments Are Unconstitutional

However, even though the bill may not be breaking the laws of the First Amendment, many say that DeSantis absolutely is through his comments against Satanism.

Man in a suit ripping up the US Constitution

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The Satanic Temple’s Director of Ministry, Penemue Grigori, spoke out in response to the governor’s statement saying chaplains from their temple will not be allowed in Florida’s schools.

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The Director of the Satanic Temple Has Spoken Out Against DeSantis

Grigori said in his own statement, “Any opportunity that exists for ministers or chaplains in the public sector must not discriminate based on religious affiliation.”

The official logo for The Satanic Temple Ministry

Source: @Ordainedsatanicministry/Facebook

He continued, “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.”

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What Is Satanism?

The Satanic Temple Ministry also wants to make it clear, for those concerned, who they are and what they worship.

A digital illustration of heaven and hell with clouds and sunshine on top and fire below

Source: Adobe Stock

On their website, they answer the question, “Do you worship Satan?” with the response, “No, nor do we believe in the existence of Satan or the supernatural. Satan is a symbol of the Eternal Rebel in opposition to arbitrary authority, forever defending personal sovereignty even in the face of insurmountable odds.

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Everyone Wants What’s Best for America’s Youth

This debate is far from over; DeSantis’ comments forbidding chaplains from The Satanist Temple will likely face more backlash and maybe even legal proceedings. Because as Ryan Jayne of the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Action Fund explained, “The Satanic Temple is a church, whether people like it or not.”

A young girl holds up an American flag in front of her class

Source: Freepik

However, many agree that spiritual guidance for students is a positive step in the right direction. As Meg Kilgannon, Family Research Council’s Senior Fellow for Education Studies, explained, “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.”

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