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Florida Gov. DeSantis Excludes Church of Satan From Law That Allows Chaplains on School

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed a new law allowing volunteer chaplains to offer support services in public schools, stirring controversy by explicitly excluding members of the Satanic Temple from participating.

At a press conference in Kissimmee, DeSantis made clear his position against the inclusion of the Satanic Temple, stating, “We’re not playing those games in Florida. [Satanism] is not a religion. That is not qualifying to be able to participate in this.” 

His comments set the stage for potential legal challenges regarding religious discrimination.

The Satanic Temple, recognized by the IRS as a tax-exempt religious organization, has indicated plans to challenge the exclusion, which could lead to a First Amendment battle in the courts. 

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Lucien Greaves, co-founder of the Temple, criticized the governor for his disregard for constitutional religious liberties.

“Despite DeSantis’s contempt for religious liberty, the Constitution guarantees our equal treatment under the law, and DeSantis is not at liberty to amend the Constitution by fiat, at whim,” he said. 

Greaves continued, “He just invited Satanic chaplains into public schools, whether he likes it or not.”

The legislation grants school districts the option to implement chaplain programs but does not mandate them.

It outlines that chaplains must provide support after obtaining parental consent and undergoing a background check. 

The details of participating chaplains will be publicly available on district websites.

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Credit: DepositPhotos

While some view the bill as a positive step for addressing student mental health needs through spiritual support, critics, including some Democratic lawmakers, fear it may promote Christian nationalism or allow potentially unqualified individuals to counsel vulnerable youths.

State Sen. Erin Grall, who sponsored the bill, acknowledged the constitutional dilemmas of defining acceptable religions under the new law, expressing concerns about the potential legal implications of excluding certain groups.

Historically, the Satanic Temple has engaged in actions to affirm its stance on religious freedom and the separation of church and state. 

They have often used artistic and provocative methods to challenge public perceptions of religion and advocate for the rights of non-mainstream religious groups.

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Credits: DepositPhotos – Des Moines, Iowa, USA – August 12, 2023: Florida Republican Governor and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis greets supporters at the Iowa State Fair fair side chats in Des Moines, Iowa. — Photo by jhansen2

This is not the first instance of DeSantis opposing the Satanic Temple. 

During his presidential campaign, he supported legal efforts against the Temple’s installations and made strong statements opposing their recognition as a religion.

The introduction of this chaplain bill and its specific exclusions raise significant questions about religious freedom and the role of religion in public spaces, mirroring a broader national debate on these issues.

As this law takes effect and school districts begin to navigate its implementation, the national conversation about the intersection of education, religion, and personal beliefs is likely to intensify, possibly setting a precedent for similar legislation in other states.