Satanic Temple leader wants to debate religious freedom with DeSantis

Lucien Greaves stands inside the recently opened international headquarters of the Satanic Temple in Salem, Mass. (Credit: Associated Press)

By Crystal Harlan

April 22, 2024

As the bill was moving through the state legislative process, The Satanic Temple threatened to sue the state if any of its members were excluded from the school chaplain program.

The co-founder of The Satanic Temple (TST), Lucien Greaves, has challenged Gov. Ron DeSantis to a debate after being excluded from a new school chaplain program signed into law last week.

The program allows school districts to authorize volunteer chaplains to provide “support, services and programs” to students in public school. While the program is voluntary and requires written parental consent, DeSantis has explicitly excluded chaplains from TST.

“Some have said that 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,” DeSantis said during a bill-signing ceremony in Kissimmee. “That is not a religion. That is not qualified to be able to participate in this.”

The executive director of operations at TST, Rachel Chambliss, emailed a letter to DeSantis requesting a public debate between the governor and Greaves.

“We believe that a public debate would provide an excellent platform to thoroughly discuss the principles of religious freedom in America,” Chambliss wrote.

As the bill was moving through the state legislative process, TST threatened to sue the state if any of its members were excluded from the school chaplain program.

“[DeSantis] is not at liberty to amend the Constitution by fiat, and we are a federally recognized religious organization,” Greaves told the Orlando Sentinel. “There is nothing on paper that excludes The Satanic Temple from offering chaplains in public schools, and to do so would be illegal. DeSantis does not even bother to offer a legal theory by which we would be excluded.”

TST, which the IRS recognizes as a tax-exempt church, has congregations across the nation and world, including in Florida.

“If FL’s Republican administration deliberately excludes the group from the state’s new school chaplain program, that would constitute the kind of discrimination that would likely fail in court,” Greaves posted on X.

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Author

  • Crystal Harlan

    Crystal is a bilingual editor and writer with over 20 years of experience in digital and print media. She is currently based in Florida, but has lived in small towns in the Midwest, Caracas, New York City, and Madrid, where she earned her MA in Spanish literature.

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