DeSantis Approves School Chaplain Bills But Sends Warning To Satanists

( — On Thursday, April 18, Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed two new bills that some believe violate the modern understanding of the separation of church and state in America.

The first is HB1317, which gives Florida schools the authorization to bring in patriotic organizations like the Boy Scouts of America, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, or the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. The other more contentious bill is HB931, which allows schools to institute a statewide school chaplain program in public schools.

DeSantis commented that many people may not know about all the organizations that are available for young people. While that is true, most of those organizations have had public outreach programs for schools, libraries and other public institutions for a very long time. He also suggested that joining positive organizations like these might be healthier for kids than simply going to school, returning home and “being on electronics” all day. Some feel the problem is the patriotic stipulation, as modern discourse often condemns being patriotic as a hateful attitude.

HB931, however, is already being challenged by Lucien Greaves of The Satanic Temple. DeSantis, however, preempted the challenges by Satanists by saying that in Florida they will not be “playing those games” and stating that it is not a religion. While The Satanic Temple does have religious tax-exempt status in the U.S., many Satanists characterize their beliefs as humanistic rejection of religion in general and Christianity specifically, with no adherence to any faith-based concepts of any kind. Republican sponsor of the bill, Senator Erin Grall, worries that they may run into constitutional problems if they start trying to define what is and what isn’t a religion.

DeSantis stressed that the programs are optional, with many safeguards in place. The school chaplains are allowed, but not mandated, and will be required to pass background checks. Students will also require parental permission to consult with the school chaplains. Democratic Senator Lori Berman of Palm Beach County expressed disapproval that the chaplains be considered a mental health resource for the students, saying that only licensed professionals, social workers, guidance counselors, or psychologists should be used.

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