Satanic Temple welcomes opportunities to serve as Iowa school chaplains

Satanic Temple Minister Mortimer Adramelech speaks during an Iowa House subcommittee on Tuesday, Jan. 30.

By Ty Rushing

January 30, 2024

Dressed in all black with the exception of his red-tinted sunglasses and red tie, Satanic Temple Minister Mortimer Adramelech said he and his organization would welcome the opportunity to participate in Iowa’s public school chaplain program.

“I personally oppose HF 2073 because I believe in the separation of church and state, but if the bill does pass, I’m excited for the opportunities it presents for the Satanic Temple to support services and programs to school children in our state,” Adramelech said.

The Satanic Temple shared these remarks during Tuesday’s Iowa House subcommittee on HF 2073, which is a companion bill to SSB 3092. As the Senate version did last week, the House version advanced to full committee in a 2-1 vote.

The bills give school boards the power to hire chaplains or recruit them on a volunteer basis.

To be a public school chaplain under this legislation, you do not need any certification, expertise, licensure, or professional background and you can be from any faith—although one of the bill’s sponsors previously alluded to this primarily applying to Christians.

“Iowa has several ordained ministers of Satan and we would be happy to engage children,” Adramelech said. “Hail, Satan; hail, Iowa, and thank you for your time.”

The Satanic Temple—not to be confused with the Church of Satan—does not believe in Satan or his existence. The temple, which is a federally recognized religion, advocates for stricter separation of church and state and equal religious representation in public spaces.

As it was in last week’s Iowa Senate subcommittee on the bill, reception to the bill was about 50-50 in the room.

Oliver Bradwell of Iowans 4 Freedom argued that schools are already trying to indoctrinate religious views on children by having social-emotional learning (SEL) in the curriculum. In a very basic sense, SEL is about teaching kids how to control their emotions, and it has existed in some form or another since the 1970s.

Bradwell said having chaplains would provide balance to schools and noted it was optional for districts to participate.

Shellie Flockhart, a parent of Dallas Center-Grimes students and Moms for Liberty member, also spoke in favor of the bill. She noted it would be good for families like hers who can’t get into a private, Christian school due to long waiting lists. Flockhart said having chaplains would give her more incentive to keep her children in public school.

“This would give her the opportunity to choose a pathway of who to go talk to; maybe a counselor, maybe both,” Flockhart said, referring to her daughter.

The Rev. Brigit Stevens of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa spoke out against the bill both as a faith leader, former chaplain, and parent. She noted as a church leader, having untrained and unqualified pastors presents issues for insurance coverage.

“If your pastors don’t have standings or professional credentialing, it is an astronomical liability—just plain dollars and cents—to have one maybe not even true claim go through your insurance,” she said.

As a parent, Stevens said her top priority is keeping her kids safe.

“Do not allow unlicensed, uncredentialed, unsupervised, untrained, unskilled, self-identified chaplains access to my kids,” she said. “That is not safe. This bill has extreme potential to harm. At the minimum, [add] mandated reporting.”

Rep. Dan Gehlbach (R-Urbandale), who chaired the subcommittee, said they are working with the Iowa Senate on coming up with an amendment to make chaplains mandatory reporters, but he downplayed other fears about letting loosely vetted adults gain regular access to kids.

“We’re putting the onus back on these school boards to hire and vet these candidates and do the background check,” he said.

  • Ty Rushing

    Ty Rushing is the Chief Political Correspondent for Iowa Starting Line. He is a trail-blazing veteran Iowa journalist, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and co-founder and president of the Iowa Association of Black Journalists. Send tips or story ideas to [email protected] and find him on social media @Rushthewriter.

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