Since its release in the spring of 2023, the Protect Children Project’s “Student Rights Card” has been used by over 200 students from around the US to protect their bodily autonomy at school.
The Satanic Temple’s “Student Rights Card” asserts that members of The Satanic Temple are exempt from certain punishments in public schools due to their religious beliefs. One of the tenets of The Satanic Temple is a belief in bodily autonomy. TST claims corporal punishment, seclusion, restraint, and denial of bathroom access violate this religious tenet. Subjecting a TST member to these punishments would violate their civil rights.
“It would be unthinkable for the state to force a practicing Muslim or Jewish person to eat foods that violate their dietary restrictions as a punishment. Similarly, subjecting a member of The Satanic Temple to practices that violate their deeply held beliefs is also unacceptable and unconstitutional,” claims Eliphaz Costus, director of the Protect Children Project.
The Protect Children Project is The Satanic Temple’s campaign to protect students from physical and psychological abuse. According to the Department of Education, in 17 states, it is legal for school officials to physically assault students, and in most states, children can legally be placed in solitary confinement in their schools in spaces no larger than a closet.
While there have been legal challenges to schools implementing these disciplinary measures on the grounds that students are not provided due process, and the punishments are considered cruel and unusual because it is not legal to subject inmates to physical abuse, The Supreme Court ruled in Ingram v Wright that because these children were not charged with a crime, physical and psychological abuse are permissible. However, no one has put forth a religious defense of students before the courts.
“The history of Supreme Court rulings when it comes to student rights is shameful and appalling. However, many judges who applaud the beating of children are also sympathetic to defending religious liberty. If our religious liberty claim is not honored in school and we have to go to court, judges will have to decide which is more important, religious civil rights or the permitting government officials to torture children in school,” notes Costus.
Costus adds that an extensive body of peer-reviewed scientific research shows that corporal punishment and solitary confinement are abusive practices that cause long-term harm and do not achieve their intended purpose of constructively altering behavior.
“Students can carry this card with them in school and show it to any faculty member who threatens to violate their rights through corporal punishment, seclusion, restraint, or denial of bathroom access,” states Costus. “If the card is ignored and they are punished, it will open the door to civil and possibly criminal liabilities.” The “Student Rights Card” is free to download on The Satanic Temple’s website in English and Spanish.
Click here to learn more about TST's Protect Children Project.