Julieta Chiquillo, The Dallas Morning News

The Satanic Temple doesn’t like the paddling of schoolchildren, so it’s picking a fight with a small Fort Worth-area school district.

On Wednesday, it raised a billboard along State Highway 199 in Springtown with this message: “Never be hit in school again. Exercise your religious rights.”

Members of The Satanic Temple, an activist group that views Satan not as a deity but as an icon of rebellion, are criticizing Springtown ISD for allowing corporal punishment. The district made headlines in 2012 when a male assistant principal at Springtown High School paddled two female students.

The billboard displays the group’s logo, which features a pentagram framing a goat skull. It also highlights a website that invites students to fill out a form that would affirm “the inviolability of the human body” as one of their deeply held religious beliefs.

If a student registers on the site and later faces corporal punishment at school, The Satanic Temple will send a letter to the school board on the student’s behalf and even go to court to fight for the student’s right to free exercise of religion, said the group’s spokesman, Lucien Greaves.

Registering for the website won’t make the students members of The Satanic Temple, Greaves said, but it will align them with the group’s tenet that a person’s body is inviolable and subject only to his or her will.

“This all comes down to us offering an exemption to corporal punishment,” Greaves said. “We’re hoping to get children to sign up to exempt themselves from corporal punishment policies, whether their parents agree or not.”

The 2012 paddling of the girls in Springtown violated a district policy requiring corporal punishment to be carried out by school staff of the same sex. But after the incident, Springtown ISD changed its rules so that students could be punished by school staff of the opposite sex as long as a school employee of the same sex as the student was present.

The mothers of the girls who were paddled complained that their daughters had bruises.

“I gave consent for my daughter to get a swat, but I didn’t give consent for him to bruise my daughter,” Cathi Watt said, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I don’t think a female will raise a bruise because she doesn’t have the strength of a male. I think this sends a message to boys that it’s OK to hit a girl and it’s OK to bruise a girl. That’s not right.”

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