PORTLAND — Although the press was not allowed to attend, the first-ever meeting of an After School Satan Club in the United States not surprisingly still drew big media attention — and some Christian protesters — in the Rose City on Wednesday, Nov. 16.
As reported by The Oregonian and local TV stations, the meeting took place at Sacramento Elementary School in Portland’s Parkrose School District, 11400 N.E. Sacramento St.
Staff at the school declined to speak to the press about the club, but did confirm to the newspaper that Nov. 16 was an early release day, which is why the “after school” meeting happened not in the afternoon, but at 11:45 a.m.
Some parents said classes at the school were let out earlier than usual, which allowed parents time to get their children before protests.
According to The Oregonian, that first meeting was preceded the night before by a presentation by the Satanic Temple at nearby Parkrose Middle School.
Though a press release from the temple’s Portland chapter said that Tuesday night event would be open to the community and members of the press, KPTV Fox 12 reported they were not allowed inside.
The school district earlier this fall gave approval to the Satanic Temple to launch the club at Sacramento Elementary. The temple’s stated goal is to offer an alternative to schools that have the Good News Club, an after-school club offered at hundreds of schools nationally by the Christian ministry Child Evangelism Fellowship.
Satanic Temple chapters in both Portland and Seattle have made similar requests to launch clubs at Nehalem Elementary in the Neah-Kah-Nie district in Oregon’s Tillamook County, Centennial Elementary in northern Washington’s Mount Vernon School District, and Point Defiance Elementary in the Tacoma, Wash. district.
The various school districts are wrestling with how to respond to the requests. Under federal law, if a district has a policy encouraging community groups to use school facilities, it must make it available to the Satanic club.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that if schools allow any organization to use school property, they must allow all organizations — religious and secular — to have access.
The temple claims to be an organized religiou, though most of its members identify as atheists and consider Satan only as an allegory for free thought, not as an acual personality. The group instead claims to be focused on science and rational thinking, and says the After School Satan Club includes “a healthy snack, literature lessons, creative learning activities, science lessons, puzzle solving and an art project.” Parental permission is required of each child who attends.
Coming all the way from Pennsylvania to Portland to protest the Satanic club were four representatives of a Christian group — a Roman Catholic anti-blasphemy outreach called America Needs Fatima, part of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property. They were joined by members of the community and a priest who happened to be in the area from Ohio.
The group had sent out a press release nationally several days earlier through Christian Newswire to announce that it had launched an online petition against the club, with a goal of 100,000 signatures.
“Parents are aghast. And so many good people are standing up in peaceful protest,” said America Needs Fatima rally coordinator Francis Slobodnik. “More than 87,000 people have signed the petition against Satan clubs, urging school authorities not to allow Satan — the father of lies — into the lives of young children. Every single voice counts against the devil. This needs to be stopped … To dismiss the opening of a Satan club in an elementary school as something of little importance is to ignore the way Satan works. Once Satan gets in, who will get him out?”
The petition can be seen at www.returntoorder.org/petition/keep-satan-sacramento-schools. However, it mistakenly implies at one point that the first club’s location is in Sacramento, Calif., rather than Sacramento Elementary in Portland.
Satanic Temple representatives defended their new club. Jex Blackmore, head of the temple’s Detroit, Mich., chapter, came to Portland for the club’s first meeting and told the Oregonian that the protest was absurd. Finn Rezz, the co‑head of the temple’s Portland chapter of the Satanic Temple, said temple members were simply exercising their rights as Americans and promoting their personal values.
David Linn, parent of a second grader at the school, told the newspaper that as far as he’s concerned, neither the Christian club nor the Satanic club should meet there.