TACOMA, Wash. — Despite the protests of concerned Christians, the After School Satan Club movement officially expanded from one Northwest city to another last month — right in the middle of the Christmas season.
Numerous news cameras were present Dec. 14 as the Satanic club was launched at Point Defiance Elementary School in Tacoma — only a month after Sacramento Elementary in Portland’s Parkrose School District became the first school in the United States to allow a meeting of the club.
According to the News-Tribune newspaper of Tacoma, the initial meeting there drew 11 adults and nine kids —larger numbers than were seen at the first Portland meeting.
KCPQ-TV 13 news in Seattle reported that about 40 people stood outside to protest the meeting, most of them concerned Christians who openly voiced prayers and also offered hymns on a bagpipe. Some were from two Tacoma Roman Catholic churches — Holy Rosary and Visitation.
Also present from other parts of the nation were representatives for the conservative American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, also a Catholic group.
Spokesman John Ritchie, who came from Penn-sylvania, said they also were there to present more than 103,000 signatures that had been gathered on a nationwide online petition to call for the closing of the Satanic club.
As of late December, 115,713 signatures had been tallied on the petition, which can be found at www.returntoorder.org/petition/keep-satan-washington-schools
The Portland meeting was sponsored by the local chapter of The Satanic Temple, while the Tacoma meeting was sponsored by the temple’s Seattle chapter.
Nationally, the Salem, Mass.-based temple is seeking to set up the clubs as an alternative to the popular Good News Clubs, an after-school club offered in hundreds of schools by the Missouri-based Christian evangelistic ministry Child Evangelism Fellowship.
Several school districts in the Northwest have been approached by The Satanic Temple to grant approval for the clubs, and the districts have wrestled with how to respond. 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 religion, though most of its members identify as atheists and consider Satan only as an allegory for free thought, not as an actual 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.
Ritchie’s group argues that the Satanic clubs are a danger to children, because the clubs deny the existence of God, reject the idea of eternal punishment for evil, foster unconcern for sin and Hell, and replace Christian charity with atheistic humanitarianism.
Word of the temple’s interest in the Tacoma school first came last fall. KCPQ reported back in October that about a dozen church leaders from various Tacoma congregations gathered to talk about the proposed club and see if there was any way to stop it.
Some parents of students at the Tacoma school voiced their concern to Ritchie’s group.
“No one wants this club; we don’t want a group that identifies with Satan to have access to our children,” Jennifer Droubay, a mother of one student, was quoted on Christian Newswire.
But according to the News-Tribune, at least one parent who in October said he probably wouldn’’ enroll his kids indicated he might have since changed his mind. Victor Virgili said that after doing some research on the temple, he determined that they weren’t preaching the dark arts and thus were less scary than he first thought.
Lilith Starr, leader of the Seattle temple, said one parent granted permission for a student to join the club, which is to meet monthly at Point Defiance Elementary during the school year.