PORTLAND — While several other Northwest school districts wrestle with whether to approve Satanic after-school clubs in their facilities, a Portland-area district recently became one of the first in the nation to give its OK.
Parkrose School District several weeks ago granted approval to the Portland chapter of The Satanic Temple to launch its After-School Satan Club at Sacramento Elementary School, 11400 N.E. Sacramento St.
The Satanic Temple initially an-nounced that it planned to begin the club meetings on the afternoon of Oct. 19 — the same time as as the Christ-centered Good News Club meetings held at the school —but The Oregonian that morning reported that the group had pushed the start date back to an unspecified date this month.
Satanic Temple chapters in both Portland or 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 Satanic 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.
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 would include “a healthy snack, literature lessons, creative learning activities, science lessons, puzzle solving and an art project.” Parental permission would be required of each child who attends.
In the case of the Satanic club proposed for Mount Vernon, an attorney for that district told the school board in September that they may have no choice but to approve it, based on legal constraints.
The attorney explained that because the district has a policy encouraging community groups to use school facilities, that 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.