Publisher’s update: Since our October issue went to press, an After School Satan Club has been approved for a grade school in Portland’s school district. Details will be in the November issue of CNNW.
MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — Whether it actually would happen is uncertain, but the public school district here appears closer to having a Satanic after-school club meet in a grade school, and it also could happen in an Oregon district.
Centennial Elementary in northern Washington’s Mount Vernon School District and Nehalem Elementary in the Neah-Kah-Nie School District in Oregon’s Tillamook County are among nine schools nationally chosen by The Satanic Temple to host pilot After School Satan Clubs.
The Satanic Temple’s stated goal is to offer an alternative in schools that have the Good News Club, an after-school club offered 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 projecct.” Parental permission would be required of each child who attends.
In the case of the Satanic club proposed for Mount Vernon’s Centennial Elementary School, an attorney for the school district advised the school board last month to approve it, based on legal constraints.
As reported by the Skagit Valley Herald newspaper of Mount Vernon, Seattle attorney Duncan Fobes, hired to represent the school district on the matter, told the board Sept. 21 that the district would face a costly and ultimately unsuccessful legal fight if it denied The Satanic Temple’s Seattle chapter’s application for the club.
Fobes 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.
A 2001 U.S. Supreme Court rulilng, Good News Bible Club vs. Milford Central School District, states that if schools allow any organization to use school property, they must allow all organizations — religious and secular — to have access.
Erwin Stroosma, principal of Centennial Ele-mentary, told the board that the school did not invite the application from the Satanists — they selected his school. He said he and others at the school feel like pawns in a game who are being manipulated.
Asked by a parent at the board meeting to raise their hands if they objected to the proposal, nearly everyone in attendance did so. Among those expressing concern was Mike Cheek, a grandfather of students in the district. He said anything having to do with Satan is dark and evil.
A parent in the district, Melissa McPhaden, ex-pressed doubt that the Satanists really wanted to start a club in Mount Vernon. She said she be-lieved their goal was simply to get a reaction.
As this newspaper went to press, a North Coast news web site, TillamookCoun-tyPioneer.net, reported that representatives of The Satanic Temple of Portland planned to attend an open house in late September at Nehalem Elementary.
The Satanic Temple’s Twitter feed announced that the group would appear to provide information on the After School Satan Clubs, and Neah-Kah-Nie School Superintendent Paul Erle-bach confirmed to the news site that the group had expressed interest in atttending the open house.
Erlebach said the Satanists had filled out an application to use the school facilities. He said that once the Satanic Temple meets all the requirements set forth on the application, including an insurance requirement, that the organization may use available space at the school, the news site reported.
The Satanists also indicated their interest in opening a club at Point Defiance Elementary School in Tacoma.
John Luck of Virginia, director of global partnership for Child Evangelism Fellowship, told The Oregonian recently that the Satanists do have the same right as his ministry to hold meetings in schools, but that he believes the After School Satan Clubs will not get off the ground because of lack of interest. He described the Satanists’ efforts as a publicity stunt.