This story was updated Wednesday with comments from Tacoma pastor the Rev. Gregory Christopher.
Organizers of an after-school Satan club at Point Defiance Elementary School in Tacoma have the green light to proceed.
Volunteers sponsored by The Satanic Temple of Seattle will host an open house for Point Defiance parents, students, teachers and staff members Dec. 14, two days before the start of winter break.
The club would be the first after-school Satan club in Washington state, according to Seattle chapter head Lilith Starr. An earlier request to start a club in Mount Vernon was withdrawn because of scheduling issues with the school district there, she said.
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After-school Satan clubs are being formed in nine communities around the United States, Starr said.
Tacoma Public Schools spokesman Dan Voelpel confirmed that the after-school Satan club application to use space at the school was approved. He said organizers plan to meet once a month at the West End school through the end of the school year.
Club meetings at Point Defiance are scheduled for the second Wednesday of each month, after school ends at 3:30 pm, and will take place in the school’s art room.
The Rev. Gregory Christopher, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in Tacoma, said he’s disappointed that the Satan Club won approval to open a club at Point Defiance.
“I don’t think that the Tacoma School District should assist them in proselytizing, nor assist them in their goal to undermine the faith community by allowing them to have an open house at the school,” Christopher said. He said he and other pastors “will be prayerful on how we make sure that our children are not brainwashed by this Satan Club.”
The Tacoma club will be the first After-School Satan Club in Washington state
Satanic Temple officials say they want to provide an alternative for students at schools, such as Point Defiance, that have offered Good News Clubs, a Christian after-school program developed by the Missouri-based Child Evangelism Fellowship. Starr said the Satanic Temple does not advocate for religion in schools.
Christopher said temple members “say they are a religion at times and then they say they are not at other times.” He said they are using religion to gain access to students, “so that they can teach their tenets.”
Point Defiance parents interviewed last month about the prospect of a Satan club at their child’s school had mixed reactions.
Some said it was wrong to bring a club based on religious beliefs into a public school, while others said they didn’t want to stand in the way of other people’s belief systems. The Tacoma Ministerial Alliance last month hosted a community discussion about the proposed club.
Starr said Satan clubs offer games, puzzles and snacks, along with education about scientific rationalism, critical thinking and self-determination — beliefs temple members hold dear.
The Satanic Temple is a national organization headquartered in Salem, Massachusetts. The temple says its purpose is to “encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, and to embrace practical common sense and justice.”