Just in time for Christmas, a group of Satanists will make their first visit to a Tacoma school next month and may be as unwelcome as holiday party crashers.
They picked Point Defiance Elementary as the first Washington campus to roll out their After School Satan Club. Needless to say, it won’t have the festive cheer of an after-school Santa club.
The Dec. 14 open house, hosted by members of the Satanic Temple of Seattle, will give a sneak preview of a curriculum that’s based on critical thinking and rationalism.
Hellbent on spreading non-Christian counterprogramming, the Satanists have their eyes on scores of public schools around the country that allow after-school access to evangelical Good News Clubs. They’re starting small with a handful of schools, including the one in Tacoma’s West End.
Don’t expect black robes or pitchforks at the open house. The Satanists say their materials are age-appropriate, but the devil’s in the details. The kids’ activity book is sprinkled with pentagrams and goat heads and features a cartoon drawing of a girl leading a Satanic ritual in a classroom.
Is the club a joke? No, although the Satanic Temple plays with over-the-top imagery in its after-school promotions, including a creepy video, and is clearly trying to get attention while having some diabolical fun.
Is the club sacrilegious? Definitely. In its seven tenets and on its website, the temple embraces blasphemy and the freedom to be offensive.
Is allowing the club consistent with the values of America, to which we pledge “one nation, under God?” Absolutely. Our constitution and courts forbid discrimination against any group, no matter how unpleasant their speech or unwanted their assembly, up to and including the Ku Klux Klan and the Westboro Baptist Church.
Tacomans of good faith are understandably disturbed by the Satanists, especially as a sacred season on the Christian calendar approaches. It won’t be surprising if there are protests, as happened Wednesday in Portland when a similar open house was held at an elementary school there.
The Rev. Gregory Christopher, pastor of Tacoma’s Shiloh Baptist Church, is among those questioning the Tacoma School District for allowing the club. He told a News Tribune reporter that he and others “will be prayerful on how we make sure that our children are not brainwashed.”
Prayer is a positive response and protest is their right. But a potentially effective option that opponents ought to consider taking is the path of least resistance.
Ignore the Satanist sideshow. If children don’t turn out for the weekly club sessions, and if adults don’t give them attention by waving placards in front of TV cameras, the club will move on and eventually vanish, like Lucifer in a cloud of sulfur.
That’s the hope of the Liberty Counsel, a national religious advocacy group. It fought all the way to the U.S Supreme Court to win school access for the Good News Clubs. But it doesn’t seem worried that Satan Clubs will stick around for the long haul.
Liberty Counsel founder and chairman Mat Staver told The Washington Post he expects the clubs will “fade away in the near future for lack of interest.”
He said he opposes the message of Satanists but supports their First Amendment right to be in schools — a right his group secured from the Supreme Court in 2001.
That court decision underpins the Tacoma School District’s decision to let the Satanic Temple use a school meeting room on the basis of equal access and nondiscrimination.
Many of the temple’s views actually fit well in Washington. Rational thought and science-based inquiry are already well-established here; Tacoma public school teachers have followed these principles for years. And secularism enjoys deep support in the most unchurched corner of the country.
What makes the Satan Club so off-putting is its association with history’s most enduring personification of evil. Responsible parents instinctively want to protect their children from evil.
Satanic Temple leaders claim they don’t worship a supernatural prince of darkness; rather, they’ve adopted him as a “metaphorical construct.” But using Satan to appeal to the brain won’t go far because, for many people, these are matters of heart and soul.
Even if you remove theology from the equation, Satan makes a lousy mascot. Consider the literary world: In Milton’s epic poem “Paradise Lost,” the character of Satan has only darkness behind and ahead of him. His sole function is to obstruct good. No critical thinking involved.
Lilith Starr, head of the Seattle Satanist chapter, said in an interview Wednesday that it plans to lead the after-school club once a month at least through the end of the school year. “If it’s successful, we will expand it,” she said.
If you don’t like it, you could join a protest and end up on the 10 o’clock news. But beware perpetuating the stereotype of Christian intolerance, which only emboldens the Satanists.
There are ways to deny them success that won’t fan the flames.
Twice Jesus is recorded in the New Testament saying: “Get thee behind me, Satan.”
Sometimes the best way to deal with something objectionable is to put it at your backside and walk away.