MOUNT VERNON, Wash. - The Satanic Temple organization announced this week that it will be applying to open after-school programs at many public schools around the country. In Washington state, the Seattle chapter has requested to start a club at Centennial Elementary School in Mount Vernon.
Lilith Starr, the Seattle chapter head of The Satanic Temple, said the organization is trying to start programs at schools that currently have Good News Clubs.
Good News Clubs are operated by Child Evangelism Fellowship. John Luck, the Good News Across America Program Manager, said they have 78,000 such clubs around the world.
Starr described their alternative, the After School Satan club: “People can come and have fun, and also learn some skills -- critical thinking, scientific rationalism, how to understand the world according to science.”
She added that her organization does not worship the devil.
“I understand where the confusion comes from. But absolutely not. We don't believe in any supernatural beings,” Starr said.
Instead, their idea of Satan comes from the literary figure in "Paradise Lost,’" who serves as a metaphor for rebellion against tyranny.
She said a parent at Centennial Elementary School reached out to Starr’s group when a permission slip for a Good News Club came home with the child.
The permission slip accompanied a small flyer, describing Bible songs, games and snacks. Starr said she understands these activities are completely voluntary for parents. But she said problems arise when young children may confuse a Good News Club leader with a public school teacher, because they are using the same space.
Starr said the parent asked The Satanic Temple for help. Since this week’s headlines about a nationwide effort to start clubs, Starr said more parents in the Puget Sound region have contacted her.
That’s how they found out about another Good News Club at Point Defiance Elementary School.
In a 2001 Supreme Court decision, Good News Club gained access to a public school in New York, because the school could not discriminate against speech that takes place on its campus based on the viewpoint it expresses.
For that reason, Luck said he does not have a problem with the After School Satan club.
“We disagree with their point of view, but from an equal access standpoint, they have the right to do what they are doing,” Luck said.
He added that he did not believe the program would be successful, however.
“Parents are not likely to send their kids to after school Satan clubs,” he said.
KIRO 7 reached out to the Mount Vernon School District and to Mount Vernon school board members. They have not responded yet about how they will proceed.
Starr said she has not received a response from the district. She said if her group is denied, The Satanic Temple will litigate.
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