MOUNT VERNON — The Satanic Temple of Seattle has asked the Mount Vernon School District for permission to start an after-school program at Centennial Elementary School.
The After School Satan Club would be the first of its kind in the state, said Tarkus Claypool, campaign manager for the Satanic Temple of Seattle.
“We’re not there to indoctrinate,” Claypool said. “Unless you think exposing (kids) to free thinking is indoctrination.”
The club, he said, would be in direct response to the Good News Bible Club, which is run at Centennial by the Child Evangelism Fellowship.
“It’s designed to be a counterpoint to the Good News program,” Claypool said.
The Satanic Temple of Seattle would like to have the program up and running this school year, but has yet to receive approval from the school district.
“What I want to make clear is we’re not to the point of granting access,” Mount Vernon School District Superintendent Carl Bruner said.
A 1991 Supreme Court ruling, Good News Club vs. Milford Central School District, stated that if schools allow any organization to use school property, they must allow all organizations — religious and secular — access, Bruner said.
Since then many districts, including Mount Vernon, have played host to Good News clubs, he said. Although Centennial is the only school currently hosting the club, other schools in Mount Vernon had done so previously.
“We cannot say ‘no’ to the Good News Bible Club,” Bruner said.
Claypool said a Centennial parent recently brought the Good News Bible Club’s use of school property to the attention of the Satanic Temple, which has been operational in Seattle for about a year and a half, Claypool said.
The parent was concerned about publicly-funded spaces being used by the Good News Bible Club, he said.
“These children (in the Good News Bible Club), they’re also taught to evangelize to other children,” Claypool said. “(The parent) thought this indoctrination on school grounds was inappropriate.”
The temple has aspirations to open an After School Satan Club at every school that has a Good News Bible Club, Claypool said.
He said the goal aligns with a movement on behalf of Satanic Temples nationwide.
“We’re leveraging equal access,” he said.
If the program is successful in Mount Vernon, the temple hopes to open another After School Satan Club at Point Defiance Elementary School in Tacoma, Claypool said.
“We don’t worship a deity,” he said. “We only see Satan as a metaphor for fighting religious tyranny and oppression.”
The temple has created a curriculum for the program, which Claypool said would be run by two adults who have been trained to teach it.
“Our curriculum is about teaching them logic, self-empowerment and reasoning,” he said. “The most Satanic thing about it is in the healthy snack — we have an apple.”
Claypool said temple members are working on their facility-use application with the district.
Bruner said the district has heard concerns from parents about the potential club and is taking those concerns seriously.
“It’s kind of an all-or-nothing deal,” Bruner said. “Do we want to exclude everyone from use of our public facilities just because of this group that’s trying to make a point?”
The district will work with its attorney and its school board to explore how to respond to the application.