Protests precede ‘Satanic’ after-school club opening in Tacoma

TACOMA, Wash. -- Tacoma’s first after-school Satan club opened its doors at Point Defiance Elementary School.

Local Satanists told Q13 News they are not trying to convert children; instead they want to expose them to other religions.

The controversial program drew a protest at the school Wednesday. Nearly 40 people stood outside to protest the new after-school program put on by The Satanic Temple of Seattle.

“These 5-year-old children are very impressionable; if you have an adult come in and talk about Satan, they’re going to be harmed by that,” said John Ritchie,  with the conservative American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property.

Protesters prayed that the Satanists would cancel the after-school program before it begins.

“We are here to present more than 103,000 petitions that we gathered nationwide to call for the closing of the Satan club here,” Ritchie said.

But Vapula Lix, a local Satanist, said the program is only opening in response to another religious organization’s after-school club that she said evangelizes to young children in a captive setting.

“We’re not telling kids about Satan, that’s not our goal,” she said. “They’re (other religious organizations) the ones that opened this up. We’re taking the opportunity just as they did and we have that right to.”

Tacoma Public Schools said the volunteers passed a background check and paid for a $1 million insurance policy. School officials said they are bound by state and federal law to allow the Satanists to offer an after-school program.

“State law and a U.S Supreme Court decision says we have to make our space available to outside organizations regardless of their beliefs,” said Dan Voelpel, chief information officer for Tacoma Public Schools.

“Anything that uses the word or name 'Satan' is evil, that’s why, (the) reason why I don’t agree with this group that wants to use this school,” said local mom Lani Vaiolo.

Vaiolo said one of her three children attends Point Defiance Elementary and she worries the Satanists could harm her kids even if they don’t attend the after-school club.

“Anything evil you’re not supposed to be a part of,” she said.

Wednesday’s after-school program was an open house meant to be a meet-and-greet with kids or parents who are interested.

While no one had signed up to be part of the program so far, the school district said the Satanists paid rent through the end of the school year.