MARIETTA — A leader of the Satanic Temple asked the Cobb school board on Thursday for a response to its proposal to open an after-school program at Still Elementary School.
Fred Mephisto, head of the Atlanta chapter of the Satanic Temple, asked the Cobb school board whether the district has received the temple’s application and how the district plans to respond.
Mephisto said the chapter emailed the district its application to start an after-school program, called After School Satan, on Aug. 1. He said FedEx delivered a hard copy of the application Monday and the group had called Superintendent Chris Ragsdale’s office twice.
“We haven’t heard anything back,” said Mephisto, who was dressed in black and accompanied to the meeting by a woman also dressed in black.
Mephisto, who said he graduated from a Cobb school, said the temple views the district’s lack of response as a denial of the application.
The Satanic Temple is targeting schools nationwide that allow Good News Clubs — an evangelical Christian program — to meet. Still Elementary’s website lists Good News Club as an offered after-school program.
“We believe the Satanic Temple has the constitutional right to provide an after-school program as well,” he said.
Board members and Ragsdale remained silent while he spoke and without comment turned their attention to the next speaker when he finished.
After the meeting, Mephisto said the Satanic Temple is considering its next step, which could include legal action.
District spokesperson Donna Lowry said the district is keeping with its original statement: “There is no club there (at Still).”
On Friday, the school district released an email sent to Mephisto stating that a formal application for an after-school program had not been filed.
“This email is intended to confirm receipt of your letter to Superintendent (Chris) Ragsdale dated August 1, 2016,” the email reads. “As of the date/time of this correspondence, Cobb County School District has received no application. Should you wish to submit an application, please refer to our website for more information (under facility use section).”
School district officials would not comment further on the issue.
The Satanic Temple describes itself as a religious and activist group that uses satanic imagery to promote equality, social justice and the separation of church and state. The Atlanta chapter is located in Little Five Points.
The group has attracted national headlines for being involved in reciting a satanic prayer at a Florida city council meeting, trying to install a satanic statute next to a monument of the Ten Commandments at Oklahoma’s Statehouse and engaging in a gravesite ritual of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps’ mother.
Jed Drummond, another member of the Satanic Temple, said his organization is vetting and receiving background check information for more than two people with educational experience to manage the group. He said the club, if approved, could meet once a month at Still for one to two hours.
On Aug. 1, the first day of school for the district, the Satanic Temple announced nine proposed U.S. locations for the after-school program. Still Elementary was the only school in Georgia on the list.
HARMONY LELAND ARCHITECT
In other business, the board voted 7-0 to name Atlanta-based Cunningham Forehand Matthews & Moore Architects as the architect for the replacement school for Harmony Leland and Clay elementaries.
The firm will not begin work on the replacement school unless voters approve a new 1 percent sales tax cycle in March, according to Deputy Superintendent John Adams.
The district has earmarked a total $10 million from the general fund for the project, and the $1.5 million architectural costs come from that sum. The board already used $1.8 million from that fund to purchase 15 acres of land for the replacement school on Factory Shoals Road, Beverly Drive and Elizabeth Lane in November.
The district’s current education SPLOST, called SPLOST IV, is set to expire at the end of 2018. The district is preparing for a new sales tax cycle — SPLOST V — that could run from 2019-23 if passed by voters next March.