B.M. Williams Primary School in Chesapeake, Virginia, hosted an “After School Satan Club” on Thursday.
The club was originally supposed to start holding meetings at the school in December, but it was delayed.
According to a flyer posted on Reddit, the club plans to teach kids “benevolence and empathy, critical thinking, problem-solving, creative expression, personal sovereignty, and compassion.”
“We are non-theistic,” Rose Bastet, a volunteer organizing the new club, told local station WAVY. “I understand the apprehension behind the satanic name, but he is just an imaginary figure that we look to because he is the eternal rebel that fought for justice and humanity.”
The club was set up in response to the Evangelical Good News Club being hosted at the school. The group argued that if the school allows one religion to host events, they must allow all.
“We hope that tonight’s meeting is a joyful, enriching experience for the children,” said June Everett, director of The Satanic Temple’s After School Satan Club, prior to the meeting, according to a report from The Hill. “There’s often a misconception about our religious beliefs and practices, but we will not accept discrimination by government officials. Public schools everywhere are on notice that we will vigorously defend The Satanic Temple’s rights and the rights of children and families who want to participate in the After School Satan Club.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia has called the club a win for free speech.
“Under the First Amendment, the government can’t treat one religious group less favorably than another, and it can’t give potential objectors or hecklers a ‘veto’ over unpopular speech by charging the speaker … a security fee,” Matthew Callahan, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Virginia, the The Hill. “That the school district ultimately recognized this and is taking steps to correct these unlawful actions and policies is an enormous victory for free speech, religious liberty, and democracy.”
The report added that “the ACLU added that the club will also be able to make up meetings it planned for December 2022 and January 2023, when the club was put on hold after a backlash prompted a club organizer, who said she feared for her family’s safety and privacy, to pull a request to hold gatherings at the school.”