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A proposed After School Satan Club at B M Williams Primary (part of Virginia’s Chesapeake Public Schools) has had its first meeting delayed through January after the school board cited safety concerns.

As I’ve written about before, ASS Clubs do not promote Satan, Satanic beliefs, Satanism, or anything else like it. The Satanic Temple, which sponsors these groups, doesn’t even believe in a literal Satan. After School Satan clubs aren’t about indoctrination. Rather, the Satanists “focus on free inquiry and rationalism, the scientific basis for which we know what we know about the world around us.” It’s like a science club with a devilish twist.

After an evangelical “Good News Club” launched at the same school earlier this year, The Satanic Temple, with the help of a parent whose child attended the school, began the paperwork to begin their own group. They received a green light from administrators since they did everything by the book; the district sent out a letter making it clear that they legally could not discriminate against the club. Once they opened their doors to religious clubs, they couldn’t say no to one just because they don’t like what’s being taught. They also issued a disclaimer: “ASSC is not a School District-approved club, and no District employee is acting as a club sponsor.”

All of that was true. There were bound to be complaints, but the District had the law on its side.

Last week, there was a slight snag after the parent who agreed to sponsor the club backed out, but June Everett, the Campaign Director for ASSC, told me they had another parent agree to do it, and they were resubmitting paperwork. It was merely a formality. Everett added that 13 kids had already signed up to attend the first meeting, scheduled for today (December 15).

Not all parents were happy with the decision to allow the club though. News outlets quoted a string of ignorant Christian parents who believe they’re above the law and a Satanic group has no right to meet the same way Christian groups can.

“I think there’s a lot of controversy with that, just because you don’t really want that kind of stuff pushed on your child,” said parent Tyler Hambleton. “I have a 3-month-old daughter and I can tell you now that when she grows up, she will not be in any Satan club.”

“I could not believe that our schools would allow something like this,”  said Elaine Garrett, another Chesapeake resident. “Satan. I just don’t think that’s the word kids need to hear.”

I guess Elaine Garrett is going to stop attending church, then. And what “stuff” is Tyler Hambleton afraid of? Is it the “crafts” or the “compassion”? It’s amazing how many conservative Christians with no understanding of the situation have no problem sharing their misguided opinions with the media. Just baring their entire ass for the world to see.

On Monday, during a regularly scheduled board meeting, the existence of the club became a major topic of discussion. A lot of that came from more ignorant Christian parents—one resident said using Satan as a symbol was basically “hate speech”—but there were plenty of sensible people, too.

“My religion does not need your approval to exist. My beliefs are not subject to your approval,” said Rose Bastet, a Satanic Temple volunteer. 

Bastet voiced the teachings she values in her religion.

 “Empathy, reason, compassion for your fellow human beings. Satan is a rebel against tyranny and the ultimate questioner of authority,” she said.

At the end of the day, the school board didn’t reject the After School Satan Club (which could provoke a lawsuit), but said it would conduct a “safety assessment.”

Chesapeake Public Schools (CPS) Superintendent Dr. Jared Cotton indicated that further review and a safety assessment are needed before making a decision on whether to approve the ASSC’s resubmitted application

What exactly are they worried about? The Satanists are coming in peace and they’re bringing art supplies. The Christians who claim this is evil, and may choose to take measures into their own hands, are far more of a threat to this community than the Satanists trying to teach compassion without Christ.

One answer to that question came up during the public comments at the school board meeting. Last month, in Chesapeake, a man working at a Walmart store shot and killed six people. In a note that was found on his phone, he said “I promise things just fell in place like I was led by the Satan.” While he referenced God multiple times, and his religious delusions may have played a role in his actions, some speakers at the board meeting suggested he was Satanic in the same way as the people behind the ASSC.

That’s obviously a lie. The shooter apparently believed in a literal Satan, as many Christians do. The Satanic Temple does not. There’s literally no connection between what the shooter referenced and what the ASSC plans to teach students.

But because Christian ignorance has run amok in this community, the board referenced the shooting before saying they wanted to evaluate safety concerns, both for the people running the group (since at least one openly feared retaliation) and Chesapeake community members (who wrongly think the After School Satan Club is promoting evil).

Lucien Greaves, The Satanic Temple’s spokesperson, told me the board’s response was self-inflicted, suggesting, “We’re not denying you equal access to a public forum. We are protecting you from what we’ll do to you if you if you use the public forum by preventing you from using it.”

If that’s an exaggeration, it’s not by much. The board hasn’t taken that step of preventing the Satanists from using the facilities, even telling the public the group appeared to meet all the legal criteria and that they had no right to reject the application. But it’s not hard to believe they could create an “out” for themselves by saying the Satanic group cannot meet because there are safety concerns, not because of the beliefs themselves. The board could also say the ASSC group needs to hire security officers at their own expense, possibly pricing them out of the rental.

If they take any of those drastic steps, though, it would be a victory for Christian extremists who treat neutrality as oppression.

As it stands, though, after a safety assessment is completed, the After School Satan Club should get the go-ahead in Chesapeake. If and when they do, the club’s first meeting would be scheduled for January 26.

Incidentally, at the 3:44:15 mark of the meeting, after some members of the school board suggested the Satanists were in the wrong, Everett questioned the so-called security concerns. Another ally said the threat wasn’t coming from Satanists; it was coming from “Christian Nationalists.” (She had a point.) But because they didn’t have the floor to speak, a board member asked for them to be removed from the building.

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Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.