CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) – A Christian organization says it disagrees with the After School Satan Club’s ideology and tactics, but it supports the program’s right to meet at a Chesapeake school.
“We have some serious concerns about tactics here, but we do believe that various points of view should be able to have the same equal access, and so we do support that and will continue to support that,” said Stephen Mannix, the chairman of the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) of Virginia Tidewater Chapter.
CEF is a nonprofit Christian organization that helps launch evangelical after-school programs called the Good News Club. It was the announcement of a Good News Club at B.M. Williams Primary School in Chesapeake that inspired a parent to ask the Satanic Temple to launch a program of its own on campus – the After School Satan Club.
The Satanic Temple promotes the After School Satan Club as a safe alternative to religious clubs in schools. Club organizers say the club promotes free thought and critical thinking – not Devil worship.
“We are non-theistic,” said Rose Bastet, a volunteer organizing the new club. “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 announcement of the After School Satan Club’s arrival has created community controversy. It’s just that type of controversy that Mannix believes the Satanic Temple is looking to create when bringing the program to public schools.
“We do have some concerns about the tactics used here, where people can see they’ve malappropriated other people’s beliefs in order to flair up and inflame emotions and controversy,” Mannix said.
Mannix pointed to the Satanic Temple’s website, which states, “The After School Satan Club does not believe in introducing religion into public schools and will only open a club if other religious groups are operating on campus.”
The CEF released a statement, which says that it doesn’t agree with the After School Satan Club’s tactics and ideology, but it does support the club’s right to meet on school property and for students to have “equal access” to after-school programs.
Mannix believes the conversation sparked by the After School Satan Club could turn into a bigger discussion about protecting the First Amendment and people’s rights to express their beliefs in public spaces.
“At the end of the day, we want folks to be able to express their views, whether you’re nontheistic, theistic, or somewhere in between, and have a place to walk out your front door and have a place to talk about your beliefs, whatever they may be. Parents should make the decisions on these clubs,” Mannix said.
The arrival of the After School Satan Club at B.M. Williams Primary School was scheduled for Dec. 15. 10 On Your Side reported that the club’s launch was canceled after the community sponsor who requested to use the school property for meetings rescinded their request amid community backlash.
In an email sent Thursday, club organizer June Everett confirmed the After School Satan Club still plans to launch as scheduled. She wrote that Chesapeake Public Schools “wrongfully” canceled the club’s approved application. Everett resubmitted the club’s paperwork with a new community sponsor on Dec. 6.
CPS spokesperson Richie Babb confirmed to 10 On Your Side that the After School Satan Club’s paperwork has not been processed, and the club is not currently approved to meet on school grounds.
“We are cooperating the best that we can with everything they are demanding,” Everett wrote. “I have been consulting with our legal department as we wait to see what the current status is. At this time, we do plan on moving ahead with the previously approved and scheduled After School Satan Club launch … We have 13 families that have submitted signed permission slips for their children to attend ASSC at B.M. Williams, and we believe this demonstrates that there is an absolute community want and need for our club, and we do not plan on explaining to them that they cannot exercise their First Amendment rights because CPS has decided to play games.”