The Satanic Temple is accusing city officials in Virginia of abruptly canceling an “After School Satan Club” meeting at a local library, a move the group calls a “violation of their rights.”
The meeting was scheduled to take place at the Indian River Library in Chesapeake, Va., Thursday afternoon — but event organizers took to social media to announce it would not be held as planned.
“The meeting has been canceled by the City of Chesapeake,” the organization wrote in an Instagram post Wednesday.
“We believe this cancellation is unconstitutional and a violation of the rights of our families who had planned to attend the meeting, and we are consulting with our attorneys.”
In response to the accusations, the City of Chesapeake released a statement saying they are responsible for enforcing policies to ensure events do not threaten the public.
“The City has adopted uniform policies and user agreements which set forth the requirements, parameters, and expectations necessary to assure that events do not pose a threat to public health, safety or welfare or otherwise disrupt City operations,” the statement shared with 13News read.
“Individuals or organizations failing to comply with these policies and/or agreements are subject to having their facility usage canceled by the City.”
The event was set to feature science projects, community service projects, puzzles and games, nature activities, and arts and crafts before it was canned by city officials, according to the organization.
An unnamed volunteer for The Satanic Temple said the club was created as an alternative to the Evangelical Christian Good News Club at the B.M. Williams Primary School, according to the outlet.
The volunteer also shared the club would not be discussing any of the deities in the Satanic religion.
Children wishing to attend the club would also need a parent or guardian to sign off before joining, the outlet reported.
This is not the first pushback the organization has faced in Chesapeake.
The “After School Satan Club” held its first meeting in February at the primary school after months of the group fighting for its right to assemble with the help of the ACLU of Virginia — a move that outraged parents in the district.
“I could not believe that our schools would allow something like this,” Elaine Garret, a Chesapeake resident, told the outlet in February.
“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,” declared Tyler Hambleton after it announced the club would be meeting on school grounds.
The ACLU of Virginia claimed the organization is protected 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 (here, the After School Satan Club) a security fee,” said Matthew Callahan, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Virginia.
“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.”
Rose Bastet, another volunteer with the Satanic Temple, said she understood the outrage some community members have toward the club.
“Some people can be upset when they hear the word ‘Satan,’ but that’s not what we are going to be talking about,” the volunteer said back in February.
“We have no interest in theological discussions with children; that is best left to their parents.”
Ed Booth, a Hampton Roads legal analyst, spoke with 13News in December 2022 about the legality of the organization meeting — citing a 2001 Supreme Court decision, “Good News Club vs. Milford Central School,” which ruled schools can not discriminate against speech that takes place within a “limited public forum” solely based on religion.
“This might be something that people don’t like, but according to decisions by the Supreme Court, those programs are going to be allowed to move forward,” Booth explained.
In May, a federal judge ruled that a Pennsylvania school district must allow the Satanist club to meet.
US District Judge John M. Gallagher wrote that the Saucon Valley School District violated the After School Satan Club’s free speech privileges when it rescinded its agreement to let the group meet on school grounds.
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