The Satanic Temple is accusing Virginia city officials of suddenly canceling an After School Satan Club meeting at a local library, a move the group says is a “violation of their rights.”
The gathering was scheduled to take place Thursday afternoon at the Indian River Library in Chesapeake, Virginia – but organizers took to social media to announce it would not go ahead as planned.
“The meeting was canceled by the City of Chesapeake,” the organization said wrote in an Instagram post on Wednesday.
“We believe this cancellation is unconstitutional and a violation of the rights of our families who had planned to attend the gathering and we are consulting our attorneys.”
In response to the allegations, the City of Chesapeake released a statement saying it was responsible for enforcing policies to ensure events did not pose a danger to the public.
“The city has adopted uniform policies and user agreements that set out the requirements, parameters, and expectations necessary to ensure events do not pose a threat to public health, safety, or welfare, or otherwise disrupt city operations.” it in the statement 13News read.
“Individuals or organizations that fail to comply with these policies and/or agreements may have their use canceled by the city.”
According to the organization, the event was scheduled to include science projects, community projects, puzzles and games, nature activities, and crafts before being canceled by the city government.
An unnamed volunteer from The Satanic Temple said the club was formed as an alternative to the Evangelical Christian Good News Club at BM Williams Primary School, according to the outlet.
The volunteer also shared that the club would not discuss any of the deities of the satanic religion.
Children wishing to join the club would also need to be signed out by a parent or guardian before joining, the outlet reported.
This isn’t the first setback the Chesapeake organization has faced.
The After School Satan Club held its first meeting at the elementary school in February after months of fighting for the group’s right to assemble with help from the Virginia ACLU — a move that outraged parents in the district.
“I couldn’t believe our schools would allow something like this,” Elaine Garret, a Chesapeake resident, told dem outlet in February.
“I have a three month old daughter and I can tell you now that when she grows up she will not be in any Satan Club,” Tyler Hambleton said after announcing the club would be meeting on school grounds.
The Virginia ACLU claimed the organization was protected by the First Amendment.
“The government cannot treat one religious group less favorably than another, and it cannot ‘veto’ unpopular statements by potential opponents or hecklers by charging the speaker (here, the After School Satan Club) a security fee.” said Matthew Callahan, lead attorney for the Virginia ACLU.
“For the school district to finally recognize this and take steps to correct these unlawful acts and policies is a tremendous victory for free speech, freedom of religion and democracy.”
Rose Bastet, another Satanic Temple volunteer, said she understands some community members’ outrage at the club.
“Some people can get upset when they hear the word ‘Satan,’ but we won’t talk about that,” the volunteer said in February.
“We have no interest in theological discussions with children; It’s best left to their parents.”
Ed Booth, a Hampton Roads legal analyst, spoke to 13News in December 2022 about the legality of the organizational meeting – citing a 2001 Supreme Court decision: “Good News Club v Milford Central School“Schools must not discriminate against speech made in a ‘limited public forum’ on the basis of religion alone.
“People may not like this, but the Supreme Court’s decisions allow these programs to continue,” Booth said.
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 right to free speech when it rescinded its agreement to allow the group to meet on school premises.