CHESAPEAKE, Va. — After receiving the go-ahead from administrators to move forward, After School Satan Club (ASSC) organizers said they will need to resubmit their application to use B.M. Williams Primary School for monthly meetings.
Organizers with The Satanic Temple told 13News Now that on Tuesday, a parent sponsor pulled their name out of the initial application.
That triggered a community statement from Superintendent of Chesapeake Public Schools (CPS) Dr. Jared Cotton, reading in part, "approval for building use has been canceled."
ASSC Campaign Director June Everett said, however, she planned to resubmit the application and substitute the key sponsor with someone else.
WHAT IS THE 'AFTER SCHOOL SATAN CLUB'?
It's not a club where children would worship Satan, according to volunteer Rose Bastet. She said The Satanic Temple sponsors clubs where students can learn about science, arts, crafts, and compassion.
"We have no interest in theological discussions with children; that is best left to their parents," said Bastet.
Bastet added that they wanted to offer an alternative to an Evangelical after-school program called the Good News Club, which offers Bible lessons.
Chesapeake Public Schools spokesman Richard Babb said the request for the club was put in after the B.M. Williams principal passed out flyers about the Christian club.
"The distribution of that flyer was not in accordance with our procedures and it was addressed with school administration," Babb said. "We are unable to comment further as this is a personnel matter."
PARENT REACTIONS POUR IN
"I think it's fantastic," said Jane Lopez of Norfolk, who told 13News Now she signed up her child to participate in the ASSC at B.M. Williams Primary School.
"I wish people would look beyond the name of something and look to see that they are just trying to include kids and let them think, do arts & crafts and have a good time together," Lopez said.
Others, however, are taking issue with the voluntary program, as well as it having the word "Satan" as part of the name.
"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."
Some parents of Christian faith have protested against it outside B.M. Williams Primary.
ANALYST: 'A FIRST AMENDMENT ARGUMENT'
CPS administrators reiterated that while the ASSC is not a district-approved club, its application's approval the first time around fell on the basis of "District policy and applicable federal law."
13News Now legal analyst Ed Booth said a First Amendment argument and the precedent set by a 2001 Supreme Court decision (through Good News Club v. Milford Central School) are at play.
"Saying that using facilities to hold a club, even if its beliefs are religious in nature, isn't establishing a particular religion. So, what that creates is a concept called viewpoint discrimination," said Booth.
That means the school could get in trouble for allowing certain religions in, but not others.
"Based on that, I can understand why the school system's employees and legal counsel are saying, 'Hey look, we can't say no to this particular club, which is religiously oriented, regardless of how shocking it might be, and yes to this one that's a traditional Judeo-Christian,' or whatever religious viewpoint it might be coming from," Booth added.
ASSC's Everett told 13News Now that they plan to kick off soon.
"We are expecting the district to have enough time to approve our newly submitted application for our scheduled first club meeting of 12/15."
Chesapeake school board members are still slated to hear from parents and citizens for their thoughts on the After School Satan Club. Public comment will happen on Monday, Dec. 12, starting at 6 p.m.
READ FULL STATEMENTS
Chesapeake Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jared Cotton
Dear CPS Families:
Last week I shared information regarding the Facility Use Application for the After School Satan Club (ASSC) to hold monthly meetings at one of our schools. I emphasized that the ASSC is not a District-approved club, and also that the Application was compliant with District Policy. Following our Policy and applicable federal law, the Application was approved.
Today, the Chesapeake citizen requesting to use the facility on behalf of the ASSC has officially withdrawn their request. As such, the application no longer meets the requirements of School Board Policy. At this point, the approval for building use has been canceled.
Please note, this item will remain on the agenda for the next regular meeting of the School Board on December 12, 2022, for further discussion. Citizens are welcome to attend and may address the Board during the Hearing of Citizens portion of the meeting. For more information on how to sign up to speak, visit our website (link provided).
I hope our communications on this matter have helped to answer questions and concerns regarding this situation. Thank you for your continued understanding and support.
After School Satan Club Campaign Director June Everett
The resident who had agreed to be the required local resident on the application decided to take her name off and contacted the district this morning. We were not aware this would cause the district to “cancel” our approved application after quickly replying and letting them know we have another resident willing to provide their information. I will be resubmitting the application this evening, as I am traveling today. I don’t suspect approval should take really long considering they have all other required documentation that has previously been approved without issue.
My name is on the signed application, and I did not withdrawal the application, but the district has stated that we need to resubmit and go through the approval process (again).
This story is unfolding quickly, and the district is still encouraging residents to come to the BOE meeting this Monday. The decision is out of the BOE’s hands due to a 2001 SCOTUS hearing.