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Further review, safety assessment needed for 'After School Satan Club' in Chesapeake

After hours of public comments inside a packed chamber, some Chesapeake School Board members are amplifying their concerns over the controversial club.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Chesapeake school board members are raising safety and security concerns in light of the controversial After School Satan Club (ASSC).

Monday night, they spent several hours listening to split public comments about the program.

The ASSC's first meeting would have taken place on Thursday, but school leaders are now casting doubt on that date, citing worries over public safety. 

Moreover, some school board members questioned whether the club would act in the best interest of the community. 

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. 

Club organizers are undergoing the application and approval process again, because a key parent sponsor withdrew their name last week. 

Much of the public sentiment Monday night inside a packed school board chamber leaned against the arrival of the ASSC at B.M. Williams Primary School.

"An organization that has no authority and presents a risk to students, school staff and our community," one resident argued. 

"Quite frankly, I'm very disappointed," another resident shared. 

One man said, "We've had enough disruptions and we don't need anymore."

Although, members of the Satanic Temple expressed that their First Amendment rights should not be up for debate.

"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.

"The Satanic Temple does not worship the devil. We are not demons. We do not believe in demons, because neither exists," said June Everett, campaign director of the ASSC and ordained minister with the Satanic Temple. 

Stephen Mannix, chairman of the local chapter of Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), told 13News Now that CEF co-sponsors installments of Good News Clubs at schools, alongside churches. 

"The name of the group and club both include Satan, even though they don't believe in any supernatural beings," Mannix said. 

The formation of the Good News Club at B.M. Williams Primary sparked inspiration for the ASSC to be held at the school. 

"Do not allow this club to take place, for Satan is a liar and the father of all lies," one resident said. 

Another resident claimed the following: "Using Satan as a symbol borderlines as hate speech."

"If not for their Satan caricature or name, I would not think they had anything to do with Satan at all," one speaker noted.

ASSC have maintained that they want to serve as a "viable" alternative to the Good News Club. They said they are not interested in having theological discussions. 

Instead, they said they want to focus on things like science, compassion and arts and crafts at their voluntary program.

"Schools are supposed to be incubators of democracy," Everett added.

Chesapeake school leaders reiterated Monday night that ASSC is not a District-sponsored club. The approval of its application first time around fell on the basis of District policy and federal law.

However, due to the large public outcry and what some school board members are calling "duplicity" from some Satan Club volunteers, it is uncertain whether ASSC's first planned meeting can take place Thursday.

Moreover, CPS leaders could not offer an estimate on how long the safety assessment will take.

Throughout the meeting Monday night, some speakers focused their message on encouraging prayer, promoting love and proposing religious club times move from the afternoon to early evening after school. 

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