BM Williams Elementary School in Chesapeake, Virginia hosted an “After School Satan Club” on Thursday.
The club was originally scheduled to begin meeting at the school in December, but that was delayed.
According to a flyer posted on Reddit, the club plans to teach kids “kindness and empathy, critical thinking, problem solving, creative expression, personal sovereignty and compassion.”
“We’re non-believers,” Rose Bastet, a volunteer organizing the new club, told local station WAVY. “I understand the fear behind the name Satan, but he is only a fictional figure that we see because he is the eternal rebel who fought for justice and humanity.”
The club was set up in response to the evangelical Good News Club being organized at the school. The group argued that if schools allow one religion to hold events, they must allow all.
“We hope that tonight’s meeting will be a fun, enriching experience for the children,” June Everett, director of The Satanic Temple’s After School Satan Club, said before the meeting, according to a report from The Hill. “There is often a misconception about our religious beliefs and practices, but we will not accept discrimination by government officials. Public schools everywhere are on notice that we will vigorously defend the rights of Satanic Temples and the rights of children and families who choose to participate in after-school Satan clubs.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia called the club a victory for free speech.
“Under the First Amendment, the government cannot treat one religious group less favorably than another, and it cannot ‘veto’ unpopular speech by charging potential objectors or hecklers to the speaker … a security fee,” Matthew Callahan, Virginia , senior staff attorney for the ACLU of The Hill. “The school district finally recognizing this and taking steps to correct these illegal actions and policies is a huge victory for free speech, religious liberty and democracy.”
The report added that “the ACLU added that the club would also be able to hold meetings planned for December 2022 and January 2023, after a backlash from a club organizer, who said he feared for his family, put the club on hold. Safety and privacy, to pull requests to gather at school.”