A Virginia school board is considering revising its policies on after-school clubs following conflict over a new “After School Satan Club.”
The Chesapeake Public School Board previously allowed the Satan club to meet on school property, stipulating it pay over $600 for security for each meeting, something the district’s policy allows, local media reports.
The likelihood of demonstrations is part of what makes securing the event so expensive, as Satan clubs are frequently protested. Last January, an Ohio superintendent was even reprimanded by the attorney general for discouraging parents from protesting the Satan club.
However, Chesapeake’s school board put a temporary hold on any non-sanctioned school clubs as it considers revisions to its policy. Among the proposed changes:
- Security costs must be paid by an organization in advance.
- The school district determines the number of officers needed for security.
- Promotional materials cannot include the school or facility name without permission from the Office of Student Activities and Facility Use.
At Monday’s board meeting, which included a discussion of the proposed revisions, community members didn’t shy away from expressing their views.
“If this club meets, I plan on removing my daughter from school and finding a private alternative,” declared Steve Scheerbaum, a local parent.
Another said limiting the club’s access to public property would be unconstitutional.
“I sincerely hope that the Satanic Temple takes this city to court for this blatant disregard of the constitution,” said another resident.
The Chesapeake school board is scheduled to vote on the proposed policy revisions at its Feb. 27 meeting.
In the meantime, Superintendent Jared Cotton assured the community the board wouldn’t discriminate against religious groups.
“It’s important for us to point out that the groups in particular that we’ve been discussing over the last couple of months are outside groups, not school-sponsored,” he explained. “We do have groups who ask to use our facility from time to time but we have to treat all groups fairly.”
After-School Satan Club, an initiative of The Satanic Temple, “exists to provide a safe and inclusive alternative to the religious clubs that use threats of eternal damnation to convert school children to their belief system.”
Satan clubs market themselves as an alternative to the Christian evangelical Good News Club, often targeting schools that already have a Christian club.
“They’re opposed to our views and they’re trying to counter and even undermine our presence there so I’m concerned in that regard,” said Chris Williams, a Christian pastor in Chesapeake. “I think the wrong kind of attention could force the school board to say we can’t do any of these clubs.”
Fred Pry, associate vice president of USA Ministries for Child Evangelism Fellowship, was more optimistic.
“The reality is, parents are the gatekeepers for all the clubs in schools,” he said. “All of them need permission slips signed by the parents so parents hold the power. Parents are the ones who control the Satan clubs because if no children sign up, Satan clubs are not going to exist.”