Do Child Evangelism Clubs Deserve Freedom of Speech in Public Schools?

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(This article was accidentally double posted – if you made a comment on the other article and you want to post it again, please do)

The problem with “Good News Clubs” isn’t constitutionality. It’s deceptiveness.

The Good News Club Spectacular that took place in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, this past weekend billed itself as a “family fun day.” It offered inflatable rides, puppet shows, face-painting – all of it free and, according to the posters advertising the event, cosponsored by McDonald’s. What could be wrong with that? The only hitch is that you’ve got to take in all the preaching. The point, as one of the organizers put it, was to “bring the Christian gospel message to people without a church.” It’s a free country, so who would object?

On Saturday morning, approximately 40 members of the Forsyth Area Critical Thinkers, Winston-Salem Chapter of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and other like-minded citizens stood outside the Dixie Classic fairgrounds in peaceful protest. One of their placards included a quote from me. I’ll offer it here, so that you know where I’m coming from: “Deception ≠ free exercise.”

Now, I’m a staunch advocate of the rights of free speech and the free exercise of religion. But I think the protesters here have reason to be concerned. The issue with Good News Clubs isn’t about the exercise of constitutional rights; it’s about the fraudulent invocation of those rights in a way that tends to subvert the Constitution.

I had no idea what a Good News Club was until one showed up at my six-year-old’s public elementary school in Santa Barbara, California, four years ago. The program presented itself as after-school “Bible study” requiring parental permission. I soon discovered that this description was misleading in every substantial way. I eventually put my findings into a book titled The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children

As I researched Good News Clubs and their sponsoring organization, the Child Evangelism Fellowship, I discovered that these clubs, which operate in over 3500 public elementary schools nationwide, aim their deception at two audiences. Most egregiously, they deceive very young children. But let’s start with the other audience–parents and members of the public.

A public school Good News Club claims to be a mainstream, multidenominational Bible study. But the clubs are incompatible with any denomination that does not share their severe version of fundamentalist evangelical Christian beliefs.

Written By: Katherine Stewart
continue to source article at theatlantic.com

10 COMMENTS

  1. If the ad placard was more genuinely honest about who the sponsoring Organization was, and the substance of what they were doing, why not let them pay for bulletin space inside a public school???? If the event is held on private premises, and not held in a public school building, the Public Taxpayers would then be compensated for use of the venue of a bulletin board, and the children of the taxpaying public could give their parents a genuine choice about attending. And if the event were to be held within the confines of the public
    school itself, additional compensation to the Taxpayers should be required.

    For many years, the synagogue that I once attended used a Public School facility to conduct its Sunday School classes while paying a good deal of rent to do so, and even was allowed some notification space within school
    domain to inform both parents and children. A church might do, or have done, the same thing.

    If they haven’t done so already, States across the U.S. should begin to initiate appropriate regulation concerning the placement of advertisements and notices of events taking place within the Community, but outside the domain of matters of any substance to the public school system.

    But the matter in the above article is indeed disingenous,—very much akin to vacation property sales
    organizational promotions promising a “free 2 day vacation to….”, and not mentioning that it is predicated
    upon you and your spouse getting pitched for 3 hours straight on the virtues of “vacation home ownership in….”

    Only here, it’s even more insidious because we’re talking about proselytizing, not beachfront property somewhere.

    • In reply to #2 by kidchicago:

      Then again, what if the placard was genuinely, honestly, sponsored by the Church of Satan?????

      Maybe there really is no intelligent way for the State to draw an appropriate line to allow a Public School
      System to notify both attending students and parents of attending students of events taking place
      within the Community, but outside the domain of matters of any substance pertinent to the School System.

      This would seem to relegate the status of a Public School System to a very sterile, restrictive, mini enclave—something completely apart from the Community it’s supposed to serve.

      Anybody here have any magic ideas????

      If the ad placard was more genuinely honest about who the sponsoring Organization was, and the substance of what they were doing, why not let them pay for bulletin space inside a public school???? If the event is held on private premises, and not held in a public school building, the Public Taxpayers would then be compensated for use of the venue of a bulletin board, and the children of the taxpaying public could give their parents a genuine choice about attending. And if the event were to be held within the confines of the public
      school itself, additional compensation to the Taxpayers should be required.

      For many years, the synagogue that I once attended used a Public School facility to conduct its Sunday School classes while paying a good deal of rent to do so, and even was allowed some notification space within school
      domain to inform both parents and children. A church might do, or have done, the same thing.

      If they haven’t done so already, States across the U.S. should begin to initiate appropriate regulation concerning the placement of advertisements and notices of events taking place within the Community, but outside the domain of matters of any substance to the public school system.

      But the matter in the above article is indeed disingenous,—very much akin to vacation property sales
      organizational promotions promising a “free 2 day vacation to….”, and not mentioning that it is predicated
      upon you and your spouse getting pitched for 3 hours straight on the virtues of “vacation home ownership in….”

      Only here, it’s even more insidious because we’re talking about proselytizing, not beachfront property somewhere.

  2. Freedom of speech, yes. Just as we secular people deserve free speech. But indoctrinating little kids with religious mumbo jumbo especially when it’s cast in the form of some happy doo daa kids club makes the hair in my neck stand up.

    We should be just as active in getting the attention of the young. Set up happy doo daa clubs for kids with actuall scientific input but not in a nerdy way.

  3. So the Supreme Court decided people could prosthelytize and recruit young children on school property because of the First Amendment? Great, why not NAMBLA? Can they exercise their right to free speech to brainwash and recruit children? As long as they don’t touch the children while on school property, what’s the difference?

    Religion has no place in state funded buildings, they already get their own buildings through tax exempt donations…

  4. Do Child Evangelism Clubs Deserve Freedom of Speech in Public Schools?

    I suppose that’s up to the school to decide however an evangelism club shouldn’t be given priority over any other gobbledygook or mumbo jumbo. It’s deserving of no more respect than the stork theory and I very much doubt any school would be willing to allow a stork theory club the school assembly hall.

  5. @OP – Do Child Evangelism Clubs Deserve Freedom of Speech in Public Schools?

    NO!

    Children – particularly trusting young children; – are entitled to be given honest information, by professional educators, who have a balanced range of subject material, suitable for advancing their levels of development in understanding the world around them.

  6. No way should they have freedom of speech, freedom to spout their nonsense.

    Children deserve honesty and truth from adults, not gods and devils, angels and demons, miracles of prayer, etc.

    Keep the idiots out, for doG’s sake!

  7. Sickening. The christian right knows if they don’t get them while they are young and impressionable they will never buy into their BS. There is something wrong with these people, to intentionally target children for their gullibility is wrong in so many ways. Maybe the church of satan or muslims will start a similar club, then we will see the outrage we should be seeing now.

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