Good News Clubs

I’m doing research into how high school groups work (since that’s now my job and everything), and I’ve come across a type of club called the Good News Club.  Their goal is to proselytize to children on public school campuses, trying to blend in with the school.  They even have special books without words for evangelizing to children who are too young to read.

For any religious people who say that faith can survive on reason alone and doesn’t need insidious tactics, what can you say about this?  The CEF, the group running these clubs, cites that most Christians came to belief between the ages of 4-14.  This is a time in cognitive development when kids are hard-wired to trust authority figures and when their capacity for doubt is not yet fully developed.  Is it a mystery why religious groups prey upon target children?

The problem is that these groups can’t be stopped legally.  The Equal Access Act dictates, rightly in my opinion, that religious clubs must be allowed the same group status as any other student-led group in public schools.  The issue is that groups like the Good News Club bend the rules.  They know they’re legally not allowed to proselytize on school ground, so they register these groups as bible studies before abandoning the ‘study’ aspect and going after their stated goal of indoctrinating children.  In his dissenting opinion in Good News Club vs. Milford Central High School, Justice Souter pointed out how obvious this deception was.

It is beyond question that Good News intends to use the public school premises not for the mere discussion of a subject from a particular, Christian point of view, but for an evangelical service of worship calling children to commit themselves in an act of Christian conversion. The majority avoids this reality only by resorting to the bland and general characterization of Good News’s activity as ‘teaching of morals and character, from a religious standpoint’. If the majority’s statement ignores reality, as it surely does, then today’s holding may be understood only in equally generic terms. Otherwise, indeed, this case would stand for the remarkable proposition that any public school opened for civic meetings must be opened for use as a church, synagogue, or mosque.

So as long as they’re willing to keep lying about their purpose (which they clearly are) and as long as the Supreme Court is willing to indulge them in their dishonesty (which, in this configuration, they clearly are) there’s really not much to be done.  So far my ideas are to attend their meetings as a nontheistic parent or to institute some kind of program that augments awareness of these kind of practices.  You can bet I’ll be popping by a meeting or two here in Columbus.

Good News Clubs embody the tactics as well as the morality of evangelism: give candy to people who don’t understand science, philosophy, and other disciplines that inform a rationalized world view and hope they convert.  Or threaten people with hell/punishment.  Get them at an age when they still believe in Santa and the Tooth Fairy, because once they’re old enough to appreciate reality the stories of talking snakes and a person rising from the dead are done for.  Is there a more perfect victim for them than children, especially when they’re pretending to be affiliated with the schools these children trust?  Tell me again how we need religion to be moral.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: these people just, fucking, lie.  They lie, they cheat, they do anything but play fair.  And people wonder why I’m so interested in opposing them.

  • lonnie goins

    My child's school has one of these "clubs" on Wednesdays after school. They turn the kids loose on the playground and then "witness" to them using a bullhorn. It can be heard all over the neighborhood.

  • Just a simple person

    You are not an atheist, you are an agnostic. These kids are not forced into a club. I do not know you personally, I am not aware of your age or life experience but I went to public school in the the early 70's and we prayed and read the Bible each day. The morals of our country have obviously changed and a lack of moral teaching from the Bible has added to this decline. Jesus Christ said, you must become as a child if you are to see the kingdom of heaven…yes He meant you must be trusting to accept it, not cynical or unbelieving. Thanks for letting me have a voice here, just like the public schools are honoring our rights to free speech. Good day to you.

  • Lauren

    These clubs aren’t predatory. Anyone who wants to show up at the club, shows up. It isn’t forced upon the kids.

  • Amanda

    Our town’s elementary school has one of these “clubs” in it. As Wiccans, I’ve had to explain to my kids what this group is all about, and as a result, the flyers telling about the GNC are always one of the first things to hit the recycling bin every year!

  • http://westcoastcm.wordpress.com Anthony Prince

    I’m curious to hear if you followed up with your plan to visit any Good News Clubs in your area.

    A lot of what you’re writing is right on target, but I think you forgot to mention that parents have to sign their children up to attend Good News Clubs. If parents are choosing to expose their children to clubs such as a Good News Club, is there any actual harm in that? (serious question… no sarcasm intended)

    I appreciate viewpoints that are different than my own and would love to hear about how your experience has gone.

    -Ap

  • JKO

    I understand your viewpoint, but I also understand that these ‘clubs’ are completely voluntary and no one is forced to attend. The parents give consent which means that they probably already believe these things to begin with AND these activities are held AFTER school is finished.

    I don’t understand completely why you would be so concerned. It’s not your faith and you don’t have to send your kids. It’s just like a church or a mosque down the street. If you don’t want to go there on Sunday–don’t. No one is holding a gun to your head or that of your children forcing them to attend.

  • Jiboney

    Our local school has Good News Club. It is voluntary and parents are encouraged to sit in. I am sure you would be welcome to observe as well.

  • IntrinsicDignity

    Actually, there are legal things, in the form of religiously neutral facility use policies, that can be done to expel Good News Clubs from public elementary schools, as I discuss in my thorough critique of the GNC at http://www.goodnewsclubs.info

  • Jay

    I am glad to see someone who is also opposed to this group! I wish you well in your effort. Please post updates. This club is about to start in my child’s school and being a non Christian I am greatly offended.
    To those that don’t understand why, PUBLIC schools are meant to be secular. It is why I choose to send my child there and NOT a religious institution. I do not need my child accosted by other children who are being indoctrinated by this club and ENCOURAGED to prosteletize their non-evangelical schoolmates. This amounts to bullying. So it is not just interested families participating. The goal is to get to everyone, whether they want it or not, and that is BEYOD WRONG!!