The Good News Club: The Christian Right's Stealth Assault on America's Children, by Katherine Stewart

The Good News Club by Katherine Stewart

For those of us who think that public schools are best kept free of religion, the Supreme Court dealt a severe blow with the 2001 decision in the case of Good News Clubs versus Milford Central School. What was decided was that evangelical organizations can obtain exactly the same access to public school facilities as can any other outside organization.  On its face, this does not sound like a bad idea.  However, the practical consequences can be disruptive and divisive in schools and districts.  “Good News Clubs” is a well-funded evangelical ministry whose goal is to evangelize children, especially those between ages four and fourteen.  Usually working with one or more local Christian churches, children are aggressively recruited to after-school or weekend activities in the school, often led by some of the same teachers who teach regular classes. With a budget of at least 20K$ per Club, a wealth of very slick materials produced by the national organization (Child Evangelism Fellowship) there are plenty of resources for enticements such as cookies and candy, and banners for hallways and bulletin boards. Because of the Supremes, these activities can be promoted in any school in which at least some parents are in favor.  Many non-Christian families object to Christian evangelism in public schools, but author Katherine Stewart paints a dire situation for those with such objections.  If any extracurricular activity is allowed after school ends, a Good News Club can demand use of facilities.  The same legal justification is used by religious groups (almost 100% Christian evangelical ones) to “plant” churches in public school buildings.  By 2011, more than sixty such churches had been established in New York City, and about one in five New York schools become churches every Sunday.  It was not difficult for me to find the same thing here in St. Louis, and you can probably find it in a nearby school in your region.  Instead of buying a building, the new churches simply pay a minimal fee for rental. This is Good News indeed for those who want to use public resources for religious activities, but bad news for those who see church/state entanglement as a danger, and especially when the targets are children.

Publication information
Publication Date: 
Wednesday, January 21, 2015