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The after-school agenda of the “Good News Club”

The after-school agenda of the “Good News Club”

The Guardian’s Katherine Stewart writes on the After-School program called the Good News Club in public schools:

This fall, more than 100,000 American public school children, ranging in age from four to 12, are scheduled to receive instruction in the lessons of Saul and the Amalekites in the comfort of their own public school classrooms. The instruction, which features in the second week of a weekly “Bible study” course, will come from the Good News Club, an after-school program sponsored by a group called the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF). The aim of the CEF is to convert young children to a fundamentalist form of the Christian faith and recruit their peers to the club.

There are now over 3,200 clubs in public elementary schools, up more than sevenfold since the 2001 supreme court decision, Good News Club v Milford Central School, effectively required schools to include such clubs in their after-school programing.

The CEF has been teaching the story of the Amalekites at least since 1973. In its earlier curriculum materials, CEF was euphemistic about the bloodshed, saying simply that “the Amalekites were completely defeated.” In the most recent version of the curriculum, however, the group is quite eager to drive the message home to its elementary school students. The first thing the curriculum makes clear is that if God gives instructions to kill a group of people, you must kill every last one:

“You are to go and completely destroy the Amalekites (AM-uh-leck-ites) – people, animals, every living thing. Nothing shall be left.”

“That was pretty clear, wasn’t it?” the manual tells the teachers to say to the kids.

Even more important, the Good News Club wants the children to know, the Amalakites were targeted for destruction on account of their religion, or lack of it. The instruction manual reads:

“The Amalekites had heard about Israel’s true and living God many years before, but they refused to believe in him. The Amalekites refused to believe in God and God had promised punishment.”

The instruction manual goes on to champion obedience in all things. In fact, pretty much every lesson that the Good News Club gives involves reminding children that they must, at all costs, obey. If God tells you to kill nonbelievers, he really wants you to kill them all. No questions asked, no exceptions allowed.

The story also discusses the use of the passage to justify genocide at various points of history.

The complete article is found here.


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Murdoch Matthew

The AlterNet Website has a useful account of the Child Evangelism Fellowship and its Good News Clubs. It describes their program and gives suggestions for dealing with it locally. See the article here.

The article closes with a statement from Katherine Stewart:

As they teach kids as young as six or seven about original sin and blood atonement and divinely sanctioned genocide, CEF staff and volunteers believe they are on a mission from God. They are well-financed and have a seasoned team of legal advocates at their disposal. Any community that doesn’t stand up for its children can expect to have fundamentalist recruiters in its public grade schools.

Murdoch Matthew

Stewart. Right the first time.

Murdoch Matthew

The push in New York City is to allow churches to conduct Sunday worship in school buildings. This violates city statutes, but has been permitted by court order for a decade or so. Our City Councilman, Danny Dromm, has heard fundamentalist church leaders declare their intention to plant a church in every one of the city’s schools. This isn’t to provide a witness in the community — it’s a campaign to take over. I don’t know whether they’re part of the Dominionist movement, or fellow travelers, but they have funding and legal resources to pursue their aims relentlessly.

One reader of Katherine Stewart’s book, The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children, has posted this reaction:

The Child Evangelism Fellowship is an organized, well-funded group of people dedicated to proselytizing specifically to 4 to 14 year old children, the prime age for conversion.

They also have other goals, among them the total obliteration of public education. It’s ironic: they often take advantage of our institutions, leasing our public school buildings for church services and Sunday schools (They’re cheap! Professional, well-maintained buildings available at minimal cost), trading on the credibility of the schools (They try mightily to produce the illusion that their efforts are sanctioned by and part of the official school curriculum), yet privately they detest the whole principle of universal education, and their goal is to subvert the whole endeavor and turn education into Christian indoctrination.

They found “Good News Clubs” at schools, led by community volunteers, which superficially promote a kind of generic moral religiosity which often wins over culturally diverse communities — the kind where they might detest gay-hatin’, science-despisin’, Pat Robertson-style fundamentalism, but nod in happy agreement at the importance of faith, and blandly accept that religion in general is good and virtuous and that we should encourage our children to adopt a faith tradition…for their moral upbringing in an environment of conscience, don’t you know. What they don’t realize is that the Good News Clubs stealthily promote that gay-hatin’, science-despisin’, Pat Robertson-style fundamentalism directly to their children, while asking them not to talk about it to Mommy and Daddy. They will cheerfully take in the children of Catholics and Jews, so that they can tell those children that Catholics and Jews will burn in Hell.

These people are kindly old grandmas and sincerely pious ordinary joes, but they’ve also got it in their heads that they must inject their poisonous beliefs into everyone’s children. And they are dedicated: they will make time and invest money in their cause. Fear them. They lie and fight dirty and will use your own liberal and progressive values to undermine those same values in gullible children.

We’ve met Katherine Steward and are impressed with her professionalism. The Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens has donated 25 copies of her book to the Queens Public Library system. Her book exposes a relentless campaign to subvert schools for a partisan ideology.


“Of course, there is a solution: get some mosque to set up a Jihad Club on public school grounds”

Isn’t it sad, Bill, that this is what it’s come to? Sometimes it seems like this country is in an escape from Reason (meanwhile the anti-theists are trying to trademark Reason itself! No moderation *anywhere*).

JC Fisher

…in a post-election day bad mood.

Bill Dilworth

Justice Souter’s dissent makes it clear that the majority opinion simply ignores reality in its zeal to reverse the lower court’s judgment. The decision is revolting – almost as nauseating as the genocidophilic lesson on the Amalekites.

Of course, there is a solution: get some mosque to set up a Jihad Club on public school grounds, during whose meetings children would be “challenged” several times to recite the Shahada. I guaran-damn-tee you that SCOTUS wouldn’t view the club’s activities as simple moral teaching and would reverse itself – if the various state governments didn’t preempt the Court by enacting laws that really did close the public schools to proselytizing.

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