The Good News Club, which is the child evangelism component of a wider network of the Christian fundamentalist movement, is targeting Indianapolis July 13-25, 2015. The immediate purpose of The Good News Club is to establish Bible clubs in public elementary schools so as to “save children from hell.” Most of the people promoting these clubs who have children are not sending their children to public schools but are homeschooling them or sending them to Christian schools. They seek to evangelize children who are from nonreligious, Jewish, Unitarian, Methodist, Episcopal, and Catholic families–any families who are not raising their children in their Christian fundamentalist version of Christianity.
Under the Supreme Court precedent established by Good News Club v Milford Central School in 2001, public schools have to let them meet after school. One problem is that because they usually meet directly after school and some of the teachers are also volunteers at the school, it is hard for parents and especially children to distinguish the clubs from the regular school curriculum. They are very deceptive in their advertising and even though parent permission is required, many parents do not understand really what the group is about.
The Good News Club selects a city each year to target and this year it is Indianapolis. When they target a city, they get churches to sign on to host trainings and help with the ministry. Then they train volunteers from these churches to start Bible clubs in their neighborhood public elementary schools. They also many times will set up in public parks or other public places and entice unsuspecting children (without parent permission) with food, games, and crafts and then preach their message to them. They sometimes organize “family fun days” offering free food, bounce houses, etc. to entice families to hear their message. They want to preach to children in the age 4-14 age bracket because they believe that 85% of conversion experiences occur in people between the ages of four and fourteen and if they get them young they have a better chance of keeping them for life.
The wider agenda of this network, of which the Good News Club is a part, includes undermining public education, opposing equal rights and marriage for gays and lesbians, advocating teaching creationism as science in science classes, rewriting United States history textbooks to fit their worldview, opposing scientific sex education, contraception, and a woman’s right to choose in reproductive issues, and more. Citizens of Indiana have seen this movement at work in our Indiana government recently on such issues as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
Center for Inquiry-Indiana and The Indiana Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State are trying to educate and warn especially parents of young children as to the agenda of this group so that they can protect their children from becoming involved and so that when their child comes home and says that a friend invited them to this club and/or told them that they would go to hell if they did not believe as this group does that the parent will be able to talk with their child about it. The Good News Club encourages “peer to peer” evangelism and gives prizes to children who bring other children to the club.
To fully understand what the Good News Club and this network of right wing Christians are about, everyone and especially parents should read this well researched book by Katherine Stewart, The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children. Center for Inquiry-Indiana and The Indiana Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State are hosting the author on Sunday, September 20 at 6:00 pm at Center for Inquiry-Indiana. We are also working on getting media attention to get the message out to the public and have set up a Facebook page called “Protect Indiana Children.”
While both of our organizations promote and value freedom of speech and personal freedom of religion, we think that religious instruction should be left to individual families and should not be promoted in public schools. We especially think that the agenda of this network of extremist Christians is a danger to our country’s children and to our country’s future.