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Evangelizing Good News Clubs quietly proliferate in public elementary schools
by JewsOnFirst.org, October 9, 2006
Links to documents, articles and websites cited in our report immediately follow it.
The Christian Right believes in getting them while they're young. Last year, religious right groups embarked on a five-year campaign to implant after-school "Good News Clubs" in every public elementary school in the United States. Mathew Staver, a leader of the club initiative and President of Liberty Counsel, wrote: "Classrooms are full of unchurched children waiting to hear about a Savior who loves them and forgives sin." According to Staver, Good News Clubs are "high-powered Sunday school which can now be established in the public schools immediately after school."
Staver says the fellowship's goal with the Good News Clubs is to "evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and to establish them in the Word of God and in a local church for Christian living. That is accomplished by teaching children, ages 5-12, about Jesus through Bible lessons, missionary stories, Scripture memorization and review games—all in a fun and energetic child-friendly way."
The Liberty Counsel is a conservative legal advocacy group that has devoted great effort to dismantling the wall between church and state in public schools. According to Staver, "Based on recent court decisions, we now have unprecedented opportunity to bring the gospel to the public schools."
In a 2001, the Supreme Court ruled that Good News Clubs, sponsored by the international ministry of Child Evangelism Fellowship, can meet on public elementary school campuses. Critics of the decision said the court did not sufficiently consider that the children involved are so young they are likely to conclude that the school is endorsing the after-school club.
In his dissent to the decision (which was authored by Justice Clarence Thomas), Justice David Souter wrote: ''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.' '
In 2004, Liberty Counsel won a case involving a South Dakota teacher in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which it contends, permits public school teachers and staff to lead Good News Clubs in the schools where they teach.
It is not known how many of the clubs are operating and there is no indication of their number on the website of the sponsoring organization, the Child Evangelism Fellowship; it claims to operate in all 50 states and many other nations and to have "personal, individual ministry with more than 6 million children each year." It also claims that "[c]hurches nationwide are adopting public schools for Good News Club ministry."
In Los Angeles, Staver writes, after the 2001 decision Good News Clubs got "access to more than 426 public elementary schools. Since that ruling, Good News Clubs have been exploding throughout the district."
Another group involved in the "good news" project is the Christian Educators Association International, a Christian "alternative" teachers "union."
The Supreme Court: Religion and Free Speech
Top Court Gives Religious Clubs Equal Footing in Grade Schools
By Linda Greenhouse, New York Times, June 12, 2001
The Supreme Court ruled today that public schools must open their doors to after-school religious activities, including those that involve young children, on the same basis as any other after-hours activity that school policy permits.
The 6-to-3 decision extended to elementary school property the same constitutional principle the court has already applied to public high schools and colleges: that the expression of a religious viewpoint is speech, protected by the First Amendment against discrimination and entitled on a neutral basis to access to public facilities that are open to other speakers.
Letting the Good News Club, an evangelical Christian organization, use a room in an upstate New York school building on the same basis as other groups ''would ensure neutrality, not threaten it,'' Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority. Continue.
Supreme Court Hears Case of Bible Study at Public School
By Linda Greenhouse, The New York Times, March 1, 2001
The Supreme Court appeared generally sympathetic today to an evangelical group's argument that it had a constitutional right to offer Bible study and prayer as an after-school activity for young children on the same basis as any other activity held on the premises of an upstate New York public school. Continue.
“For Such A Time As This”
A workshop discussing unprecedented opportunities of reaching the youth with the gospel in the public schools through Good News Clubs
By Mathew Staver, National Liberty Journal Online, October 2005
Many well-meaning people believe that Christian teachers and administrators must leave their faith parked at the schoolhouse door each day as they enter to work with our young students. The so-called “separation of church and state” myth is often raised like an iron gate to force Christians to check their faith when they walk on campus. The reality is that not only is this notion untrue, it is illegal. Public schools are not religion-free zones.
Classrooms are full of unchurched children waiting to hear about a Savior who loves them forgives sin. Continue.
Bringing Good News to Public Schools
By Mathew Staver, National Liberty Journal Online, September 2005
Good News Clubs are the best thing that has happened to public schools. Designed to bring the Gospel to children ages 5-12, Good News Clubs are sponsored by the international ministry of Child Evangelism Fellowship (“CEF”). CEF is in all fifty states and 155 foreign nations.
Through its international ministry, CEF brings the Good News of Jesus Christ to more than five million children each year, of which more than one million children make decisions to accept Christ as Lord and Savior. Continue.
Good News From the Supreme Court? Perspectives on the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Good News Club v. Milford Central School
Event Transcript, The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, June 12, 2001
Discussants include: Thomas Marcelle, Attorney for the Petitioners, Good News Club; Elliot Mincberg, Vice President, People for the American Way Foundation; Steven Sheinberg, Assistant Director, Legal Affairs, Anti-Defamation League; K. Hollyn Hollman, General Counsel, Baptist Joint Committee. Please click here for the transcript.
The New After-School Activity: Evangelism
By Tim Townsend, New York Times, December 15, 2002
On a recent Wednesday afternoon at Memorial Elementary, a public school in East Hampton, the public-address announcer called out groups of pre-kindergarten through thirrd-grade students who were to be dismissed for the day. Many left for the waiting school buses, but others were told to head to after-school activities: ''Students riding Bus 12,'' said the announcer, and then, ''Students attending Good News Club.''
The children whose parents had signed them up for the weekly Good News Club filed through the halls and piled into Classroom 29. There were about 20 children that day and each one, some as young as 4, sat down cross-legged on the carpet in front of a woman playing guitar, ''Good news: Jesus died for me,'' they sang together, ''Good news: I can be saved eternally.'' Continue.
Teacher Can Lead Religious Group
Fox News, September 9, 2004
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that public schools that permit after-school clubs must give equal access to religious clubs, and now a federal appeals court has answered whether a teacher or school employee can participate in these religious clubs.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that South Dakota elementary school teacher Barbara Wigg must be permitted to participate in after-school, child Bible study at Laura B. Anderson Elementary School, where she teaches.
Wigg, who has been a teacher for 21 years, sued the Sioux Falls School District (search) last year when she was told she couldn't participate in the Good News Club, an after-school national religious program that meets on school property. Wigg had gone to one meeting before being prevented from attending. Continue.
S.D. school district unhappy with teacher's Good News Club role
By The Associated Press, First Amendment Center, August 4, 2003
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The Sioux Falls School District is appealing a federal judge's decision that allows a teacher to take part in an after-school religious club.
The district has decided to take U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol's ruling to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
A month ago, Piersol ruled that Barbara Wigg should be able to participate in the Good News Club but that the school district could prevent her from doing so in her own school. Piersol called it a freedom-of-speech case. Continue.
South Carolina district's policy ruled unconstitutional
By Larry O'Dell, The State, (Columbia, South Carolina), December 16, 2006
A South Carolina school district's policies that denied a religious club free meeting space violate the First Amendment's prohibition against viewpoint discrimination, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.
A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the policies gave Anderson School District Five administrators too much leeway in deciding which organizations would be charged for use of school property.
The panel ordered the district to refund $1,545 the Child Evangelism Fellowship of South Carolina paid over two years to rent meeting space for its "Good News Clubs." The nondenominational clubs, open to children ages 5-12, conducted Bible lessons and other religious activities. Continue.
To read the opinion of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, please click here.
Liberty Counsel: Doors Now Wide Open for Christian Clubs at Nation's Schools
Allie Martin, Agape Press, December 21, 2006
A federal appeals court has ruled that a South Carolina public school district violated the constitutional rights of a student-led Christian club.
The unanimous decision (3-0) by the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week ruled that the Anderson School District Five had a discriminatory policy against Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), which sponsors Good News Clubs in elementary schools. CEF was charged a fee to use school facilities, even though the district waived fees for clubs such as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, YMCA, the local Democratic Party, and other groups. Continue
Clover Y puts Bible in day care
After-school faith club rents public school space
By Deborah Hirsch, The Charlotte Observer, December 17, 2006
Good News clubs, operated by the Child Evangelism Fellowship, are growing explosively in South Carolina. According to this report, more than half of elementary school children in York County, South Carolina, a fast-growing suburb of Charlotte, NC, participate in release-time Bible study programs. This report focuses on the decision of the local YMCA to set up a club for its after-school child care program. Children who don't attend will sit with a study monitor. Click here.
Good News Club
By Clayton Stairs, The Georgetown Times, (Georgetown, South Carolina), December 09, 2006
Singing, dancing and sharing the word of God with children who may not attend church services regularly, the Good News Club meets at Waccamaw Elementary School.
The club meets once a week, after school on Thursdays at 2:30 p.m. from October to April in the gymnasium, and the number of children in the club has grown to 185 in the club’s three years.
Volunteers start with a prayer to ask for guidance before the children meet in groups separated by grade levels. After a snack, students are asked to recite the memory verse from the week before and to give their group leader any prayer requests.
The volunteer prays with the group and then all of the students come together for the big group session. They sing two or three up-beat songs and do motions with the songs and then repeat the "memory verse" from the Bible.
A teacher will then read a Bible story or just talk about God and the characteristics of God. Then comes the time for the invitation, in which children are given the opportunity to talk with someone about accepting Jesus into their hearts. Continue.
Appeals Court to Maryland Schools: Stop Censoring Good News Club
Christian groups have equal access
by Pete Winn, Focus on the Family, August 11, 2006
For the second time in two years, a federal appeals court has unanimously upheld the right of a youth-evangelism club to send Christian fliers home in school backpacks as part of a school district's information program.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Thursday that Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland were wrong to deny the after-school Good News Club the ability to send home fliers in the same folder as other school information. Continue.
San Diego School District Settles CEF Suit, Repeals Discriminatory Fee Policy
By Allie Martin, AgapePress, January 10, 2006
A court-approved settlement has opened the door for a student-led Bible club in the San Diego City Schools (SDCS), the second largest school district in California. Federal Judge Irma Gonzales has approved the settlement between the school district and Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), the group that sponsors Good News Clubs.
CEF's Good News Clubs are religious, after-school clubs for elementary school children from ages five to twelve, in which the kids have an opportunity to learn about the Bible through stories, songs, games and other youth-oriented activities. Although these Christian clubs have faced court challenges before, they have on more than one occasion been ruled constitutional and lawful to be conducted on public school campuses immediately after school, and the clubs have enjoyed widespread popularity with children, parents and others in many communities. Continue.
School flier ban may hurt groups
Nonprofits' notices wouldn't be sent home
by Ellen Shiau, Gazette.net (Maryland), March 17, 2004
An effort to limit the types of fliers that can be sent home from school with students has raised concerns from parents and community organizations in recent weeks.
On April 26, the Montgomery County Board of Education will consider altering the policy to allow only information from the school system, government agencies, PTAs and PTSAs, and licensed day care operations on school campuses in the "backpack mail" students carry home to parents. Continue.
Feds back evangelicals in fight against schools
Eric Kelderman, Gazette.net (Maryland) June 27, 2003
The U.S. Department of Justice is supporting a religious group's court battle against the county school system to have its fliers sent home in students' backpacks.
Child Evangelism Fellowship of Maryland Inc. runs an after-school program, called the Good News Club, in two of the county's elementary schools. Continue.
From the website of Child Evangelism Fellowship, sponsor of Good News Clubs
The Supreme Court ruled in 2001.
Although CEF has many strong outreach ministries to children, After-School Good News Clubs are especially important. We work in cooperation with public schools to supplement the children's education with biblical principles. Sound Bible teaching not only helps children grow spiritually, it also has a positive impact on their personal and home life, school performance and decision-making skills. Continue.