Evangelizing Good News Clubs quietly proliferate in public elementary schools

by JewsOnFirst.org, October 9, 2006

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."

TOPIC: Public Education