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Oct 11 2012

They’re coming to get your kids…and expecting you to pay for their activities

Have you read Katherine Stewart’s The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children? You should. It’s about how Christian evangelicals have taken advantage of a court ruling requiring that schools open their doors to after-school clubs with no viewpoint discrimination…and how they’re exploiting that opportunity to proselytize and indoctrinate children. It’s chilling stuff.

They’re in Minneapolis. One school tried to restrict their activities. Here’s what happened.

The Minneapolis school district will abide by a federal appeals court ruling that the district cannot exclude a Bible-oriented club from its after-school activities program.

The decision not to appeal the ruling clears the way for similar clubs in other schools. A settlement approved by the school board Tuesday will cost the district $100,000 in legal fees to the organization sponsoring the club.

Ouch. Not only do they have to allow this creepy club to recruit children, they’re going to have to cough up a big chunk of money. And what will they do with all that cash?

Dave Tunell, the Child Evangelism Fellowship’s state director, said he hopes three or four more after-school clubs could emerge from summer events conducted by churches in city parks.

Clearly, we need a better strategy for coping with these cultish freaks. They’re not stupid, and they’ve come up with a smart way to exploit the system.

117 comments

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  1. 1
    richardelguru

    Start secular clubs on the same night!
    Make them more fun!
    …And noisier?!?

  2. 2
    Anri

    Got the sample on my Kindke.

    Just as soon as I’m done with Death by Black Hole

  3. 3
    Ouabache

    I’m afraid this isn’t anything we can do about these clubs legally. Especially if we want to keep having atheist/agnostic/secular clubs in school. We are going to have to win the war of ideas with these kids.

  4. 4
    machintelligence

    The problem is that these “clubs” are aimed at grade school kids (K-5). Do we really want to be seen as indoctrinating children who are too young to make decisions for themselves?
    OTOH There already exist some secular alternatives, such as the program called Destination Imagination, which I have been involved in for more than 12 years. It is a team based creative problem solving competition for students in K through university level.
    http://www.destinationimagination.org/
    Colorado is currently something of a hotbed of activity for this program with 934 teams statewide last year.That was second to (oddly enough) Texas. We were also able to send more than 50 teams to the Global Finals in Tennessee.
    When I was a team manager I had the privilege of taking two teams to Globals, and it is a wonderful experience for the kids. They get to stay in college dorms for 4 nights and meet other teams from across the USA and other countries. The whole program is run primarily by volunteers on a shoestring budget. */shameless plug*

  5. 5
    scottmange

    Remember Ms. Stewart also has a web site here:

    http://thegoodnewsclub.com/

    If you want to follow these types of decisions, you should see Religion Clause Blog here:

    http://religionclause.blogspot.com/

  6. 6
    md

    –I’m afraid this isn’t anything we can do about these clubs legally.

    Why does that thought make you afraid, Ouabache?

  7. 7
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Why does that thought make you afraid, Ouabache?

    Why do you think proselytizing clubs are good md?

  8. 8
    W. Kevin Vicklund

    Re: Destination Imagination.

    Many of us will remember it by its original name, Odyssey of the Mind. There was a lawsuit back in 1999 that suspended the 1999-2000 competition season, and a bunch of the OM teams got together to form DI. My sister made it to Globals that year, placing in the top third. (Sadly, my best chance to get to Globals with OM was brought short when a judge stepped on and damaged our equipment)

  9. 9
    Randomfactor

    Why does that thought make you afraid, Ouabache?

    It makes me afraid because it seriously handicaps us in the fight. Christians have no compunctions about breaking the law.

  10. 10
    beergoggles

    I think this is a worthwhile opening to create anti-theists while they are young.

    I also hope there will be other theists in there like Muslims – that should provide a good enough freakout for the xtians for them to try and shut this down for good.

  11. 11
    md

    Nerd,

    As a freethinker, I dont think much about them really. My choice and all. When Jehovah’s witnesses and Mormons and Hare Krishnas’ stop me for a chat I say thanks but no thanks and go on about my day.

    I do think its a bit silly to get a legal team to go after a voluntarily organized after school club though.

  12. 12
    BeyondUnderstanding

    I don’t know… seems like a bit of an overreaction, no? I mean, aren’t these clubs voluntary? Any elementary school related activity will require the parents permission. It’s not like they’re recruiting kids without the parents knowledge or consent. Shouldn’t parents get information about the club they sign their kids up for? Maybe I’m missing something…

  13. 13
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    My choice and all.

    You didn’t answer my question. Why is it good for proselytizing students to harangue other students about religion on school grounds, which is very likely to happen? Your personal OPINION and ability to ignore is that of an adult.

    Plus, I asked you a stupid question since you asked a stupid question.

  14. 14
    neuroturtle

    Seconding OM/DI like crazy. I was in Odyssey of the Mind through middle and high school, and it was an amazing experience. There’s something for all types of talents and it is WAY more fun than any Bible program could ever be.

    Each team needs an adult mentor, though the projects are student-driven. It’s a great chance to help kids develop creative problem-solving and critical thinking skills… something these Good News Clubs actively work against.

  15. 15
    mikecline

    I don’t want to promote ANY religious nonsense, but I’d love to go to that community and pay some kids to start a Koran Club or maybe a Wicken Coven. Fake religious clubs would be even better. Start a “bible” group, but then turn it into an arts and crafts club that makes origami out of the bible.

  16. 16
    chigau (違う)

    After-school activities are often needed by working parents to give them time to collect the kids from school.
    They may not have much choice.

  17. 17
    md

    Sure I did, Nerd. You assumed, stupidly, that I thought proselytizing was good, and asked why. I don’t think it good, in fact I don’t think much about it at all.

    What I think is bad is teaching kids to go running to a lawyer everytime someone upsets their day.

    Nor do I think every voluntary after school activity has to meet your or my definition of ‘good’.

  18. 18
    averagetruth

    “They’re coming to get your kids…and expecting you to pay for their activities”

    Come on, Sleaze-Z. This is straight from the libtard playbook.
    Don’t you think turnabout is fair play?

    Oh that’s right. You only appeal to ethical principles when it suits you, and violate them otherwise. The question is, do you even recognize anymore how hypocritical your appeal is, or have you spent so many years sniffing your own bullshit that you actually believe it?

    I think your rancid self-induced brain damage merits its own Darwin Award.

  19. 19
    Ing

    Oh boy here comes MD out hunting for straw

  20. 20
    consciousness razor

    What I think is bad is teaching kids to go running to a lawyer everytime someone upsets their day.

    Who is teaching kids to do that?

    Nor do I think every voluntary after school activity has to meet your or my definition of ‘good’.

    So according to your definition, people don’t have to be “good”? So what you have to say about it is basically useless, then?

  21. 21
    chigau (違う)

    averagetruth
    Do you have a point?

  22. 22
    kaboobie

    We read the book earlier this year for our local Skeptics Book Club. One of the main issues the book highlights is that these clubs are targeting young kids on purpose. Kids at this age are incapable of distinguishing things that happen on school grounds from things that the school endorses. They come to accept the Fundamentalist Christian indoctrination as part of “school”, and they are encouraged to evangelize to their peers whose parents don’t let them take part.

    I recommend a guest post from Katherine on JT’s blog where she highlights just such an incident:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd/2012/10/interview-with-katherine-stewart-author-of-the-good-news-clubs/

  23. 23
    consciousness razor

    “They’re coming to get your kids…and expecting you to pay for their activities”

    Come on, Sleaze-Z. This is straight from the libtard playbook.
    Don’t you think turnabout is fair play?

    1) Please don’t use “tard” or -”tard” as an insult.

    2) This is not any kind of “turnabout.” It’s not about our taxes going to government programs we merely dislike. We want separation of church and state.

  24. 24
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    What I think is bad is teaching kids to go running to a lawyer everytime someone upsets their day.

    Not answering the question again, thowing up idiotic straw in the process. Why do liberturds have such a problem dealing with reality?

  25. 25
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    averagetruth
    Do you have a point?

    Anything with “truth”, “reality”, “rational”, etc. in a nym is always divorced from truth, reality, rationality, etc.

  26. 26
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    What I think is bad is teaching kids to go running to a lawyer everytime someone upsets their day.

    Wait, isn’t that exactly what The Good News Club did?

    I can haz consistency, plz?

  27. 27
    Ing

    Will we next get a rant about McDonalds coffee lawsuit 100% divorced of any context or facts of evidence?

  28. 28
    consciousness razor

    First, McDonald’s coffee is terrible. She knew that when she purchased it.

    Also, McDonald’s are everywhere in the US. This has always been a McDonald’s Nation. It’s in the Constitution.

  29. 29
    intrinsicdignity

    Yes, “we need a better strategy,” and I outline that strategy in the facility use policies page of my website on the Good News Club. While schools cannot keep a group on solely on the basis of church-state separation, they don’t have to let groups in that threaten the emotional, psychological, and intellectual well-being of children. It is a terrible thing to tell a 5-year old that “you deserve to die.” But the Good News Club has gotten away with telling this and other forms of shame and fear indoctrination in America’s public schools for years.

  30. 30
    raven

    They’re in Minneapolis

    That is because you live too far from the ocean in a snow bound place. This would never happen here on the coast.

    OOPPSSSS. They are here!!!! Help!!!!

    I noticed a few months ago that the Child Evangelism Fellowship is operating in my immediate area. Or trying to anyway. They are collecting donations and ran an ad.

    If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere. Chances are they are in your neighborhood school as well or trying to get in.

  31. 31
    raven

    Child Evangelism Fellowship is ugly even for a fundie xian group.

    They teach mostly authoritarian obedience, hate, and are famous for justifying genocide as long as god is OK with it.

    It’s Jesus Camp for grade schoolers.

    The solution would be to set up Pagan, atheist, secular, freethought, and Wiccan after school groups. If the schools let slime molds like Child Evangelism Fellowship in, they have to let anything in.

    The other solution is just to publicize their teachings. Even the brighter and more normal among the xians would be disturbed by them, or so I would like to think.

  32. 32
    chigau (違う)

    Could the KKK (if they still exist) offer some after-school activities?

  33. 33
    Sastra

    Although I think their message is not only mistaken, but unethical, I wouldn’t try to block these clubs from schools. They have as much right to try to spread their ideas legally as we do. The problem though is that these Good News Clubs often try to creep over the legal line and put up posters in a way they shouldn’t, or gain teacher endorsements or encouragements so that it is even harder for young kids to tell what-is-school apart from what-is-not-school. So we need to make sure they remain accountable for any violations.

    I think it’s also important to make sure that parents understand exactly what the “Good News Clubs” are about. They are NOT just about basic good citizenship activities with a happy-be-a-nice-person Christian veneer. They involve fundamentalist fire-and-brimstone indoctrination which might very well go counter to what you believe in your Christian church. Their promotional literature tends to gloss this over, in an attempt to swell the ranks. An uninformed choice is not adding to the whole “voluntary” thing.

  34. 34
    raven

    –I’m afraid this isn’t anything we can do about these clubs legally.

    MD Why does that thought make you afraid, Ouabache?

    Fundie xians are evil and openly hate the USA and want to overthrow the government and set up a hell on earth theocracy. They say so themselves often.

    The Christian Evangelism Fellowship is after our kids. They say that too. That is, in fact, their central strategy.

    If you aren’t afraid of fundie xians, you either have no central nervous system, are asleep, or one of them.

    They do have one huge weakness though. They are such ugly trolls that normal people run away screaming. Fundie xians produce more atheists in a week than Dawkins and Myers do in a year.

    Despite their relentless hunting for easy and clueless prey, the US churches are losing 2-3 million members a year.

  35. 35
    intrinsicdignity

    Chigau, yes, the Ku Klux Klan could start elementary public school clubs given the way most facility use policies are currently written. But if schools drafted their facility use policies to bar all groups (regardless of viewpoint) that engage in programming to undermine a child’s core sense of self, groom children to become authoritarian followers, or that employ traumatic bonding (click on link to see suggested criteria), the schools could legally keep out both the Good News Club AND the KKK.

  36. 36
    raven

    wikipedia:

    Katherine Stewart notes that “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. Asking if Saul would “pass the test” of obedience, the text points to Saul’s failure to annihilate every last Amalekite,

    posing the rhetorical question: ‘If you are asked to do something, how much of it do you need to do before you can say, ‘I did it!’?’”[2]

    Child Evangelism’s goal seems to be to produce meat robots who will slaughter everyone without questions or exceptions for god and jesus.

    They missed a lot of kids though. Ours all went to college and got degrees and lives instead. Some of them even ended up with cats and dogs.

  37. 37
    Ing

    Anyone else find it odd they’re specifically using the kill unbelievers example? How is anyone else in that school supposed to feal safe with a group saying that?

  38. 38
    intrinsicdignity

    I also wrote a review on Good News Club’s “Genocide is Good” lesson. They dished this lesson out to public school kids last fall. This fall, they’re teaching kids that they need to respect and obey “God’s workers” while describing how God sent bears to maul 42 boys who taunted Elisha.

  39. 39
    chigau (違う)

    Do the Good News Clubs tell the kiddies the good news about Santa Claus?

  40. 40
    intrinsicdignity

    It’s not just a handful of schools. They were already in 3560 public schools in 2010.

  41. 41
    raven

    Anyone else find it odd they’re specifically using the kill unbelievers example? How is anyone else in that school supposed to feal safe with a group saying that?

    Well they aren’t or shouldn’t feel safe.

    Our society is saturated with weapons and a lot of grade schoolers have access to guns. Not usually on purpose but some parents have large numbers of guns not well secured.

    I suppose schools with CEF Good News clubs will just have to have a Terrorism Response Plan in effect, and hope for the best.

  42. 42
    coragyps

    “Destination Imagination”

    Machintelligence, did you meet the kids from Snyder, Texas?

    I got involved in some fundraising last year and am going to get involved in nuts and bolts as well this year. Though I don’t think I still have what it takes to accompany a bunch of eleven-year-olds to a four-day sleepover………

  43. 43
    unclefrogy

    I can understand the school trying to ban them from the school grounds and understand that the court had no choice but to allow them.
    It is pretty clear to anyone that they are a christian Taliban and want their own Madrases. They would argue with that but they are the twins of the Islamist fundamentalists and are only superficially different.
    The only question I see is how to counter their influence effectively.
    To be successful it will have to be a multichannel approach.
    Exposure first of all, what they are actually preaching should be widely and loudly publicized as much openness as possible. That is difficult because the majority of the people in the U.S. are to some degree are religious and tend to give the fundies the benefit of the doubt, they are good they are christians aren’t they? The answer of course is no they are not good they are the inquisition, they are the taliban they are the terrorists training schools and are operating the same as the madrases are in Pakistan .

    Another approach at least for the schools and the children would be after-school programs that combine science and art to involve the children in thinking outside the box. It might be something that A+ might get involved in with fund raising and support along with other individuals and groups who understand the danger of these people and their beliefs and actions.
    uncle frogy

  44. 44
    md

    They would argue with that but they are the twins of the Islamist fundamentalists and are only superficially different.

    Unclefrog, tell me how hyperbole and exaggeration helps your cause. From my perspective, which may not matter much to you, im highly sympathetic to separation of church and state arguements. If you want folks like me to join you in opposing things like teaching creationism in science class and teacher-led prayer during school hours, you will lose me with statements like that.

    Unless you believe beheading sexaully active unmarried women and stoning adulterers are superficial activities.

  45. 45
    ianmclaughlin

    My wife and I are atheists who have two kids, 7 (boy) and 4 (girl). Our neighbors are Christian missionaries and they also know we are atheists (they seemed surprised when they found out that such nice and responsible people can be atheists). At one point, their kids asked if our son could go to a two or three day camp (not overnight), which I found out later had connections to Answers in Genesis. We decided to let him go because it can’t really be that bad.

    We never really discuss religion with our kids yet, but after the first day of camp my son came home and said “Only one more day of Jesus!”, in a tone like he was excited that it was almost over. My wife and I got a real kick out of it.

  46. 46
    jefrir

    md, did you read the quotes given above? They are explicitly teaching that genocide and killing unbelievers are good things.
    The main difference between them and the Taliban is the amount of societal power they have – in large part because of separation of church and state.

  47. 47
    Ing

    @md

    No one here wants you as an ally. You’ve proven fickle, dim and that you don’t give a shit about spraying your “allies” with bullets (metaphorically). You’re a liability as an ally

  48. 48
    md

    jefrir,

    Yea I read the Wikipedia quote. I remain extremely skeptical anyone is teaching about genocide and killing unbelievers on public school grounds. Perhaps Im wrong, perhaps one of you will go undercover at one of their after school meetings and bring this violent indoctrination to light. Do a sixty minutes segment or something.

    In the meantime, Im going to continue to believe that the Taliban, who actually shoots little girls is more than superficially different than American Evangelicals. Further I am going to distrust the moral compass of those who would find equivalence between the two.

  49. 49
    md

    Yea Ing I figured about as much. Its just that sometimes a rallying tone comes over the comment section here, as if you all fancy yourselves as leading a charge, fighting a heroic battle and the like.

  50. 50
    Ing

    @md
    So despite having the quote and all you’re skeptical.

    Why aren’t you skeptical of the muslim indocrination stories?

    This is why id rather we lose you as an ally…you’re dead weight at best

  51. 51
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Further I am going to distrust the moral compass of those who would find equivalence between the two.

    Ah, another islamophobe with Xian blinders. There isn’t much difference. Which is why we distrust your judgment, such as it is.

  52. 52
    Ing

    Md your attempts at shame are noted

    Btw american evangelicals shoot doctors, kill gays and harass children into suicide. Why do you give them more benefit of doubt than taliban? Did you ignore we have a rep (prolife) calling for a way for parrents to have their children executed for disobidience?

  53. 53
    Ing

    Oh also the same xian groups are likely connected to over seas terrorism and theocracy such as thd strong us xianity promotion of queerocide in Uganda and elsewhere.

    You’re basically the idiot that says “I had no idea he was really cviolent” refering to the open nazi who shot up a temple after years of promoting and jerking off to racial violence.

  54. 54
    raven

    md the troll:

    Yea I read the Wikipedia quote. I remain extremely skeptical anyone is teaching about genocide and killing unbelievers on public school grounds.

    You are a troll and a liar. Who cares what you claim?

    md lying some more:

    If you want folks like me to join you in opposing things like teaching creationism in science class and teacher-led prayer during school hours, you will lose me with statements like that.

    Best thing that could happen to us. You are a troll.

    In the unlikely event you aren’t a fundie, find an ugly xian cult and join it. It’s a win win outcome. The atheists get rid of a useless troll and the fundies get another troll to add to their collection.

    FWIW, md is just trolling. It only believes in one thing, filling up its empty, lonely life of living under a bridge somewhere by disrupting comment threads for attention. It’s boring.

  55. 55
    raven

    as if you all fancy yourselves as leading a charge, fighting a heroic battle and the like.

    We are. Thanks for accidently noticing.

    It’s an old, old battle that has been going on for millennia. The battle of light against darkness. These days it is knowledge against mindless superstition. Freedom against malevolent theocratic dictatorship. Human enlightment against mental slavery.

    And your part in it is obvious. Just a bit of gravel under our chariots. A troll trying to get in the way and failing completely.

  56. 56
    robro

    md —

    “I remain extremely skeptical anyone is teaching about genocide and killing unbelievers on public school grounds. Perhaps Im wrong…”

    I remain extremely skeptical that the location being on public school grounds would deter them from teaching these ideas for a second. They are not going to allow legal restrictions or any social opprobrium to limit their proselytizing. As they see it, they are spreading the gospel as commanded by God/Jesus and are duty bound to do so even if there might be consequences. If there are consequences, which is unlikely in these cases, they are merely being persecuted as Christians, and therefore they join the ranks of the martyrs.

  57. 57
    Sastra

    md #48 wrote:

    In the meantime, Im going to continue to believe that the Taliban, who actually shoots little girls is more than superficially different than American Evangelicals. Further I am going to distrust the moral compass of those who would find equivalence between the two.

    While I think it’s reasonable to draw parallels between the two groups based on similarity in background theology and a desire to infuse the culture, I agree that the Taliban is obviously worse, in many ways, than the American Evangelicals. The Taliban is the nightmare model of what the American Evangelicals might become given enough time AND enough power. I’m not sure how much trust I would put in their Made-in-the-USA brakes.

    Especially if they’re trying to instill a sense of other-ness in young children, based on supernatural criteria. If this is checked, it can only be because individualsd are still infused into a wider culture which doesn’t go along with it — and they want to be part of that culture, too.

    Its just that sometimes a rallying tone comes over the comment section here, as if you all fancy yourselves as leading a charge, fighting a heroic battle and the like.

    Metaphorically, we are. Even if we were to all grant your point re comparisons to Islam, there are enough things to worry about with even a conservative but honest view of the Good News Club.

    Since they stress the overwhelming need for “obedience” in their lessons, using a “strong” example like the Biblical genocide in the Bible is going to fit in with their general schema. I’m not as worried of a violent fundamentalist takeover as some of the others are (I think it negligible), but I do think this image is probably being invoked at least in part as preparation for Armageddon. Probably preparing the kids to be spectators more than actual participants, though I’m not sure if they’re pre or post-millenialists. “This is how things were in the past; this is how it will be in the future. Do not cry for the damned. They are expendable.”

    Dangerously creepy, at best.

  58. 58
    raven

    This would make a great horror movie.

    The Christian Evangelism Fellowship Good News club kids, completely Zombified, decide to eliminate the local Canannites, Amelakites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Philistines, and Romans.

    Not being too clear on what these groups actually are, they roam the halls of the school with makeshift weapons and a few guns borrowed from their clueless Tea Party parents, picking off other kids and teachers.

    They soon collide with the other school after hours club, the Young Islamics for Allah out looking for a Jihad to join. A firefight ensues.

    As the credits roll, PZ Myers intones: “Remember, without eternal vigilance, this could happen anywhere.” Christopher Hitchens (played by an actor since he is dead) intones, “Religion poisons everything.”

  59. 59
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    They’re not stupid, and they’ve come up with a smart way to exploit the system.

    I don’t understand why they need to have the program to begin with. Kids are already exposed to the Jebus myth at church on Sundays (and Wednesdays and any other night that kids are forced to church). The hell do they need more church?

  60. 60
    Sastra

    @ raven #58–

    Hey, maybe you could get some Templeton funding.

  61. 61
    md

    robro,

    when I said ‘I might be wrong’, I meant it. Maybe they are preaching genocide and death for atheists and apostates on school grounds. Id just like to see it before I believe it. A cell phone video or something.

    Meanwhile, according to Pew (page 14 is what you want, but take the time to read the whole thing. Quite nuanced, really. Something Pharyngulites would benefit to emulate in their judgments), 84% of Egyptian Muslims believe that leaving Islam ought to be punishable by death. Yes, given the geopolitical ramifications of Egypt and the current state of their political affairs, I believe this is an issue far more important than American Evangelicals. To say these are superficial differences is hyperbole, exaggeration, and anti-Christian bias.

  62. 62
    No One

    Create the “Practical Science” club. Subjects would include the science of : rockets, music, cars, forensics, computers & cell phones, food, sports, photography & video, etc…

  63. 63
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    md:

    remain extremely skeptical anyone is teaching about genocide and killing unbelievers on public school grounds.

    If you haven’t looked at the evidence and come to a reasonable conclusion based on facts and logic, you’re not doing skepticism right.
    All you doing is doubting things you don’t agree with.

    The wikipedia quote you’ve been provided shows what the Good News Club teaches (among other things). It is *not* a good idea to have them proselytizing to impressionable children. Period.

  64. 64
    Sastra

    Tony #59 wrote:

    I don’t understand why they need to have the program to begin with

    I think there are two main reasons:

    1.) Bringing in other kids — the ones who aren’t already being forced to go to church 2 or 3 days a week. A lot of not-terribly-religious parents will probably be fine with their child joining into what looks on the surface like a nice, innocuous program about being the best you can be through love of Jesus. Especially if the kid wants to be with his or her friends and thinks it will be fun. After school program = after school care.

    2.) The more their child thinks the entire world either believes what they believe, envies what they believe, or passes by as outsiders, the more entrenched their child’s faith will become. At least, this could very well be their assumption.

    From the standpoint of the very pious fundamentalist, school lessons which don’t explicitly mention Jesus on a regular basis are dangerously likely to inculcate the idea that Jesus doesn’t really matter very much. To an extent, they’re right — because neither Jesus nor believing in Jesus matters very much once you’re actually doing things in the world. Math, science, social studies, history, gym, English lit — a nonbeliever can be every bit as proficient as a Christian, and more. This needs to be “countered.” Doing so in school, so that it seems like a seamless transition, is one tactic.

  65. 65
    A. R

    My K-12 had a Science Olympiad team. I imagine something like that might work. (BTW, does SO still exist? It’s been a few years since I’ve done anything connected to it.)

  66. 66
    trixie

    I did a quick google search on Good News Manitoba, and saw that they also have a Mailbox Club, which just sent chills down my spine. My mom must have signed me up (but acted surprised when I got mail) when I was really young. It was a home study Bible course. I fell for it hook, line and sinker. There was a lot in it about sinning and hell and obedience. I even remember something about needing to love God above all else, even your parents. I still fell for it.

    It was summer when the packages first started coming. It was a big deal to get mail, especially mail that was addressed directly to me, not the junk mail I was allowed to open. You did the workbook, sent it back, and someone corrected it by hand and sent it back with a personalized note. If you completed all the workbooks, you got a certificate – another big deal. I was young and bored on a farm with no close neighbours, no organized activities, and no one to tell me this was all bullshit. I figured out long ago that my mom got me going on it, and I’ve spent some time quite disgusted at her for doing so. A home study course on Astronomy (which I was very interested in as a kiddo) would have gone much further.

  67. 67
    bevstapleton

    OM was originally “Olympics” of the Mind back in the early 80′s when I participated in Colorado. It became Odyssey because of a dispute over using the work Olympics. In any case, it was an awesome program for smart kids to explore and learn new things.

    I’m glad to learn that a variation of the same group is still in existence.

    If religious groups can hold clubs and are legally protected, so should more secular groups, and promote critical thinking and science. Religious groups can’t complain, or THEY risk getting sued.

  68. 68
    Sastra

    md #61 wrote:

    Maybe they are preaching genocide and death for atheists and apostates on school grounds. Id just like to see it before I believe it. A cell phone video or something.

    Based on what I’ve seen, they both are and aren’t “preaching genocide and death for atheists and apostates on school grounds.” Depends on how you parse that sentence, and interpret it.

    They are not telling the little kids they ought to go get daddy’s gun and shoot their atheist and apostate schoolmates. No. You’re right on that, I’m pretty sure.

    They are probably not telling them that it will be likely that yes, soon they will have to get a gun and shoot the infidels, when they grow up. I doubt very much they’re saying that, though I’m a bit less sure.

    But they almost certainly ARE telling the kids that atheists and apostates merit death. They are wicked, and will, at the very least, be damned and deserve to be damned. And they are possibly telling the kids to expect to see this at Armaggdon. Whether human beings will be committing the wholesale slaughter, or angels, or God working through plagues and lightning bolts, is something I don’t know. That is, I don’t have any idea what they’re teaching on this, at theses clubs.

  69. 69
    md

    trixie -

    In those workbooks you mention, was there a takehome exercise walking you through how to kill those who didn’t believe? This thread would love to know about it.

  70. 70
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    md:
    Given your reluctance to accept the evidence as presented by the wikipedia quote you were given, perhaps this one will achieve better results:

    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 CEF wants to operate in the public schools, rather than in churches, because they know that young children associate the public schools with authority and are unable to distinguish between activities that take place in a school and those that are sponsored by the school

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/may/30/christian-fundamentalists-plan-teach-genocide

    (emphasis mine)
    Their intent is plain as day.
    ****
    And no, I have no intention of speaking to your comments about Islam. That’s not the topic of this thread. Your attempts to divert the conversation

    Yes, given the geopolitical ramifications of Egypt and the current state of their political affairs, I believe this is an issue far more important than American Evangelicals.

    are noted and dismissed. When the OP deals with the similarities and/or differences between Christian and Islamic Evangelicals, then your points might have merit.

  71. 71
    raven

    I’ll add one consideration here.

    Most parents really hate for other people to mess with their children’s minds. This especially includes their kid’s religion.

    Parents tend to have a lot invested emotionally and otherwise in their kids. A common nightmare is losing them to one cult or another. It happens and I’ve even seen it myself, a girl who disappeared. The Moonies got her.

    It doesn’t take a militant atheist to see the problems with CEF and their Good News brainwashing cult clubs. They really are after our kids. A lot of parents aren’t going to be too pleased about this.

    Groups like CEF don’t do well when a light is shined on them. They are the cockroaches of our society, hiding in the shadows and hoping no one notices them.

  72. 72
    md

    Hey Tony,

    Thanks for the link, will read it in detail.

    And thanks for policing the thread, the next time some Islam fundie whacks somebody and people here threadjack to Evangelicals, I’ll look to you to get them back on topic, if there is a post about it of course.

    Id just call you back to Unclefrogy’s post at #43 who brought up the happy-go-lucky, schoolgirl killing Taliban first on this thread, if only to say that American Evangelicals were really only superficially different. Its a standard trope around here, though im looking in the paper every day for secular schoolgirls killed by American Evangelicals, looking and looking.

  73. 73
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    md:

    And thanks for policing the thread, the next time some Islam fundie whacks somebody and people here threadjack to Evangelicals, I’ll look to you to get them back on topic, if there is a post about it of course.

    I believe you’re mistaken here.
    I wasn’t making an attempt to police the thread. All I said was I didn’t want to address anything other than the topic of the OP.
    There is a difference between stating
    a. I don’t want to discuss something off topic
    and
    b. Hey everyone, you’re getting off topic. Let’s get back to talking about the issue in the original post.

    I did the former, not the latter.

  74. 74
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Its a standard trope around here, though im looking in the paper every day for secular schoolgirls killed by American Evangelicals, looking and looking.

    Try harder. It shows up in various ways, like anti-tax sentiment doing away with support for the quarter of the children growing up in poverty. Lack of vaccines and other medical care, food, and basic utilities for needy families. In the lack of resources available to help them better their chances for getting out of the cycle of poverty. Shooting them is just a faster punishment. But then, you don’t seem to understand the concept of common good.

  75. 75
    unclefrogy

    look MD the only thing that is keeping the christian fundies from acting completely like Islamic fundies is social pressure and FBI. The government has the complete monopoly on killing and violence and does not allow any others to so engage. The American people don’t like random violence very much and business can not tolerate it at all.
    The attitudes and thinking is indistinguishable. The language is all most identical.

    uncle frogy

  76. 76
    chigau (違う)

    Dear Muslima

  77. 77
    intrinsicdignity

    This is an interesting thread, but worthless if it does not result in any action. Let’s get practical. Organize. Demand that school districts incorporate child protection provisions into their facility use and communication forum policies. If you’re interested in doing something, please go to my website, click on the contact link, and send me an email.

    I’m a lawyer. In my fundy days, I co-drafted 2 amicus briefs on behalf of the Good News Club, advocating for their right to send flyers home in childrens’ backpacks. I know the law in this area, and I know what will and will not work legally. I’ll help any school district, pro bono, to draft policies to protect children. If litigation ensues, I will happily pursue discovery of, take depositions of, and cross-examine CEF’s leadership. They will never be able to explain to any reasonable person’s satisfaction that it is appropriate to tell 5-12 year children that they “deserve to die.”

    But I can’t do it by myself. Katherine Stewart can’t do it by herself either. It is up to people who care to demand that their school districts make these changes. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. So please squeak — not here — but to your school’s administration. But please do it smartly — along the lines I recommend. Please don’t get school districts into trouble and expense by advocating church-state separation policies. It hasn’t worked. It won’t work. And if they try that again, they’ll get slammed with another suit and CEF’s inflated attorneys’ fees.

    Children are not pawns to spread or preserve a parent’s worldview. The flip side of “no separation” is regulation. It’s time to start regulating the elementary public school forum, and protect these young children from these predatory threats to their emotional, psychological, and intellectual well-being.

  78. 78
    No Light

    Quoth the troll:

    anti-Christian bias

    You would need an electron microscope to see the violin I’m playing right now.

    All my cries for the poor, oppressed Christians.

  79. 79
    A. R

    md: Speaking as someone with over a decade of experience observing American Christian Fundamentalists, I can assure you that once you strip off the layers of evasive and euphemistic language, your average fundamentalist looks remarkably like an Islamic fundamentalist. They may not (to an equal extent) practice honor killings or acid throwing directly, but with their influence on public policymakers, they can do nearly the same thing. Oh, and Google Scott Roeder next time you have the chance.

  80. 80
    sc_ece3c77c2d114dca8c9bf2650b92a3f4

    The Taliban is worse, but only because they exist in places without functional, secular government, often in war torn areas (Afghanistan). They are able to do what they do because there isn’t a strong, legal, secular, government to stop them. They started with a nation with a huge proportion of Islamic fundamentalists, uneducated people, and also brought stability to areas that were in the midst of tribal warring. So, they didn’t get the resistance their ideas may get elsewhere. Once people realized they were worse, it was to late. (I know this is a simplification, Im not gonna write a book)

    The American right wing fundies have been held in check by our secular democracy for a long time, but make no mistake, they have many of the same ideals and would do the very same things if they could (like kill gays and limit womens activities). There are entire groups that advocate some of the very same things, even keeping women in the home with heads covered. No, they aren’t killing school girls, but if the bounds of civilized, secular, society, were gone, they could get to the level of violence in no time. They may be a long way from instituting Taliban style government here, but its not as far away as people think.

    On topic-
    We should learn from these evangelicals. They are organized and know how to get their message out. We ought to do the same. If we don’t, THEY WILL.

  81. 81
    Ing

    Md really shows the dishonest dull mind that falls for dog whistles and implausible deniability lies.

    Hey md for future reference if you disagree with us we were just joking.

  82. 82
    Sastra

    intrinsicdignity #77 wrote:

    If litigation ensues, I will happily pursue discovery of, take depositions of, and cross-examine CEF’s leadership. They will never be able to explain to any reasonable person’s satisfaction that it is appropriate to tell 5-12 year children that they “deserve to die.”

    They don’t have to defend the argument that it is “appropriate.” They only have to defend the position that it is legal to tell 5-12 year olds that they “deserve to die” when it’s done as part of a philosophical, ethical, or religious argument (and isn’t simply a case of personal bullying.) And they will win on that argument — and should.

    We can’t start ‘regulating’ world views which are not taxpayer supported or part of the government system. These are private clubs. You say you are aware of the issues on this — but I’m not sure what your argument is here. That Christianity and its beliefs about sin and damnation are psychologically abusive? So dangerous that the government has to step in and prevent this abuse? No, I don’t buy that second part — even though a moral case can be made for the first.

    We have to make sure they follow the law, and hope to counter their propaganda with better after-school programs. But I’m wary of your suggestion that we go beyond that. Their morality is only skewed because their facts are skewed: they mean no harm, and the argument FOR harm rests on their views being wrong. Good luck establishing that one in a court.

    If nothing else, arguments that “atheism is nihilistic child abuse” are much more likely to be turned against us if we start messing around with what legally qualifies as “abuse,” I think.

  83. 83
    Ing

    I notice md is silent on the fact that we DO have a politician in high office calling for a way to legally execute troublesome children.

    But noooooo not at all like the Taliban.

  84. 84
    anteprepro

    So:
    -Md thinks that indoctrinating kids on school property is no biggee because md can easily dismiss Jehovah’s Witnesses.
    -Md protests the idea that these people are equivalent to Islamists, because Islamists are violent! Because, obviously, waging war and executing people is fine as long as you aren’t the one holding the gun.
    -After the previous, md dares to play the “Ally” card.

    I seem to recall a phrase. With “Allies” like md, who needs Axis. Or something like that.

  85. 85
    Ing

    Id like to propose a new term for faux ally trolls like md: allies

  86. 86
    A. R

    Ing:

    I notice md is silent on the fact that we DO have a politician in high office calling for a way to legally execute troublesome children.

    !?!?!?

  87. 87
    Ing

    You know I qonder what any jewish families think of a youth organization teaching their kids peers that they need to obey orders without question and that be prepared to commite genocide if its asked of them. Dejavu?

  88. 88
    Ing

    @A.R

    http://digitaljournal.com/article/334391

  89. 89
    A. R

    Ing: The truly sad thing is that I’m not at all surprised.

  90. 90
    anteprepro

    I notice md is silent on the fact that we DO have a politician in high office calling for a way to legally execute troublesome children.

    But noooooo not at all like the Taliban.

    And also seems to conveniently overlook that the American warmongers support a war where a disproportionate of Coalition casualties have been women and children (you know, compared to the casualties caused by “terrorists” ). Also seems to conveniently overlook that the American Taliban support the death penalty. That they oppose homosexuality and some go so far as wanting to re-outlaw sodomy. Also ignores abortion clinic bombing. Ignores the Christian elements to the KKK and other racist hate groups. Ignores all the rape and child abuse and spousal abuse done by godfearing Americans.

    Apparently none of this matters as long as the bloodthristy Christians aren’t actually beheading anyone or don’t literally have blood on their hands. Terrorism is horrible, war with civilian casualties is fine. Stoning and beheading is beyond the pale, but the death penalty itself isn’t particularly bad. Killing innocents is terrible unless it is done at a distance or as collateral damage.

    I mean, either the above is true, or Islamophobic apologists for American Christians really just have “It’s Okay When American Christians Do It” as the basis to their entire argument for the Obvious Vileness of Islam. And that just couldn’t be.

  91. 91
    anteprepro

    Oooo, that digitalpress article…

    If slavery were so God-awful, why didn’t Jesus or Paul condemn it , why was it in the Constitution and why wasn’t there a war before 1861?”

    I often ask the same question. For completely different reasons.

    “Abortion, failing to use the death penalty , Socialism, graduated income tax and our entire economic system is a violation of God’s law.”

    “Failing to use the death penalty” is against God’s law! That’s the greatest way I’ve ever heard the argument for the death penalty made. Ever.

    And the money quote:

    “The death penalty for rebellious children is not something to be taken lightly. The guidelines for administering the death penalty for rebellious children are given in Deuteronomy 21:18-21. This passage does not give parents blanket authority to kill their children. They must follow the proper procedure in order to have the death penalty executed against their children.”

    That’s just extra delicious in combination with the previous quote. Fuqua should be sterilized. For the sake of all potential children he might murder. We all know how much Fuqua and his ilk care about potential children, after all.

    I think I just can’t resist ending with this one. It is just too hilarious.

    “There is a strange alliance between the liberal left and the Muslim religion. Both are antichrist in that they both deny that Jesus is God in the flesh of man, and the savior of mankind. They both also hold that their cause should take over the entire world through violent, bloody revolution.”

  92. 92
    A. R

    “The death penalty for rebellious children is not something to be taken lightly. The guidelines for administering the death penalty for rebellious children are given in Deuteronomy 21:18-21. This passage does not give parents blanket authority to kill their children. They must follow the proper procedure in order to have the death penalty executed against their children.”

    Fuck, this just happened to my gigantic decentralized, septuple-log, distributed computing, multinodal irony meter with overload cutout… It used to look like this.

  93. 93
    Ichthyic

    In his 2012 book speech titled “God’s Sharia Law: The Only Political Solution,” Fuqua [random Imam], who served in the Arkansas House Islamic Revolution in the late 1970s, discusses the “MuslimChristian problem” in America Iran and proposes expelling all Muslims Christians from the Middle East.

    I’m really tired of people like Harris telling us that Islam is inherently worse that xianity, when the real problem is simply the manipulation of authoritarian personalities, period, and it matters FUCK ALL what religion you use as a tool in such a task.

  94. 94
    anteprepro

    They must follow the proper procedure in order to have the death penalty executed against their children.”

    “You’ve got to file all the right paperwork, and get signed approval from at least three supervisors before you can even take your first trip to the quarry! Then you’ve got to get just the right stones, looking at shape, size, weight, and hardness. You have got to book an execution grounds at least three weeks in advance, and it can only be registered execution grounds. In the good ol’ days you could do it in the privacy of your own backyard, but apparently it lowers property values! You’ve got to find some volunteers in the neighborhood to do the stoning for you, and you need to make sure that each one of those volunteers are Christian enough to kill someone, which requires quite a few calls to local pastors. And cleanup, don’t even get me started on the rules for cleanup. It is really more trouble than its worth, sometimes.”

  95. 95
    trixie

    md #69, no I can’t recall any blatant instructions for killing non-believers (but gimme a break, this was back in the mid-late 70′s). That would have sounded alarm bells, even for the densest of kids like me. It was more like what Sastra describes at #68: that those who have not accepted Jesus as saviour deserve the torment of hell – lessons accompanied by illustrations of said unsaved writhing in pain and begging for mercy. So the take-home message was that Christians will get and deserve the reward of eternal bliss and screw everyone else. Another message was that no matter what sins you may have committed (not sure what kind of horrifying sin they had in mind for a seven year old), you would be OK in the end, cuz you accepted Jesus.

    It acted, in a way, as a desensitization to violence and human suffering because, y’know, those non-jesus-y people weren’t human anyway. It’s really horrifying now to think of it.

  96. 96
    anteprepro

    md #69, no I can’t recall any blatant instructions for killing non-believers

    Luckily they weren’t quite that Biblical, eh?

    Deuteronomy 13:6-10:

    “If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you … Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die.”

    Deuteronomy 13:13-19 :

    Suppose you hear in one of the towns the LORD your God is giving you that some worthless rabble among you have led their fellow citizens astray by encouraging them to worship foreign gods. In such cases, you must examine the facts carefully. If you find it is true and can prove that such a detestable act has occurred among you, you must attack that town and completely destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock.

    2 Chronicles 15:12-13:

    They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.

    Leviticus 24:10-16:

    One day a man who had an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father got into a fight with one of the Israelite men. During the fight, this son of an Israelite woman blasphemed the LORD’s name. So the man was brought to Moses for judgment. His mother’s name was Shelomith. She was the daughter of Dibri of the tribe of Dan. They put the man in custody until the LORD’s will in the matter should become clear. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Take the blasphemer outside the camp, and tell all those who heard him to lay their hands on his head. Then let the entire community stone him to death. Say to the people of Israel: Those who blaspheme God will suffer the consequences of their guilt and be punished. Anyone who blasphemes the LORD’s name must be stoned to death by the whole community of Israel. Any Israelite or foreigner among you who blasphemes the LORD’s name will surely die.

    But Islam is Extra Evil still, of course.

  97. 97
    katansi

    How is this constitutional? If it’s a public school then it’s likely requiring a state employee (teacher) to moderate the club activity on state property.

  98. 98
    clarysage

    In Oregon they do it DURING school hours. It’s state law that it’s allowed. It’s very disturbing.

  99. 99
    mnb0

    Sure you Americans need a better strategy. I am just not sure if denying those Evangelicals access to schools is a better one. The Dutch didn’t need it. But I doubt if something like this is possible in France. So pick your choice.

  100. 100
    joed

    There is nothing funny about The Good News club.
    they have the law on their side: that is the supreme law of the land. they have billions of dollars to use as they please. They don’t have to be reasonable or honest or upfront about any of their activities. They have a large percent of the population on their side and most of the rest of population doesn’t care.
    They have been working on the population of the u s for decades and they are collecting royalties now.
    the politicians that make ridiculous(insane) statements about god, women, death to disobedient children, are very serious then pretend to apologize. These are the bad guys and it seems the bad guys have won.

  101. 101
    vaiyt

    It ain’t over till the fat lady sings, joed.

  102. 102
    intrinsicdignity

    Sastra #82 wrote:

    They don’t have to defend the argument that it is “appropriate.” They only have to defend the position that it is legal to tell 5-12 year olds that they “deserve to die” when it’s done as part of a philosophical, ethical, or religious argument (and isn’t simply a case of personal bullying.) And they will win on that argument — and should.

    I applaud your high-minded (p/m)atriarchal defense of adults’ rights to screw with little nonconsenting kids minds, Sastra.
    But these are 5-12 year old children, not college or high school students. Try putting your feet into a young child’s shoes, if you can. Pray tell how group bullying is better or more justifiable than “personal bullying” just because it is shrouded in some kind of “philosophical, ethical, or religious argument.” (Nice Scalia-ism, by the way).

    This is also happening in the public school, not on a street corner or public sidewalk. And this particular latter fact is why you are quite wrong about the law. I suggest you familiarize yourself with Bethel School Dist. v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986) (no sexually suggestive speech, not even mildly sexually suggestive, in school) and Morse v. Frederick, 551 U.S. 393 (2007 (no “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” banners across the street from the school). Go on, now, explain why adults coming onto public school campuses and telling kids, in public schools, that they deserve to die is and should be constitutionally protected when mildly sexually suggestive speech, “Bong Hits 4 Jesus,” and “personal bullying” aren’t.

  103. 103
    chrislawson

    No need to address md’s claim that the teaching isn’t so bad because they didn’t give step-by-step instructions for killing unbelievers. That was just md moving the goalposts when he was challenged with evidence. “Oh, so you can actually offer evidence that xtian extremists advocate violence, child execution, and genocide? Um. Well that doesn’t count unless you can show me instruction guides.”

    It is also a double standard since the evidence md used for the evils of Islam was a survey of Turkish Muslims where the majority agreed that apostates should be killed. The survey did not ask the respondents to supply instructions, so I guess that means we can ignore the finding.

  104. 104
    chrislawson

    ^Whoops. Egyptian, not Turkish above.

  105. 105
    Anri

    These are the bad guys and it seems the bad guys have won.

    For those that aren’t familiar with him, joed spends a fair bit of time and effort in reminding us that time and effort are futile.

    He’s smarter than us like that.

  106. 106
    Sastra

    intrinsicdignity #102 wrote:

    Pray tell how group bullying is better or more justifiable than “personal bullying” just because it is shrouded in some kind of “philosophical, ethical, or religious argument.”

    The problem here I think is defining what is “group bullying” when faced with a religion which has redefined reality into a hierarchy of moral values — and this distortion goes all the way down. It’s not easy to draw lines on where they intrude too much into public space once we grant they can intrude to an extent, as we must.

    The philosophical, ethical, religious argument is important because it tries to provide the framework outsiders can use to evaluate it. And religion alone cheats in this area, because the outsiders have to remain outsiders. In religion, the world we can all see and experience is ranked lower than the spiritual realm which only a few can properly recognize. And all the Abrahamic religions teach, as a matter of course, that the Godly standard of perfection means that human beings, in comparison, are worthless. They have value only to the extent that they reflect God’s value, which is inherent. The greatest sin is pride and we all need to be beaten down by the world in order to recognize that we need to appeal to something ‘higher.’ It’s group bullying on a massive scale, and it’s structured right into the religious way of thinking.

    So that leaves us with a thorny issue: how do we take a system which is all about the Higher having absolute authority over the Lowly and parse out when it goes too far — and when it doesn’t?

    It’s not too hard to do that when the beliefs have physical effects: faith healing, wife beating, female circumcisions, armed rebellion against the government, tax evasion, etc. But it is a lot harder when we’re looking at mental effects and getting into the psychology behind the teaching. Are fundamentalists really that different than the mainstream? Or are they just more open about the implications of the core belief? Should we end up banning Christian clubs all together, because the government or school administrators have determined that Christianity is based on being saved and that requires that some are damned and damnation is bad? Maybe. Maybe not.

    Frankly, I don’t know where to draw the line. You make good points (I read some of your website) and it’s possible that sidestepping the government issue and just getting down to having school administrators determine that ‘hellfire and brimstone’ teaching taking place in the school building is against internal policies on mental child abuse might stop what is, after all, mental child abuse is a feasible way to go. It might work, and that would be a good thing.

    But I still think it’s ethically trickier than you do. And in practice, the Good News Club will likely defend themselves by asking a not unreasonable question: “are we wrong only because we make the implications of Christianity too clear?” The answer, I think, is technically “yes.”

    And now we’ve opened a real can of worms. I’d love to avoid this mess by having schools voluntarily choose to not open their building to any groups but those defined in a narrow parameter — which is one of your suggestions and I think a very good one. But if habit and circumstance have made it a given that religious groups DO rent the building, giving the school administrators the right to decide which religions are good ones and which ones are bad ones is problematic. They’re all bad. They’re just not all equally bad.

    I’m going to have to think more about this, and consider the proposals on your website more carefully. I think the legal issue here is muddied by the fact that the Good News Club is not supposed to be a school event: they’re “just” renting the space. And that of course is muddied by the fact that the school can and does decide which groups are inappropriate candidates for renting space. It’s further muddied by the fact that small children cannot be expected to know what’s school and what’s not school when it’s all in school.

    I suspect it will be a lot easier to make a case on the problem with the Good News Club telling kids that the kids in OTHER religions deserve to go to hell, as opposed to telling kids that they, themselves, deserve to go to Hell (but Jesus is right here to save them.) Too many otherwise well-intentioned people seem to think that “humbling yourself before God” is good for kids — but you should never criticize someone else’s religion.

  107. 107
    intrinsicdignity

    Sastra #106, thank you for your thoughtful consideration of my legal suggestions. I completely agree that courts should — and I am confident that they will — approach these issues with caution. If my website doesn’t (yet) reflect an appropriate amount of caution or nuance, it is because right now the rights and well-being of the child don’t seem to factor at all into the debate over the Good News Club. Until then, I will argue for the child loudly, even though I want any change that involves First Amendment issues and the competing rights of parents and children to be incremental and cautious.

    Importantly, I recommend that schools adopt religiously and viewpoint neutral criteria. Morever, the criteria that I suggest for identifying emotional and/or psychological abuse are drawn from the DHHS’s definition of emotional abuse, the UN Declaration and Convention on the Rights of the Child, and evidence-based, peer-reviewed psychological research. Such criteria are more defensible than the ever-shifting gut-check type line drawing the Supreme Court routinely uses to decide cases like Bethel or Frederick.

    The legal reforms I advocate could easily be confined to the context of the elementary public school forum, and even moreso to clubs organized by adults for elementary public students which operate during or immediately after school hours. This would leave churches who use facilites on Sundays, etc., out of that context.

    You are right that my suggested legal reforms would involve line-drawing and involve questions that courts have long avoided asking under the “ecclesiastical abstention” doctrine. But public schools are not ecclesiastical sanctuaries. GNC broke down the wall of separation of church and state, and got into the schools on the principle of religious neutrality. They can’t, in that context, use religion as a shield for privileging their abusive treatment of children.

  108. 108
    Sastra

    intrinsicdignity #107 wrote:

    Morever, the criteria that I suggest for identifying emotional and/or psychological abuse are drawn from the DHHS’s definition of emotional abuse, the UN Declaration and Convention on the Rights of the Child, and evidence-based, peer-reviewed psychological research. Such criteria are more defensible than the ever-shifting gut-check type line drawing the Supreme Court routinely uses to decide cases like Bethel or Frederick.

    While your legal suggestions (which involve restricting the scope of the reform) seem more reasonable than I initially feared (I should have read your website first!), there’s still something that disturbs me about this line of attack — identifying emotional or psychological abuse and making sure the school building is always a safe space for kids. There’s something that bothers me on both a philosophical and practical level. I’ve been trying to clarify it, in my own mind.

    So a question just occurred to me: using the same standards of emotional abuse you propose to use for the Good News Club — would an atheist group also qualify as a “hate” group? Or even a humanist or skeptic group?

    Consider: children are presented with view which tells them there is no heaven, there is no afterlife, there is no punishment for the wicked. No karmic force ensures that the universe is fair, everything does not happen “for a reason,” and the cosmos is not vibrating with the energy of Love. There is no magic. There is no good reason to believe there is anything other than a mindless, indifferent, uncaring universe of matter and energy in motion and when we die, we cease to exist. You will never see your dead Grandmother again, nor your dead puppy. It’s just not likely. Best to give it up.

    This can depress a child. It can make them feel lost, worthless, unhappy, and cut off from their community. You could probably find a lot of evidential support for this.

    Our responses to this are twofold — and we share them with the Good News Club.

    1.) It’s the truth.
    2.) When you work through your initial disappointment, there is a remedy — and this remedy will make you happier and more secure in the long run.

    In our case, the remedy is to place meaning and value where they came from and belong — in the natural world — and learn to live without delusions that life is meant to be perfect. It’s not riding ponies through the clouds with Jesus … but it works.

    Ok, I have been in far too many arguments about why New Atheists are not “just another kind of fundamentalist” to be unaware of the significant differences between the two groups. I’ll grant them all. But I’m focusing here on one of the few similarities.

    It seems to me that where gnus and fundamentalists DO intersect is that, generally speaking, neither group endorses living in what I like to call ‘Happy Clappy” Land: the land where all opinions on religion are fine except for the opinion that there is anything bad or wrong about a person’s religion, and faith is that virtue where we know that things can’t be true if we don’t like them. There are no hard truths, in Happy Clappy Land. Religion is meant to uplift and inspire. If a child is crying because they were presented with something unpleasant about the afterlife, or about their status or place in the universe, then that child has been mentally abused. No excuses about hey, we think it’s true or we have a way of dealing with the initial suffering. It’s wrong. You’re taking faith away from children, you’re taking away comfort and hope, you’re fucking with religion — and that makes you a Hate Group.

    The odds are, any school administration which agrees that the Good News Club qualifies as abusive on your criteria would just as easily agree that so would an atheist club. The reasons why the two groups are significantly different are, in my opinion, a little too intense and nuanced to be readily apparent to the typical faith-soaked general public. And it is a case which does not sell easily.

    What do you think?

    As a practical matter, this might be a silly question if you look at the issue narrowly. There are no plans now or in the future for a specifically atheist club to come into an elementary school — and this is the area you say it might be wisest to focus on, given the nature of the Good News Club. But there are atheist clubs in high schools. There are plans for more of them. What happens if the official district-wide policy which defines the rights and well-being of the child in a way which includes religious or philosophical emotional abuse is applied to atheism?

    I don’t know. Frankly, I’m not that sure of the criteria — my worries might be completely off base. But my concern isn’t just for what’s practical, but for what’s reasonable and fair, given that the hell-and-damnation sect defends itself from charges of being damaging using reasons which are, ultimately, disturbingly similar to mine. As I said, I think this is trickier than it looks.

  109. 109
    intrinsicdignity

    Sastra #108 asked:

    using the same standards of emotional abuse you propose to use for the Good News Club — would an atheist group also qualify as a “hate” group? Or even a humanist or skeptic group?

    It comes down to the criteria selected to define and/or identify abuse. I suggest several, but that’s just to open up the discussion. There might be better criteria than what I’ve come up with. And I’m glad you are honing in on that, because this is where a school district should spend the most time deliberating.

    Any criteria selected should be evidence-based and, to be constitutional, must be viewpoint neutral. So, yes, the criteria I recommend would prevent a group of adult atheists from starting an after-school club for elementary public students on public school grounds if that group promoted a program of shame indoctrination to attack a child’s core self or sense of fundamental self worth. But there is no “shaming” involved in simply denying a spiritual reality, the existence of a soul, or the afterlife.

    By the same token, my proposed criteria would not keep out a Christian group that substituted affirmation (e.g., we’re all God’s children) for shame indoctrination and emphasized the Golden Rule over absolute lock-step obedience.

    My proposed criteria would also quite likely keep groups such as the KKK out, not that the KKK or any neo-Nazi group has ever attempted to start such a club. My proposed criteria would also potentially keep an ROTC out of an elementary school, if the ROTC hurled boot-camp-like insults at 5-year olds.

    All of these are products of the constitutionally necessary “viewpoint neutral” nature of the criteria I propose.

    I understand your discomfort with defining emotional and/or psychological abuse. But the fact is, our country has been doing that all along. We have dignitary torts — to protect the fragile sensibilities of adults (mainly) — that have existed alongside the First Amendment. Most child abuse statutes also sanction emotional or psychological abuse in some form or fashion. The Supreme Court has long excluded “fighting words” and personal “epithets” from constitutional protection. And we know how the conservative justices on the Supreme Court feel about obscenity and humorous messages by students that make light of sexuality or drug use.

    Sastra, your concern about “opening a can of worms” is perceptive. That is precisely what I want to do. I want to “open this can of worms” because society pretends that religious emotional and pscyhological abuse does not exist. By moving their can of worms from churches and private homes into public elementary school classrooms, secularists have an opportunity to shine a light on that abuse and demonstrate that their own interests are not purely parochial (i.e., concerned only with protecting their own children). One reason I am putting so much effort into this particular issue is the hope of starting a much wider public discussion about this abuse. This includes getting evangelicals to think more reflectively about it too.

  110. 110
    Kevin

    I think the first comment pretty much nailed it.

    Compete.

    Hard work? Most definitely. But they don’t seem to mind. After all, they’re working harder than we have been every single day.

    If this concerns you as a parent, then you need to do something about it. Productively.

    I don’t have kids in school, so this isn’t my fish fry. But those of you who do had better start filleting.

  111. 111
    Kevin

    Oh, and as for getting evangelicals to think “reflectively” — isn’t that cute?

    They’re WINNING! Why in the world would they need to think “reflectively” about anything?

  112. 112
    Sastra

    intrinsicdignity #109 wrote:

    But there is no “shaming” involved in simply denying a spiritual reality, the existence of a soul, or the afterlife.

    I agree — but from the standpoint of someone who believes that a healthy core sense of self rests on believing in a spiritual reality, soul, or afterlife, this is a hard sell. There’s also the problem with atheists explicitly rejecting all religions — and explaining why. Our culture considers this to be a form of shaming, or insulting, the religious. “Militant atheism” is already framed as an act of aggression and attack upon the faithful, who are seen as weak and helpless against their unfair assaults. Atheists who argue are seen as forcing their views on others, and violate the cultural standard that religious freedom means that anything touching faith remains free from criticism. Same for blasphemy.

    I think I understand the point you’re making, but I still think that any attempt to categorize the Good News Club theology as mental child abuse and a form of bullying — and implement this standard into public schools — will then be used, sooner or later, against atheist clubs in the high school. These clubs are real and so the precedent would be a real concern. My understanding is that they’re already fighting this tactic. Given that we’re technically dealing now with emotional or psychological damage caused by a philosophical world view, I’m not sure an anti-bullying guideline can be written so that atheism doesn’t fall under it, particularly in a faith-friendly culture. Not unless specifics like “teaching children they are sinners” or “damning apostates to Hell” are added and, as you point out, that’s not viewpoint neutral.

    You’ve given me a lot to think about, too. The “can of worms” contains a lot of worms. I’m afraid that once let out they can squirm themselves into inconvenient places. Like you, I like the idea of opening dialogue and attacking the idea that religion is sacrosanct. But the chosen method could end up closing dialogue — and minds — by redefining bullying and abuse to include spreading “harmful or hurtful ideas.”

    I’ve seen too many ordinary, mainstream people casually tossing “atheism” (or “militant (ie outspoken) atheism”) into that category to think that we’d stay out of the dirt.

  113. 113
    Sastra

    Kevin #111 wrote:

    They’re WINNING! Why in the world would they need to think “reflectively” about anything?

    Because Evangelicals are not a monolithic block, most of them have grown up in a culture which values rationality, and they don’t all froth at the mouth at the idea of surrendering their reason. There is conflict even within evangelical churches, and these churches frequently pay at least lip service to the concepts of quiet reflection and not wanting to “win” at all costs. Some of them may even have a conscience, or a desire to understand another point of view.

    ‘Tis rare, but don’t rule it out. And it’s probably not even all that rare.

    Come on. If nothing else, we know too many atheists who claim to have been a FORMER Wide-Eyed, Sanctified, Blood Bought, Spirit Taught, Bible Totin, Scripture Quotin, satan Bashin, Sin Trashin, Christ Followin, Pride Swallowin, Hard Praying, Truth Conveying, Faith Walkin, Gospel Talkin, And 100% SOLD OUT FOR JESUS kinda person … to think NONE of them every changes their mind. ;)

  114. 114
    intrinsicdignity

    Sastra #112 wrote:

    You’ve given me a lot to think about, too. The “can of worms” contains a lot of worms. I’m afraid that once let out they can squirm themselves into inconvenient places. Like you, I like the idea of opening dialogue and attacking the idea that religion is sacrosanct. But the chosen method could end up closing dialogue — and minds — by redefining bullying and abuse to include spreading “harmful or hurtful ideas.”

    Again, thank you for your thoughtful input. My own suggestions, of course, are not the final word on this issue. I hope that more suggestions will emerge; and may the fittest survive.

    What’s important to me is that, amidst the clash of worldviews, empathetic attention be given to the child.

    35 years ago, I was that 5 year old being told I deserved death and hell. The fact that these messages were shrouded in some kind of theological framework really didn’t make any difference to me, as I wasn’t yet old enough for deep nuanced abstract reasoning. All I knew was that I was shameful and I deserved to die.

    As I began to deconvert three years ago, I became angry that no adult — not my parents and not anyone else — saw my pain or ever spoke up for me. Empathy was in short supply. I decided, this year, to become the kind of advocate that I wish someone had been for me when I was a 5-12 year old.

    It wouldn’t hurt the atheist cause for other atheists to take the Good News Club issue up and reframe it empathetically with a child-centered, instead of viewpoint-centered or worldview-centered, approach.

  115. 115
    Sastra

    intrinsicdignity #114 wrote:

    It wouldn’t hurt the atheist cause for other atheists to take the Good News Club issue up and reframe it empathetically with a child-centered, instead of viewpoint-centered or worldview-centered, approach.

    I agree. I don’t think this approach is totally wrong-headed at all. It certainly bears thinking about: it only runs into some particular problems because it skirts others. It would be interesting to get input from Secular Students or some other group with members in public high schools. Is widening the category of what constitutes bullying and child abuse in public schools a good idea, from their point of view? What problems — or benefits — do they see (or foresee)? You could think of these kids as actually being in the trenches.

    And if we keep to the metaphor, then you are a veteran of battles I never fought. I’m an ex-transcendentalist. I deconverted from “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual.” Yeah. Not the same. Trust me, the New Age crowd is far from being the open-minded bastion of tolerance, peace, and love they think they are (they can be as narrow and judgmental as fundamentalist when it comes to handling dissent and dissenters), but I’m more than ready to concede that the emotional harm and damage of this Good News form of evangelism (especially to children) is on a different level. It must have been damn hard to come to terms with both believing that stuff — and then leaving it.

    Your experience then gives you some needed insights. But it’s not always easy to see clearly when you’re too close, either. What caused you pain and anguish are the very things many other adults look back on and claim (or pretend to claim) was one of the BEST things that happened to them: theyfoundJesushallelujah!! And now it’s one heartfelt story contrasted with many other heartfelt stories and I’m not sure the ‘emotional abuse’ angle is going to work. Even though I agree with you that anybody who thinks that a situation where most people who have ever lived will be eternally tormented and only a minority will escape this is “Good News” is someone who has been damaged.

  116. 116
    niftyatheist, perpetually threadrupt

    sastra and intrinsicdignity, thank you so much for this amazing exchange. There is so much to think about. The GNC is something I think many of us have been concerned about for awhile (I’ve blogged about it as I know many others have also), and this is one of the most substantive conversations on the subject of how to approach the problem that I have seen in one place for awhile. May I quote either of you in a future post? Also, would you provide a link to your blogs, please? I have tried clicking on your nyms but no luck.

    Regarding the assertion that Islamists are worse than Christianists (or even ordinary Christians): this has been refuted upthread by others who have pointed out what I wanted to say – that the human capacity for monstrous behaviour (particularly fueled by religious fervor and justificaiton) knows no racial or geographic bounds. It is the limitation set upon mob behaviour by a secular, relatively stable society based upon rule of law which suppresses that kind of violence – and only as long as extremist rule is prevented from gaining ascendancy or even footholds of power. Recent examples of Christian violence against innocents can be found all too easily: the bombing of the Birmingham church killing little schoolgirls during the fight for civil rights comes immediately to mind, but think of Northern Ireland (and the sectarian killings of teenagers from the “wrong sect” who dared to walk through the wrong part of town), and of course the godwinningest example of the triumph of banal Christian evil: the holocaust. A stroll through history (inquisition, burning of heretics and “witches”, “holy” wars, etc) provides overwhelming evidence to satisfy a honest enquiry into the subject of Christian slaughter of innocents under the Biblical mandate to convert or destroy unbelievers and “blasphemers”.

    joed sounds like s/he is depressed and feeling like this is a hopeless fight. All too often, I have the same feelings because we really are nearly 30 years behind in this war. The seven mountains strategy has been terrifyingly effective but the really frightening thing is the willingness and ease with which the majority of human beings surrender their lives and their reason to supernatural belief and the systems of “community” power which give them a sense of belonging. That is a mighty opponent. It is hard not to feel a little despair from time to time.

    But on the other hand, our secular society managed to nearly pull out from under that pernicious blanket in the late part of the 20th century, so I do believe that it is possible that this vicious and determined backlash from the far right can be stopped. But people who are concerned about these matters need to be careful, thoughtful and smart about the approach taken. Half of the population is committed to religious indoctrination and a significant majority of the rest are apathetic or have a vague sense that “religion is good for society/religion is harmless” so there is a huge disadvantage and danger of having enlightened thought pushed even deeper into the darkness by fear, anger or distrust from the majority of the population.

    I think intrinsicdignity’s point about allowing the can of worms to be opened in the arena of school/parental attention may be one way to begin, but I am also uneasy as sastra is about the possible unforeseen consequences of that. Yet, we have to begin somewhere and as sastra pointed out, the religionists are not a monolith and perhaps taking that chance will spark more thought in more people.

  117. 117
    intrinsicdignity

    Hi niftyatheist. You are free to cite as much of this exchange or my goodnewsclubs.info website as you like. I don’t have an active blog. I wrote a few posts at intrinsicdignity.com 2-3 years ago, but — as sastra pointed out — when you’re “too close” it isn’t easy. This year, I decided that rather than blogging about my personal experiences (who cares?), I would simply put together a website to warn parents to protect their children, raise public awareness, and at least put pressure on CEF to tone down the severity of their shame indoctrination. If those efforts succeed in starting a wider conversation about the shame indoctrination of children, especially within the evangelical and Catholic communities, all the better.

    My suggestions for child-protection reforms in public elementary school facility use policies create very little risk of starting a dangerous development on First Amendment liberties. The law will develop very cautiously, if at all, with lots of input from all kinds of interest groups, in this area (as it should). My goal is to get the conversation started.

    CEF is very vulnerable here because its curriculum is fully published and rigorously applied, and because today 3/4 of Good News Clubs are in public schools. At the very least, if the conversation generates enough negative publicity, many evangelicals may (for the first time) begin to distance themselves from CEF.

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