Parental Concerns & How Schools Can Address Them

1. Confused Children

It’s hard for young children to tell the difference between school classes and Good News Club classes, and the Club uses this confusion to create the false impression that schools endorse their religious teachings. Because Clubs often meet immediately after school, in regular classrooms, many children assume that Club teachers are regular schoolteachers and that what they teach is true and sanctioned by the school. For example, a Seattle father said his daughter came home from a Good News Club meeting terrified that he would be going to Hell because she had “learned it at school.”

WHAT SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS CAN DO

  • Draw a clear, bright line between the school and the Good News Club.
  • Make sure permission slips clearly state that the Club is not endorsed or sponsored by the school.
  • Make sure students and parents understand that the Club’s lessons are not endorsed by the school.
  • Make sure non-school groups such as the Good News Club meet well after the end of the school day.
  • Prohibit non-school groups such as the Good News Club from using the school’s and PTA’s communication vehicles or from sponsoring school activities.
  • Don’t allow school personnel to endorse, promote or participate in the Good News Club in any way.

2. Damaging Doctrines

Many parents are concerned that the Good News Club’s conversion techniques of shame, guilt, fear and submission to authority can harm students. Children as young as five are taught that they’re “deeply wicked” and are coerced to accept Club teachings with threats of eternal punishment. Some psychologists have characterized these doctrines as “child abuse” and as “incompatible with [children’s] mental health.”

According to psychologists, these extreme fundamentalist doctrines can be traumatic for some children, inflicting psychological harm such as doubt, anxiety, shame and a negative self-image that can last into adulthood. Many parents think that Good News Club classes are religious bullying and intimidation that shouldn’t be allowed in public schools.

Parents are also concerned that Good News Club doctrines undermine their authority and the authority of schools and teachers. The curriculum teaches children to obey the Good News Club’s authority above all others, and that, for example, the science teacher is a “fool” and a “servant of Satan” for teaching evolution or the Big Bang theory.

WHAT SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS CAN DO

  • Make sure parents have accurate information about the Good News Club so they can make informed decisions about sending their children.
  • Ask to see the Good News Club’s curriculum. Schools have a right to see the full curriculum of any club using their facilities, and so do parents. Review the Club’s curriculum and provide a copy to any parent who requests it.
  • Attend a Club session or two. Club leaders sometimes soft-pedal lessons when they’re being observed, but you may still see some troubling aspects of the Club firsthand. Watch for lessons involving: shame, fear, guilt, or submission to the Club’s authority; disrespect for people of other faiths or no faith; disrespect for the rights of women and LGBT citizens; disdain for science; pressure on students to accept Jesus as a savior or to join a local church; requests to raise money for missions or a local church; or pressure on children to evangelize their friends, classmates or parents.

3. Predatory Proselytizing and Religious Bullying

Many parents worry that their children will be enticed or pressured at school to join this religious group whose teachings they do not agree with. Because the Good News Club believes it is their moral duty to try to convert “every child,” they don’t always respect parental authority.

A Good News Club missionary famously said to a reporter, “We know without any doubt that any child that doesn’t give their life to Christ is going to be tortured in Hell for eternity. So to respect a parent’s right to keep their child from being saved would simply be immoral on our part.

Club teachers are trained to offer children candy and goodies for recruiting their classmates. This tactic can, and has, led to religious bullying at school, with non-believing children being ostracized and threatened with eternity in Hell if they don’t join the Club. Club teachers have also been known to carry cookies and balloons through school hallways to lure children to their after-school classes. And they sometimes volunteer in classrooms during the day to recruit children and reinforce the impression that the school endorses their religion.

WHAT SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS CAN DO

  • If necessary, update school policies to: (1) Prohibit adults as well as students from engaging in bullying at on-campus meetings and activities, even if it occurs before or after the instructional portion of the school day; (2) Prohibit third parties found to have engaged in threats, intimidation, bullying or harassment from using school facilities.
  • Be alert for cases of overt proselytizing or religious bullying.

4. Misleading Flyers and Permission Slips

The Good News Club’s colorful flyers and permission slips make their classes sound like harmless fun–songs, snacks and Bible stories. They do not tell parents that they aim to change their child’s religious beliefs.

GNC Permission SlipAnd they certainly don’t admit that the Club teaches an extreme version of fundamentalist Christianity. They describe themselves as “non-denominational,” implying that they are accepting of all faiths. In fact, they believe that people belonging to other faiths are going to Hell, including Christians like Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopalians and Catholics.

Some parents who sign the Club’s permission slips are disturbed when they learn their children have been taught that they’re “deeply wicked” and are threatened with eternal torture in Hell if they don’t conform to the Club’s beliefs. They complain that the Club’s materials deceived them.

WHAT SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS CAN DO

  • Enforce ethical permission slip and flyer policies. (1) Refuse to post or send home misleading permission slips and flyers. If your school district policy doesn’t allow the distribution of religious flyers or flyers containing information that “is not factual” or “is not free of racial, ethnic, religious or sexual bias,” then the school district may refuse to distribute Good News Club flyers. (2) Require that flyers and permission slips state the actual purpose of the Club and provide the website for both the sponsoring church and the national sponsoring organization, CEF: www.cefonline.com.
  • Don’t allow any non-school-sponsored after-school clubs to use the school’s information distribution system. Some schools have chosen to allow only school-sponsored activities to distribute information through the school. If the Good News Club operates in your school as a released-time program (meeting during school hours, off school property), the rules are much stricter. Schools may not promote released-time programs in any way, including distributing permission slips. For more information, see Religious Released-Time Programs: A Guidebook for Oregon School Administrators.
  • Require clear disclaimers on permission slips. Make sure parents know that the school does not sponsor or endorse third-party after-school clubs, including the Good News Club. See Model Flyer Distribution Policies for more information.