You won’t find the information below on the Good News Club’s flyers or permission slips, but as a parent you have a right to hear the whole story.
- The goal of the Good News Club is to change your child’s religious beliefs.
- The Good News Club’s doctrines can harm young children.
- The Good News Club is not sponsored by your local church. It’s sponsored by a large organization based in Missouri.
- The Good News Club does not teach mainstream Christianity.
- The Good News Club aims to bring religion back into public schools.
The goal of the Good News Club is to change your child’s religious beliefs.
Whatever wrapper you put around it—songs, games or Bible stories—ultimately the goal of the Good News Club is to change the religious beliefs of your child. Specifically, they want to convert your child from whatever beliefs she or he now holds to the Club’s extreme version of fundamentalist Christianity.
The Club’s mission was clear to U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter, who wrote in his 2001 opinion: “It is beyond question that Good News Clubs intend to use the public school premises not for the mere discussion of a subject from a particular, Christian point of view, but for an evangelical service of worship calling children to commit themselves in an act of Christian conversion.”
Each Good News Club class includes at least one specific attempt at conversion called an “Invitation.” Children are asked if they believed in Jesus as their savior for the first time that day, or if they have questions about what that means. Children who raise a hand are pressured to meet the teacher later, so the teacher can talk to them more “about believing in Jesus and having everlasting life.” (Quote from instruction manual)
Parents can’t expect the Club to respect their authority on spiritual matters. One Club missionary famously revealed this 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.”
The lack of respect also extends, in more subtle ways, to other Christian denominations. Consider this example from Club instructor training: “Don’t say anything negative about Catholicism. At least not yet.”
The Good News Club’s doctrines can harm young children.
The conversion process used by the Club involves teaching children that they’re bad to their core, that God sees how bad they are, and will punish them forever for their “sinful nature.” The Club knows it needs to convince children that they’re sinners to establish their need for a savior.
Young children who may still believe in Santa Claus are told that because of their sinful nature, they’ll be “separated from God forever in a dark place of punishment” (playing on separation anxiety and fear of the dark). They’re told the only way to save themselves is to believe what the Good News Club tells them to believe.
Here’s a quote from just one Good News Club lesson: “Others may think that you are a good person, but God knows what you’re really like on the inside. He knows that deep down you are a sinner – you were born that way.” (Patriarchs, page 33)
Some kids may shrug off being told repeatedly that they have a sinful nature and “deserve to die.” But others may internalize those messages and be deeply affected into adulthood with feelings of fear, shame, doubt and inadequacy.
Many parents think the Club’s teachings amount to emotional abuse, religious bullying and intimation that shouldn’t be allowed in public elementary schools. One psychologist has said Club teachings are “incompatible with mental health.”
A Good News Club Activity
- Hang a sign with the word “sin” around a child’s neck.
- Ask the children what “sin” is. State that “all have sinned and deserve God’s punishment for sin, which is death, separation from God forever.”
- State: “Some children try to deny their sin. They say they never do wrong things. But is that true? (No.) … Do you see (child’s name’s) sin? He may not think it’s there, but God sees it and you can be sure that other people see it too!” — “Joseph,” Lesson #3, page 24
The Good News Club is not sponsored by your local church. It’s sponsored by a large organization based in Missouri.
Good News Clubs give the impression that they are operated by local churches and staffed by caring local volunteers. Local teachers may be caring, but they’re not free to teach what they wish. They’re trained by the Missouri-based Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) and required to use the curriculum provided by CEF.
CEF partners with fundamentalist “Bible-believing” churches in local communities. (Mainstream Christian churches like Episcopalians or Presbyterians are not welcome.) These local churches pay a fee to CEF for training and materials, agree to use teaching materials provided by CEF exclusively, and sign onto CEF’s 15-point Statement of Faith (with beliefs like Biblical inerrancy, salvation not by good deeds but by faith alone, and the damnation of unbelievers to the Lake of Fire for conscious, eternal torture).
In exchange, CEF offers local churches the chance to increase their membership (and thus their income) by recruiting “unchurched” elementary school children and their parents.
In many cases, Good News Clubs are seeded with children whose families already attend the local church. These children are given candy and other treats as incentives to recruit their friends. As suggested by CEF’s Team Leader Handbook, children are also given flyers “at the end of every class so they can invite their classmates to join the Good News Club.”
Often this “peer evangelism” creates friction in school communities, where children and parents are divided into “the saved” and “the unsaved,” and religious bullying, where children who don’t attend the Club are told on the playground that they’re going to Hell.
The Good News Club does not teach mainstream Christianity.
The Good News Club likes to say that it just teaches what all Christians believe. That’s not true. On the wide spectrum of Christian belief, they’re at the extreme fundamentalist end.
The Good News Club does not teach the Jesus-loves-you style of Christianity that most parents might think is appropriate for young children. Instead, they offer Old Testament fire-and-brimstone lessons focused on sin and punishment. For example, the Good News Club curriculum has over 5,000 references to sin, over 1,000 references to Hell and punishment, and only one reference to the Golden Rule.
The Club describes itself to parents and school administrators as “non-denominational.” Most people think that means they’re open to a wide range of religious beliefs. Quite the opposite is true.
The Club is strictly fundamentalist, and only partners with local churches that are also fundamentalist. They believe in the physical reality of Satan, that non-believers may be possessed by demons, and that God will give non-believers another body after they die so they can suffer conscious, physical torture in Hell.
Many Christians are concerned about the Good News Club’s approach. One wrote: “I consider myself a Christian. I certainly find some of the specific teaching methods used by the Good News Club to be in poor taste, perhaps even dangerous. I do feel like a basic tenet of the Christian faith is being misrepresented by the Club.”
The Good News Club aims to bring religion back into public schools.
Public schools are secular governmental institutions designed to serve everyone in our pluralistic society. They are required by law to be scrupulously neutral, neither encouraging nor discouraging religious beliefs. Our Founding Fathers believed that the separation of church and state is the best way to ensure freedom of religion for everyone.
The Good News Club wants to bring religion back into public schools, specifically their fundamentalist Christian religion. In a speech given to the Dallas Theological Seminary on February 20, 2007, CEF President Reese Kaufmann described the 2001 Supreme Court decision allowing Good News Clubs to operate in public schools as giving the cause of evangelizing school children more freedom than the Supreme Court took away with its 1960s school-prayer and classroom-Bible-reading decisions. He said:
“Since that law has been passed…we now have the opportunity that the minute the bell rings and the class is ended at 3 o’clock or 3:15…we can have a Good News Club immediately right on campus and children can stay in the school. We can open our Bibles, and not only can we present the gospel to them, but we can pray with them in the classroom to receive Christ. The United States Supreme Court gave us that victory.
“And most people don’t recognize or realize that, and right now, we’re going across this country. We are now in 2500 public schools, but there are 65,000 public schools in America. We can change the course of a nation if we go back into the schools and take the Word of God and teach the Word of God to children at that early age.
“And we now have the freedom. You can talk about how we lost our freedoms, and we have lost some. But let me tell you something. In the public schools, we have more freedom to present the gospel than we did in the 1940s and 1950s, because God has opened the door.”