As if the attack on our schools and textbooks isn’t bad enough, behind the scenes is an even more frightening prospect. As more and more families are “coming out” as secular-minded and the reach of the church diminishes, some have been busy sneaking in through a side door to fill their rapidly-depleting ranks, using a legal precedence to get in.
An Evangelical group, calling themselves “The Good News Club” (GNC) is using public school classrooms for an after-school program to teach children the “Word of God”.
Why is this a problem?
It undermines our Constitutional separation of church and state. It uses fear to indoctrinate children at an impressionable age (typically between 4 and 13) pushing them towards complete obedience.
The GNC has perfected their system. The creators developed a very effective program using rewards on one hand and fear on the other. Because they hold these “classes” after school hours at over 3,000 schools across the country (reaching some 900,000 children in 2012, according to Child Evangelism Fellowship) the children are under the impression that the information is real. After all, children go to school to learn. If it’s taught at school, it must be the truth. They are unable to distinguish between school-sanctioned curriculum and a program that’s simply held in the same rooms.
So what is the GNC? The club uses songs, games and snacks to cover up their dark biblical teachings about sin and Hell. Telling children that refusing to clean their room is not just a sin but a ticket straight to the fiery pit for an eternity of suffering. Telling children that they are born “full of sin” and “deserve to go to Hell” if they show any signs of independence.
Sound extreme? It gets worse.
Eric Cernyar, an attorney and former GNC member, remarked, “The Good News Club likes to market itself as an organization that teaches morals. Well let me tell you what the supreme moral of the Good News Club is: Obedience. Complete obedience, under any circumstance. Even commands to commit genocide, if that’s what God commands.”
Taking this belief one step further, the GNC uses the ordered genocide of the Amalekites by God as an example. They explain that because Saul failed in his completion of this genocide, God ultimately denied him entrance into heaven. They use this example to show that not following God’s orders to the exact letter, no matter what the order, will result in an eventual refusal through the Pearly Gates. Bryan Halloway, House of Representatives for North Carolina (and former high school teacher) supports this belief. “We may or may not know what His purpose for asking him to do these kinds of things were and I think, for me, I take the bible for what it says…if God ordered it, then it was good.”
What is the legal precedence that allows this? In Supreme Court case no. 99-2036, Good News Club et al. v. Milford Central School, a Conservative judge ruled in favor of Good News Club, stating that among other things, Milford violated the Club’s free speech rights when it excluded the Club from meeting after hours at the school. This win not only allowed for their club to hold “classes” in Milford, but it opened the floodgates throughout the country. The ruling also raised the GNC’s stature above the other after-school programs because it now cannot be prevented, whereas art, gender or special interest-based programs can. This club has become untouchable.
Not everyone who follows the Christian faith agrees with what the GNC is up to. Reverend J. Brent Walker, Executive Director – Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, stated, “It’s not government’s job to do what Jesus commissioned his church to do. It’s not biblical. I must not ask my government to promote my religion if I don’t want government to promote someone else’s religion and I must not permit government to commit harm to someone else’s religion if I don’t want government to harm my religion.”
Reverend Barry Lynn, Executive Director – Americans United for Separation of Church and State, has a theory as to why Christians are going through all this trouble. “I’ve been at this a long time and for decades I’ve been hearing people say ‘Well it is a Christian country but we don’t want to have a theocracy,’ meaning they don’t want a country run strictly along Christian religious lines, but I think they are fibbing about that. I think people on the so-called religious right want to create a Christian-based, bible-based legal system in the United States and if you are a non-Christian you are a second class citizen.”
So, are right-wing Christians working toward a theocracy? I do not believe that the majority of the people involved with the “Good News Club” are bad. I am sure that they feel they are just educating children with “God’s Word.” But if this is true, why does it feel like an attempt to create a generation of Christians prepared to carry out whatever order “God” decides to issue? Is it perhaps to create a self-fulfilling prophecy? If so, what is to become of those of us who are “second class citizens?”
I have no answers. I just know what I feel, and it’s my own fear. Fear for our children and for the future of our once secular nation.
- Sheila Blackadder