Thoughts of a former evangelical Christian

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The Good News Club Curriculum: An Overview

In Child Evangelism Fellowship, Good News Club on May 15, 2013 at 4:27 am

Other posts on this blog–see here and here and here–have discussed the dark gospel of Child Evangelism Fellowship’s Good News Club.  This post reviews troubling content from a much wider sample of CEF’s Good News Club curriculum.

Overview

The Club’s curriculum is a 5-year-long series of weekly Bible  stories—about 120 in all—most of which are drawn from the Biblical books and/or characters of Genesis, Jesus, Paul, Moses, King David, Daniel, Joseph,  Joshua, Esther, Elisha, Elijah, and Judges. Each 60-90 minute lesson is interwoven with presentations of the “Gospel” according to the so-called  “Wordless Book.” The “Wordless Book” refers to the colors gold, black, red, white, and green, which respectively symbolize heaven, the child’s sin nature, Jesus’s shed blood, righteousness, and growth. Each Bible story is divided into sections; and in between each section, the lesson draws a parallel between the preceding section of the Bible story and one of the “Wordless Book” themes. Most lessons also feature didactic exercises, memory verse quizzes, songs, games and prizes, all designed to reinforce the lesson themes.

This post discusses the contents of the 21 lesson books of the Club’s  2006-2011 curriculum cycle.[1]  The Club’s current curriculum cycle includes 18 of the same lesson books.[2]

Shame indoctrination

The Club’s dominant theme is sin. Its 5-year curriculum includes over 5000 references to sin, compared to less than 2000 references to “love.” Spread over 120 one-hour lessons, a child can expect to hear a reference to “sin” approximately every 90 seconds.

Each lesson uses a black heart to vividly symbolize a child’s inner self.  The black heart impresses children with a deeply personal sense of their own inadequacy and sordidness. “You were born with darkness in your heart because of  sin,” says one lesson on blind Bartimaeus.[3] “Your heart (the real you) is sinful from the time you are born,” exclaims a lesson on the golden calf.[4]

The Club frequently reminds children that they are “deceitful,” “dishonest,” and “desperately wicked.”[5] A lesson on Cain and Abel warns: “your heart is very sinful…. You may think you’re pretty good, but when God sees your heart He sees it is full of sin.”[6] Another lesson on Jacob and Esau declares: “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.”[7] “God says none of us are good,” explains a lesson on God’s omniscience.[8] Even the concept of redemption is used to deprecate children. “As Jesus hung on the cross, God punished him for your sin and your deceitful heart.”[9] Read the rest of this entry »

Guidelines for Drafting a Facility Use Policy

In Child Evangelism Fellowship, Good News Club on May 15, 2013 at 3:28 am

Intrinsic Dignity has released detailed guidelines for drafting a facility use policy to protect elementary public school students from emotional and psychological abuse from outside groups.  The guidelines accompany a comprehensive article that surveys public forum, equal access, and religion clause caselaw relevant to religious clubs and uses in public elementary schools.  Here’s the title of the abstract, entitled “Protecting Public Elementary School Children from Emotional and Psychological Harm By Outside Groups”:

In 2001, the Supreme Court gave the Good News Club equal access to Milford Central School to teach elementary students after-school religious “moral and character” lessons. Today, there are over 4,000 Good News Clubs in America’s public schools, telling 5-12 year-olds that they are sinful from birth, deserve to die and go to Hell, to not become close friends with their non-Christian classmates, and to be afraid of thoughts, beliefs and scientific facts that displease God. Can schools do anything to stop it?

Yes and no. Public schools cannot deny equal access to groups merely because they are religious. But the principle of neutrality works both ways. Religious groups must play by the same rules—including not harming children—as any other group. Schools can—through the careful drafting and application of religiously neutral policies—act to protect the psychological, emotional, and intellectual well-being of their elementary schoolchildren.

To plot the legal authority guiding public school regulation of after-class forums, this article surveys caselaw on public forums, student speech, other special categories of speech, church autonomy, and equal access statutes. This article also provides guidelines for drafting a child-protective facility use policy and proposes a model facility use policy.

Also check out Intrinsic Dignity’s redesigned website.

Improbability of Disbelief

In Christianity as Tribalism: Leaving the Tribe on March 19, 2013 at 1:56 am

Many who have never been steeped in religious faith are baffled at the seeming imperviousness of faith to reason. For many, however, faith is not merely a set of ideas. It is an identity. Doubts and disbelief represent existential threats to that identity. The more deeply embedded faith is in a person’s positive sense of self, and the more negative a person’s self image is outside of his or her religious identity, the more difficult it is to escape. One reason religion is so effective is that it systematically strips away every positive sense of self one might have that is not rooted in one’s religious identity.

Some time ago, I developed a flow chart to illustrate some of the common thought processes and defense mechanisms that believers employ to maintain and preserve their faith. The flowchart below, while merely illustrative (the order is not critical) and incomplete, should be helpful in shedding some insight into the mind of a true believer.

Click on the image below.

Improbability

CEF drops “Hell” from its online Wordless Book presentation

In Child Evangelism Fellowship on March 18, 2013 at 4:54 am

My most compelling motivation in bringing public scrutiny to bear on the severity of Child Evangelism Fellowship’s (CEF’s) curriculum is to prompt CEF to make changes to that curriculum. It affects millions of children every year. I suffered as a child from its harshness. I wish for other children to be spared.  Children deserve to be loved, cherished, and nurtured.  They don’t deserve to be shamed and despised and belittled.  They deserve to live.  They do not — as CEF’s curriculum appallingly states — “deserve to die.”

Now — at last! — there is a small hint of “good news.” This month, CEF –for the first time — dropped the word “Hell” from its online Wordless Book presentation. The appropriately titled “Gospel Dark” page previously looked like this:

OldDarkGospelPage

“[T]he punishment for sin is to be separated from God forever in a place of suffering…a place called Hell.”

This month, CEF dropped the words “in a place of suffering…a place called Hell” from the “gospel dark” script.  This is an incremental improvement in a still stunningly negative script:

NewDarkGospelPage

No more explicit Hell. Hell is now implicit.

Of course, CEF has much, much more to do, including a complete soul-searching reexamination of the reductionist salvation-as-a-formula, punitive & self-abasing theology behind the “Wordless Book.” It is time for the broader evangelical community to reexamine — and ultimately challenge — the same theology.

Some will mock this minor edit.  But I applaud it, small though it may be.

Standing up for children & uniting against religious child abuse

In Child Evangelism Fellowship, Good News Club on March 10, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Protesting Religious Child Abuse

On Saturday, March 9, about 40 concerned citizens gathered at a peaceful protest of the abusive shame and fear indoctrination of Child Evangelism Fellowship. The event was a “Good News Spectacular” at the Dixie Classic Fairgrounds in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  The protest was covered by the local newspaper, Winston-Salem Journal, and Fox 8 WGHP.

Texas House: Religious Equal Access Act

In Uncategorized on February 24, 2013 at 6:17 am

Rep. Matt Krause, Representative for the 93rd House District of Texas in the Fort Worth area, recently introduced a constitutional amendment (H.B. 1525) to guarantee groups like the Good News Club access to public elementary schools.  The amendment would add the following provision to the Texas Education Code:

Sec. 11.1651.  PROHIBITION OF DISPARATE TREATMENT IN ALLOWING ACCESS TO SCHOOL CAMPUSES DURING NON-INSTRUCTIONAL TIME BASED ON RELIGIOUS NATURE OF ORGANIZATION.

If the board of trustees of an independent school district allows noncurricular community organizations not organized or operated primarily by students access to district school campuses during non-instructional time,  the district must provide religious organizations the same access to school campuses during non-instructional time as is given to other noncurricular organizations without discrimination based on any religious nature of an organization or on an organization’s activities on campus, including expression of religious viewpoints.

The provision, if enacted, would go farther than existing Supreme Court precedent.  In Good News Club v. Milford Central School, 533 U.S. 98 (2001), the Supreme Court held that Milford Central School could not exclude the Good News Club on the basis of its religious viewpoints, when it allowed other community groups to teach students “moral and character development.”

H.B. 1525 is purportedly intended to codify the Good News Club decision.  But H.B. 1525 would go further by barring a school from denying access to a religious group for any reason at all.  A school would be prohibited from scrutinizing a religious group’s activities — including emotional and psychological mistreatment of children — as well as its viewpoints.

Rep. Krause with family and pastor at Glenview Baptist Church

Prior to becoming elected, Rep. Krause graduated from Liberty University School of Law before working as an attorney for Liberty Counsel.  In Dec. 2007, he opened Liberty Counsel’s Texas office.

P.S.: Endorsed by the Tea Party, Rep. Krause also recently filed a “Come and Take It” firearm protection bill.

Protecting Children

In Child Evangelism Fellowship, Good News Club on February 22, 2013 at 4:21 am

The Supreme Court’s 2001 Good News Club v. Milford Central School opinion is a widely misunderstood decision. In Milford, the Supreme Court held that Milford Central School could not exclude the Good News Club, an evangelical Bible lesson program aimed at children ages 5-12, merely because of its religious nature.

The Milford decision turned on a pivotal question of whether the Good News Club could be excluded solely because of its religious content. The Supreme Court held that it could not. To exclude the Good News Club merely because of its religious content, while admitting other superficially similar groups (e.g., groups promoting “character” development), constituted viewpoint discrimination.

But the Good News Club could have been — and still can be — excluded on viewpoint-neutral grounds crafted to protect children from harm.

Jefferson Lighthouse School (Racine, WI)

In Muller v. Jefferson Lighthouse School, 98 F.3d 1530 (7th Cir. 1996), Andrew Muller – a 4th grader – asked his teachers for permission to hand out invitations to an AWANA program at his church. The School refused because it violated the Code of Student Responsibilities and Rights. Among other things, the Code included provisions allowing a principal to bar from distribution literature that was “obscene” or “insulting to any group or individuals.” Id. at 1534 n.4.

Muller’s parents sued and challenged the “insulting” aspect – and many others – of the Code. While agreeing that the School improperly applied the Code to exclude the flyer for no other reason than that it was religious, the 7th Circuit rejected Muller’s facial challenge:

Declaring the elementary school classroom, hallway or playground forums for unfettered student communication would require either a severe incursion into the critical educational mission of the elementary school or a substantial contraction of the First Amendment protections afforded speech in a public forum. In a public forum, the Christian can tell the Jew he is going to hell, or the Jew can tell the Christian he is not one of God’s chosen, no matter how that may hurt. But it makes no sense to say that the overly zealous Christian or Jewish child in an elementary school can say the same thing to his classmate, no matter the impact. Racist and other hateful views can be expressed in a public forum. But an elementary school under its custodial responsibilities may restrict such speech that could crush a child’s sense of self-worth.

Id. at 1540. The 7th Circuit also remarked that:

• A “public elementary school can shield its five through thirteen-year-olds from topics and viewpoints that could harm their emotional, moral, social, and intellectual development.” Id. at 1538.

• Schools can intercept “racially and religiously bigoted materials … before they damage children and the environment.” Id. at 1541.

• “[T]here is no practical way to protect students from materials that can … severely traumatize a child without some form of prior restraint.” Id.

• “Schools … are free to screen student handouts for material that is insulting or lewd or otherwise inconsistent with legitimate pedagogical concerns.” Id. at 1542.

• “[A] school need not tolerate student expression of viewpoints which are fundamentally ‘inconsistent with its basic educational mission.’” Id. (citation omitted).

As documented in www.goodnewsclubs.info website, the Good News Club violates all of these standards. It shames, terrorizes, and traumatizes children with messages such as “you deserve death [and Hell].” It glorifies genocide and stigmatizes nonbelievers as persons who “refuse to believe God” and who deserve to be punished for their defiant disbelief. It attacks evolution and suggests that those who teach it are serving Satan.

Why didn’t any of these rationales come up in Milford? And why hasn’t this rationale come up in any of the scores of GNC cases that Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) has litigated since Milford? For two reasons. First, schools have repeatedly attempted to exclude the Good News Club merely because it is religious. Second, no school district has ever taken a close look at the Good News Club curriculum. It’s time for that to change. It’s time to hold CEF accountable for violating basic standards of decency.

A Model Facilities Use Policy

In Child Evangelism Fellowship, Good News Club on February 22, 2013 at 3:45 am

Intrinsic Dignity is pleased to announce that is has released a Model Facility Use Policy to protect children from harmful outside organizations.  Print out a copy and send it to the your school board members and administrators!

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