Atheists combat Christian after-school program ‘Good News Club’ by forming their own ‘Better News Club’
A group of Atheist parents in NY take on Good News Club, a Christian after-school program for children with a secular club called The Young Skeptics.
The Good News Club, a Christian after-school program for young children, has been spreading like wildfire. As of 2013, according to their website, they had 4,225 clubs with a grand total of 174,174 student members. The Good News Club is a project of the Child Evangelism Fellowship, based in Warrenton, MO.
Parents have since risen against the club, claiming that it violated their right “as parent… to teach our children about spiritual matters,” says one Seattle parent, John Lederer. As resentment for the clubs grow, groups have been started to combat the Good News Club.
Young Skeptics: Not “Atheism for Kids”
The Young Skeptics, a volunteer after-school program sponsored by The Better News Club, Held their first meeting January 16. Parental permission is required to attend. The club’s mission statement reads:
“It’s more important to teach children how to make belief based decisions for themselves, rather than accept claims presented to them without thinking critically about these claims.”
The group is run by members of the Atheist Community in Rochester, New York. The club’s director, Dan Courtney, is known in the community for giving the first secular invocation at a Greece Town Hall meeting. Kevin Davis, a Better News Club member, says that it “isn’t atheism for kids; it doesn’t address debunking religion because they are little kids and we don’t want to use the same tactics as the Good News Club by telling them what to think.” Instead, the club will focus on science, logic and learning activities.
The Fight against the Good News Clubs in America
In 2013, the Triangle Freethought Society of Raleigh, NC released a film entitled Sophia Investigates the Good News Club. It was critical of the club volunteers and the way they interacted with the students. Others have taken a similar stance, including Katherine Stewart, a mother who investigated the club after it formed at her daughter’s elementary school. She published The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children, and spoke of how they “proselytized children through parties and recreational events.”
In an interview, she said that the “Good News Clubs focus on very young kids, in their first years of public schooling. A centerpiece of their program is the ‘wordless books’ which can be used to convert children as young as 4 and 5 years old. Kids at that age simply aren’t able to distinguish what takes place in a school and what is endorsed by the school.” She went on to add that she felt the same could be said if atheists were to set up “alternative clubs.”
However, the Child Evangelism Fellowship has responded to their critics previously, in a 2013 letter to the Atlantic Monthly.
“It is clearly explained on the registration form that Child Evangelism Fellowship sponsors the Good News Clubs. It should be obvious to any parent what the clubs are teaching and the parent can withdraw his or her children or continue attendance as desired,” wrote the vice president, Moises Esteves.
According to the 2001 Supreme Court case of Good News Club v. Milford Central School, when public schools open their building and resources to programs, they cannot refuse a program because of what they have to say.
- Child Evangelism Fellowship
- The Washington Post
- The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children
- 13 WHAM