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    Categories: Skepticism

Skepchick Book Club: The Good News Club

Welcome to the first monthly installment of the Skepchick Book Club. This week we’re discussing The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children by Katherine Stewart. This is one of the scariest nonfiction books I’ve read, especially the section on where the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) is targeting Boston, where I live.

Below the cut is my book-themed dessert recipe (you have to try it), and my Q&A with Katherine Stewart. She will be reading this thread too, so if any of you have any questions for her please post them. At the bottom of this post are the details for the next book we’re reading and the date. Also, in case it needs to be said, Spoiler Alert!

This week’s book-themed recipe is an Apple Pie with a secret ingredient: Cheddar cheese baked into the streusel topping. I use a bit of deceit when serving this pie because there are a surprising number of people who don’t know that cheddar cheese enhances the apple and brown sugar flavors in the pie. I used the this recipe, although I cut it in half because I only had an 8″ pie crust.

Just as sneaky but somewhat more delicious than your average proselytizing blood cult member.

The gist of the book is that in 2001, the Supreme Court ruled (Good News Club v. Milford Central School) that government may not discriminate against speech from a certain viewpoint (in this case, religious). From the verdict:

Restrictions on speech that takes place in a limited public forum must not discriminate on the basis of the speaker’s viewpoint and be reasonable in light of the forum’s purpose. Because the school’s exclusion of the Good News Club violated this principle, the school violated the Club’s free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. Furthermore, the school’s claim that allowing the club to meet on its property would violate the Establishment Clause lacked merit and thus was no defense to the club’s First Amendment claim.

So now, Evangelical Christians who attend euphemistically “Bible-believing” churches are invading schools across America in the hopes of converting the unchurched and “wrong sort” of Christians. They want to take over public schools, even though their own children are homeschooled. They are mostly targeting children from ages 4-14 and enticing them with candy. They rely on deceit and misinformation to get past parents to inform children that they’re going to Hell.

A spoonful of sugar helps the religion go down.

————————

Now for the Q&A with Katherine Stewart:

MB: In the book you frequently use the term “judicial activism.” This term is used on both the left and right, so it seems like it means something closer to a decision one disagrees with more than anything else. How did you intend to define the term in a useful fashion in this context?*

KS: Judicial activism refers to something more than just court decisions that one happens not to like. Judicial activism involves court decisions that impose public policy outcomes that really ought to be decided by the legislative and executive branches of government. Activism is sometimes hard to define or identify because it can happen in an indirect way. For example, the Good News Club decision, along with related decisions by the Supreme Court, appear on the surface to be merely rulings on the constitutionality of certain kinds of speech activities. But in practice, on the ground, they are the same thing as a law requiring public school systems to establish state-funded or subsidized evangelical churches, or a law to require after-school instruction by the Good News Club.

Your question prompted me to briefly review my book. While I could find only one use of the actual term “judicial activism,” on page 69, I do, as you have pointed out, refer frequently, and in a broad way, to the legal and judicial strategy of the religious right, and that is extremely important. Judicial strategy is what happens when advocacy groups, such as the Alliance Defense Fund, Liberty Counsel, and other right-wing Christian legal groups, decide to pursue policy objectives through the courts that ordinarily would go before the elected branches of government.

To the extent that a savvy judicial strategy involves manipulating the courts, it becomes a kind of virtual activism. Frequently those engaging in judicial strategy are not judges, but lawyers. Even if the justices aren’t activist to the extent that they are manipulated by a comprehensive judicial strategy, then the court system is being used by one group or another as a policy tool.

Christian Nationalists are currently pursuing a judicial strategy by using legal advocacy groups to play a forceful role in breaking down the wall of separation between church and state in public schools. Because of their actions, the court has gutted the long history of jurisprudence associated with the religion clauses of the First Amendment in school-related cases.

At least with Lovecraft, nobody pretends the gods are nice. And where ever you end up, there is guaranteed to be tentacles.

What do you recommend we do that could help deal with the problems described in the book? Do you have any solutions that are both Constitutional and wouldn’t cause more damage to the school system than the original problem?*

First: We can’t begin to think about solutions to our challenges until people know about those challenges. So I think it is important to educate ourselves about what is happening in our public schools, and to educate others about this movement in our midst.

Second: We need to pursue a judicial strategy from a progressive position aimed at reestablishing some of the basic principles of Constitutional law. Courts should be required to make a better distinction between speech and religious worship. We all know that religion is not just speech. Our Founding Fathers knew that too, which is why they inserted two separate clauses in the First Amendment — the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause — that treat religion as something other than just speech. Thanks to the Free Exercise Clause, religious groups are allowed to hire and fire people and select their members without regard to laws that constrain other employers and groups. They receive significant tax benefits. More to the point, religious groups are permitted to preach the kinds of doctrines — that homosexuality is an abomination, for instance – for which nonreligious groups would be excluded from schools and other government institutions. The cumulative effect of court decisions based on the new legal theory that religion is just speech from a certain point of view is to force schools and other institutions to provide state-subsidized platforms for the dissemination of religious beliefs.

I would also like to see the courts recognize the coercive aspects of religious activities in the schools.

Third: School boards and school districts can take proactive steps to establish policies and guidelines that ensure fair access to school resources without compromising the obligation of public schools to respect the religious diversity of our society and the secular nature of our government institutions.

What has been the overall response since you’ve written the book?

I am very grateful for the interest and enthusiasm with which my book has been received. There is some polarization, but the division is not as simple as one might imagine. Some “conservatives” loudly denounce the separation of church and state as a plot by liberal elites. In the response to my book, I have been gratified to be reminded that the overwhelming majority of Americans believe, on the contrary, that the separation of church and state is one of America’s greatest achievements.

Kudzu has also taken over the South, but even though it's invasive and chokes out local flora, at least it doesn't tell you you're going to Hell all the time.

I know you’re on a book tour right now and that you’ve recently visited my hometown in upstate South Carolina. Have you noticed a difference in the reception you’ve received in conservative versus liberal states?

As I travel the country, I am meeting with many people who have first-hand experience with the phenomenon I am describing. A Kansas mother told me that kids put religious literature on her son’s desk every single day – faith-based bullying masquerading as “religious sharing.” A couple in South Carolina homeschool their kids because they say there is so much religion in their public school. A Pennsylvania dad reported that his son’s “character education” instructor opined that married women shouldn’t use birth control without their husbands’ permission.

Obviously, stories such as these are more common in areas known for their religious conservatism. But as my book details, we are also seeing religious initiatives in “progressive” or diverse areas such as Seattle, Boston, and New York City.

What has been your biggest surprise in your research?

I was shocked to discover the degree of organization behind groups such as The Good News Club, or Every Student Every School – an initiative that is debuting in 2013. When such initiatives show up in public schools, they are perceived as home-grown, driven by local personalities. In fact, it’s all scripted and strategized in incredible detail at a national level. Their marketing plans could put many multinational corporations to shame.

Another big surprise is the extent to which the groups that seek to “invade” the public schools, in the words of one activist, also seek to destroy them. Many fundamentalists simply do not accept public schools as legitimate enterprises in the first place. They see public education as “secular” education, and therefore intrinsically hostile to their religion. At their core, they do not accept that we live in a diverse society with a secular form of government. If they can’t “break down the doors” to the public schools, in the words of a movement leader, they would be happy just to break the schools. This should be of concern to anyone who cares about children, education, and indeed the future of our country as a modern secular democracy.

*Thanks to Josh Z. for these questions

————————

So everyone: What did you think of this book? There is a lot to discuss here, so have at it! And post any more questions you have for the author.

Next month’s Book Club: In honor of Alan Turing’s birth month (June), we are reading The Man Who Knew Too Much: Alan Turing and the Invention of the Computer by David Leavitt. (Thanks to Courtney at Queereka for the suggestion!) I’ll be posting the thread on June 17th at 11 am EST.

Image sources here

Mary: Mary Brock works as an Immunology scientist by day and takes care of a pink-loving princess child by night. She likes cloudy days, crafting, cooking, and Fall weather in New England.

View Comments

  • Mary, I hope you provide extra napkins for your lactose intolerant guests. It's interesting to read the Amazon reviews for GNC. It seems the true-believers think those that are "terrified" are alarmists who are afraid of jesus. They really don't get that separation of church / state thing.

    • Hi Kerry, if you would start coming to the meat-space Book Club, I always bring coffee and I always bring lactose-free milk and a supply of lactase pills... Just sayin' :-)

      P.S. I didn't have any problem with Mary's pie, but YMMV.

    • Hm, I didn't think about that, but generally I only make food for people I know!

      I thought the one star reviews on Amazon were funny. If you look at the peoples' profiles, it's usually their only review, and some of them say they haven't even read the book. It's the second link that pops up on Google, so I'm sure it offended their Jesus-only worldview.

  • I may be missing something, but the Wikipedia page linked to says this case is about the use of school facilities during non-school hours. If that's true, then kids are not required to be there.

    I understand concern about presenting religious material during school hours, when kids have no choice but to attend, but what's the problem with a club like this when kids are there with their parents' permission?

    Here's another quote from the Wikipedia page:

    "Milford has opened its limited public forum to activities that serve a variety of purposes, including events pertaining to the welfare of the community." Milford had asserted before the Second Circuit that it would have allowed a public group to use Aesop's fables to impart moral values to children. Milford also allowed the Boy Scouts to "influence a boy's character, development, and spiritual growth". Likewise, the Good News Club also sought to teach moral values to children, albeit from an explicitly Christian viewpoint."

    I don't want my kids to hear religious nonsense either. But it seems to me avoiding this is easy: Either don't let them go, or let them go and discuss it with them about after they do.

    • The other problem is that the parental permission is not always given by a parent who understands what The Good News Club is about. There is a terrible amount of racism. They had something called "Rice Bowl Communication" to learn how to talk to Asian people. (I gasped aloud at that.)

      They also target Hispanic Catholics... you know since Catholics are the "wrong" type of Christian. The parents, who do not speak much English, genuinely do not understand what they are giving permission for. They are happy to have their kid involved in something and learning. They just do not realize that their kid is being primed to come home and let the entire family know they are going to Hell for being Catholic.

      • Again, I understand the message of these groups is abominable; I fully agree with that assessment. My objection to the gist of this post centers solely around the idea of restricting free speech implicit in Ms Stewart's recommendations.

        I don't view the parents-are-ignorant argument as a very good one. First, that's an assumption that neatly fits with our distaste of the message. Are there not parents who WANT their kids to hear this message?

        Second, what other parental responsibilities might be taken from us by the government in the service of fighting ignorance? Right now in many school districts across the country parents are not allowed to pack a lunch for their kids. Instead, kids must eat what is provided by the school cafeteria, so they get a balanced meal. I don't know when you last sampled the fare at your local school cafeteria, but I'm pretty sure what I would pack--a PBJ, some carrots, an apple and a thermos of milk--is way better for my kid than what's served on "taco Tuesdays."

        I reckon throughout history there's been as much evil done by governments protecting their ignorant citizens as by churches protecting their ignorant flocks. I'd prefer to say no thanks to both those options; I'd prefer the freedom to make my own choices.

        • The book actually addresses most of these points, maybe you should give it a read?

          The parents who want their kids to hear the message are already Evangelical and thus not the target of the Good News Club. The club pretends like it's teaching simple Bible study (which most parents are OK with) but then tells kids they're going to Hell unless they attend Bible-believing churches. They have special strategies on how to target Catholics and they aim for kids 4-14 because they're the most impressionable.

          Anyway, there are more points than I can write here without rewriting the book, just read it already!

          • This was painful to read, Boomer. Every time you made an argument, it was countered with something IN THE BOOK, with a note to READ THE BOOK. READ THE DAMN BOOK if this subject interests you so much, since this post is actually for A BOOK CLUB, and not your personal debate wall.

            Read
            The
            Book

          • If you're looking for something to be concerned about regarding what our children are taught in public schools I would focus more on this kind of thing:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=vjpWaESn_9g

            There is a reason we pay more per student per year than any other civilized nation while our kids test near the bottom on performance. I am far more concerned about the compulsory education our kids are (not) receiving than the voluntary, after-school things they do with their parents' permission.

          • Mary:

            Actually, it was due to government action that the Good News Club was able to get into schools in the first place.

            I suspect you realize that's not entirely accurate. First, GNC is not "allowed into schools," it is allowed to use school facilities for after-hours facilities just like any number of other community minded organizations. Second, it was government action that attempted to PROHIBIT GNC from using a public facility; it was the COURTS that affirmed their right to do so. So yeah, you can say GNC was able to use school facilities due to "government action," but that government action was the court preventing government laws/rules attempting to restrict individual rights.

            Mary:

            Evangelicals already have a forum to air their beliefs, it’s called church, and churches are not funded by taxpayer money like schools are.

            I strongly suspect there are other organizations using school facilities after hours (Boy Scouts, etc.) that also have their own forums. Why should they be allowed to use school facilities but not GNC?

            Buzz:

            Is nice to speculate and give the parents the benefit of the doubt, completely without any supporting evidence, but this is absolutely contradicted by the facts.

            What facts? Are you reading all these parents' minds? Witnessing/evangelizing are part and parcel of Christianity. Fishers of men and all that claptrap. We certainly should keep an eye out for zealotry and overreach when it comes to church/state issues, but freedom of religion means one is free to practice one's religion as long as what you do doesn't impact the rights of others. Given attendance at their events is VOLUNTARY I don't see how CEF/GNC's evangelical behavior is impacting anyone else's rights here.

            It is an orchestrated, tightly controlled campaign (organized just like a multi-level marketing scheme) to infiltrate the public schools and either take them over or literally destroy them.

            It's just this sort of belief--born of speculation--that allows people to rationalize limits on, or the outright elimination of, basic rights. Repeat after me: CEF/GNC activities are not compulsory, they are voluntary. I don't go to Amway meetings, and I don't go to CEF/GNC meetings. What is so difficult to understand about this concept?

            There is no question that CEF/GNC evangelizes, and that they often evangelize to children. I share your distaste of such behavior, but CEF/GNC do not. CEF/GNC (and their supporters; parents like you and me) believe what they do vis a vis children is in all ways proper and good. They don't force attendance at their events. If and when CEF/GNC attempt to bring their message and tactics to kids who are forced to attend, I'll be right there with you fighting for the separation of church and state.

            Freedom of speech does not mean people are free to say and believe only things that do not irritate or annoy others. Given everyone has a choice whether to involve their children with GNC/GNC activities, the court ruling was the only correct one.

          • (Reply depth exceeded... This is actually a reply to Boomer's reply to Mary.)

            Please read the book, especially the chapter about the CEF national meeting. "Target" is a perfectly appropriate word for what they are doing.

            "Could it be that Evangelical parents like to know their kids are involved with activities they consider wholesome, and that the witnessing/converting behaviors are simply part of the message?"

            Is nice to speculate and give the parents the benefit of the doubt, completely without any supporting evidence, but this is absolutely contradicted by the facts. GNC is not some kind of spontaneous grass roots effort on the part of well-meaning religious parents. It is an orchestrated, tightly controlled campaign (organized just like a multi-level marketing scheme) to infiltrate the public schools and either take them over or literally destroy them. [1]

            You can't just wake up one day and decide your kid's school should have a Good News Club and start one. You have to provide multiple references from religious leaders of the right ilk, affirm that you believe in precisely the right kind of religious and political craziness and then be vetted, trained, tested and observed. There is an elaborate scripted procedure you must follow, with backup resources for dealing with any problems you might encounter, ultimately relying on the enormous legal resources of groups like the Alliance Defense Fund with an annual budget of $36 million and other groups with a combined annual budget in the hundreds of millions. One does not simply telnet into the CEF.

            [1] In 1979,Jerry Falwell said "I hope to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we don't have public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them."

          • Actually, it was due to government action that the Good News Club was able to get into schools in the first place. Evangelicals already have a forum to air their beliefs, it's called church, and churches are not funded by taxpayer money like schools are.

            There are plenty of (nonreligious) after school activities that I don't necessarily approve of, but that doesn't mean I want them out of schools. And even when I was religious I did not want religion in my school.

            I do advocate atheist clubs at schools, but only to balance out the religious clubs. Honestly, I would rather have NEITHER than both. School should be a neutral ground.

            It is OK to teach the Bible as literature or in a historical context, but it is not OK to teach kids that they're going to Hell. See the difference? One is based on education, one is based on dogmatic belief. I also don't think it's OK to teach kids there is no god, even though I agree with that statement, because religions should not be taught in schools. Do you think creationism should be taught alongside evolution in science class too? Is it censorship to mark a student's answer wrong if they answer a geology quiz from a Young Earth viewpoint?

          • Mary, your use of the word 'target' is interesting; it conveys a rather sinister aspect rather nicely. Could it be that Evangelical parents like to know their kids are involved with activities they consider wholesome, and that the witnessing/converting behaviors are simply part of the message?

            Besides, whats the worst that could happen? If kids come home and confront their parents with the message they're getting, what do you think will happen? Do you think a few evenings of babbling can displace the trust built on years of a parent/child relationship? Who do kids believe when there is a disagreement between what kids learn from their teachers and what their parents tell them?

            Regardless, even if your and Ms Stewart's assumption that these groups are intentionally targeting kids against their parents' wishes with their evangelical message is correct, so what? I don't see this as a compelling argument for restricting free speech. Kids hear all kinds of things from all sorts of sources that some parents don't like, while other parents so. It seems to me the only way to ensure everyone is happy is to leave the choice up to individuals.

            I can fully support Ms Stewart's first recommendation: That people should inform themselves and others about what groups like the Good News Club are teaching. She loses me, however, when she advocates for government action. I'm sure she (and you) would agree with me if the tables were turned, and someone were advocating restrictions on speech and activities we consider wholesome and appropriate for our children.

    • You are missing something, in that the book is not an analysis of just the supreme court case, but looks at the Good News "movement" in public schools and the fallout from the supreme court ruling. These groups bill themselves as "non-denominational bible study groups", but have an aggressive evangelical agenda.

    • Boomer, did you read the book? I think it does an excellent job of laying out some of the problems with evangelical groups using public school facilites, even after hours. One big one is that young children especially will still think that this is affiliated with school, since this is still taking place at school, sometimes even with school staff there. One chilling quote in the book from a young girl is "You mean they lied to me right here in school? Because that's what they taught me here! How can they teach me things that aren't true?"

      • No, I didn't read the book, but I still don't see the problem.

        I share the writer's--and presumably your--distaste of religious teachings on just about every subject. The thought that religious organizations receive tax breaks and other favorable treatment from government is also gonzo. But I'm still wondering how this applies to the lawful, after-hours use of school facilities.

        In the end, the writer objects to the fact these organizations use public schools for activities with which she disagrees. Her proposed recommendations seem reasonable: She isn't advocating we outlaw religion altogether, only that government place what she would deem reasonable restrictions on the use of public schools for religious activities. But no matter how reasonably or carefully your term it, she would make it the government's job to choose what people can and cannot say in a public forum to people who are there voluntarily. That's censorship.

        And the fact remains her's is a "solution" in search of a problem, because if you don't like what these people are saying to your kids you can choose to prohibit their attendance--no government intervention required; no revamp of the definition of 'speech' required.

        Personally, I would see this as a great opportunity if my kid(s) wanted to go. I'd let them, but I'd go with them. I would take notes, ask questions and be sure to continue the discussion at home.

        The solution to idiotic speech isn't to outlaw or restrict it.

        • That is nice that you would have the privilege of going with your child. As I stated below, many parents do not have this luxury. They also do not have the ability to understand what is being said at these clubs. Most parents are working during the hours in which the club is being held. It's probably a relief for them to not have to find child care during this time. And for "urban" (as they say in the book) families, they are happy the kid is off the street for a couple hours after school.

          Again, not understanding their child is being groomed to tell another kid in his class that they are going to go to hell for being Jewish.

          You have the education and privilege to yank your kid if something doesn't smell right. Not everyone does, and the Good New Club/Child Evangelism Fellowship preys on this.

  • Another main point that was first brought up earlier in the book was that many children, if not all (in the 4-14 age range CEF and GNC target) may not be able to realistically distinguish what adults are telling them is true/false/possible. They just don't have that filtering process attuned well enough. All they see is an authority figure emphatically telling them that THEY WILL go to hell, and so will everyone they know who isn't the "right type of Christian." The children don't have the ability to distinguish a "teacher" from an "enthusiastic volunteer," so to speak.

    And yes, target, in the context of the book, is precisely what the CEF and GNC are doing

  • It seems similar to giving liquor to an alcoholic. Most of the time, the alcoholic would take it because he/she can't help it. Similarly, children can't help not having the Skeptical Toolbox, simply because they are children.

    • I don't see the similarity at all.

      As far as I know, evangelism is not addictive for children, and alcoholics don't have parents to say no for them.

    • Yeah, when I have kids, I always figured I would make sure that they had strong critical thinking skills so they could evaluate religion for themselves. But I always pictured that happening around the teenage years. A six-year-old isn't going to understand why "You and your family are going to HELL!" is wrong.

  • "In the response to my book, I have been gratified to be reminded that the overwhelming majority of Americans believe, on the contrary, that the separation of church and state is one of America’s greatest achievements."

    Living in a conservative state like Arizona, I'd never know this to be the majority opinion.

    I can only hope that this viewpoint filters through to politicians.
    We must make sure that THIS is the voice that is heard, NOT that of the Good News Club.

    • Absolutely right Grand.

      To piggy back on Ms. Stewart's comment, I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of Americans ALSO understand the incredible achievement that is embodied in the freedom of speech.

  • I don't want Boomer to have the last word here because it might seem like I accept his argument. He asserts (without evidence) that his speculation about the methods and motives of the GNC/CEF are correct, and that my statements, based on evidence, are speculation. I think that word does not mean what he thinks it means.

    He asserts that the absolute right to free speech always obtains in public schools, and any attempt to restrict it is an abrogation of our rights. This is not and has never been the case. The teacher talks, the children listen, and they only speak when they are called upon, and only on the topic at hand. Did he ever actually attend school?

    A school is not and has never been a street corner. If a GNC can set up shop in a school, why not Amway? Or any other group practiced at the art of deception?

    A per force, children are not required to attend after school events, but they are required to carry home the GNC announcements of these events, and teachers are required to distribute these (GNC-produced) fliers to all their students. Milford opened the doors to this based on the specious reasoning that 5 year old children are equipped with the background knowledge and critical thinking skills to distinguish school-sponsored activities from activities conducted in school, immediately after school ends (and many schools do not have a single "end-of-day" instant, but have various ending times based on grade, sponsored sports or bands or clubs or extra study sessions, so these outside activities can be occurring simultaneously with official school activities), conducted in many instances by teachers or parents or volunteers who are present during the school day as part of the official curriculum, and which events are posted as part of apparently official school announcements and newsletters.

    Lastly, it is (as acknowledged by the CEF) illegal for adults to proselytize on school property during the school day, but it is not illegal for children at the school to do so, and the CEF deliberately exploits this loophole by telling the kids to do this, giving them treats and awards for doing it and shaming them if they don't. This is what leads directly to them telling Jewish kids that they are going to die and go to hell, telling Catholic kids they aren't really Christian, attempting to lure their friends into the clubs and so forth.

    P.S. The unintelligible video of the out of focus suspended ceiling is an irrelevant canard, and only serves to illustrate Boomer's ulterior motives.

  • He asserts (without evidence) that his speculation about the methods and motives of the GNC/CEF are correct, and that my statements, based on evidence, are speculation.

    No, that's not correct. I fully acknowledge that CEF/GNC are in the business of evangelizing; I assert that any statements assigning motives, desires, beliefs, intellectual capacity, judgement or discernment to parents who permit their kids to attend these events are speculation, including mine. The difference between you and me is that my speculation doesn't serve any desire on my part to restrict one of the fundamental individual rights that distinguishes America from the majority of the rest of the world.

    He asserts that the absolute right to free speech always obtains in public schools, and any attempt to restrict it is an abrogation of our rights.

    No, that's not right either. I assert--as did the courts--that if you make a public venue available for community use you cannot restrict its use by any given organization based solely on your dislike of the speech used by that organization. Clearly some rules and guidelines are appropriate, after all you wouldn't have a stripper show at night in the school cafeteria when children are present. But rules and guidelines governing the use of an open forum where attendance is voluntary should not be based solely on the message.

    Milford opened the doors to this based on the specious reasoning that 5 year old children are equipped with the background knowledge and critical thinking skills to distinguish school-sponsored activities from activities conducted in school...

    Wrong again. Milford made school property available after reaching the perfectly reasonable conclusion that the PARENTS of five-year-olds are capable of distinguishing between mandatory and voluntary activities, and that many parents actually--GASP!--desire their children to be involved with CEF/GNC activities.

    The unintelligible video of the out of focus suspended ceiling is an irrelevant canard, and only serves to illustrate Boomer’s ulterior motives.

    Pray tell, what exactly are my 'ulterior motives?' I've argued pretty openly that while I dislike intensely the message of these organizations, I support fully their right to speak it, and that this appears to me a tempest in a teapot. The video I linked to serves only to support my contention there are more pressing problems with our public schools than who and for what reason outside organizations are offering voluntary extracurricular activities.

    You worry about people brainwashing their children into believing in heaven and hell and the infallibility of God, yet see a teacher admonishing and threatening children for questioning the truthfulness of a politician as irrelevant? These kids are not in this class voluntarily, and this teacher is supposed to be instructing kids using a sanctioned curriculum. Do you believe she is at all interested in developing her students' critical thinking skills?

    • I wasn't talking about the parents' motives for sending their kids to the GNC. I was talking about the motives of the organizers of the clubs, who sometimes but not always are parents. (Many of them are parents of kids who live in the district, but homeschool.)

      As I said earlier, random parents can't start a Good News Club without the permission and involvement of the CEF. Starting actual grassroots bible study groups isn't the issue, nor the subject of the book. The book is called The Good News Club for a reason.

      READ THE BOOK!

    • You do raise some valid points, but until you've actually read the book, you don't actually know what the author's arguments are.

    • Have you read the book yet?

      "Welcome to the first monthly installment of the Skepchick Book Club"

  • No, I haven't. Frankly, I didn't read anything interesting enough in the interview to motivate a reading. But do I really need to read the book to comment on the author's recommendations as shared with Mary during the interview and published in this blog post?

    Mary covered the thesis well enough for me to understand there is subterfuge involved in CEF's/GNC's motives and methods, and that some people might be fooled into thinking they are something they are not. But people have to deal with bullshit all the time; that's why we try to teach our children the skills necessary to evaluate the claims of others. We also should be teaching them that the possibility of someone lying to them is an acceptable tradeoff for having the freedom to speak our minds.

    Further, I've already acknowledged the nastiness of CEF's/GNC's activities regarding children. I find it abhorrent that parents would allow their children to be frightened and terrorized by what I consider to be made-up stories of hell and a God willing to banish one there for eternity for attending the wrong church, or simply not believing in its existence. Indeed, I personally consider such behavior borderline child abuse.

    But I also realize this is my opinion based on my personal beliefs, that the majority of people in America do not share my beliefs and, ultimately, I don't see what these people are doing as abhorrent enough to generate a state interest in another restriction on the individual right I hold most dear. Especially when all one must do to shield one's child from it is not allow them to attend such activities.

    Educate people as to what CEF/GNC are doing so they can make informed choices, yes. Restrict peoples' right to say what they believe, no.

    • OK, I do encourage discussion, but this is a thread for people who've read the book. So either read the book (and stop making us read it to you) and come back to start a productive discussion, or stop commenting.

      If you want to continue down this road, I'll just trash all of your future nonproductive comments at my own discretion.

      • I'm sorry Mary, I wasn't aware I had to read the book before commenting. I was specifically commenting on what you wrote in your post and the author's comments to you during the interview.

        Have I misinterpreted what you wrote or the author's comments?

        • Yes, I wrote the post with the assumption that people who would be commenting would have read the book. You're arguing points that have been addressed in the book, which is why your discussion has not been constructive.

          I'm relaxed at our real life book club about the "read the book" requirement, but I guess online I need to uphold people to at least that standard.

  • I think people who haven't read the book shouldn't come to book club.

    When you criticize a book you haven't read, a movie you haven't seen, a song you haven't heard - you're speaking from ignorance. You come off as a lazy idiot whose only goal is to insert themselves in the conversation. Loudly and at length.

  • This book definitely reinforced for me how important it is for non-theists to get involved in local government. When a school board is majority evangelicals, they can pass whatever they want. Even if secularly-minded folks can't run themselves, it's clearly important to stay informed on who makes up your school board and what they're deciding.

    • The chapter about the Texas School Board was scary and depressing. I couldn't bring myself to watch that new documentary about Don McLeroy.