Schools have their job, churches have theirs

About the ‘Good News Club’

The afterschool world at Cold Spring had hitherto consisted of basketball, karate, dance, and other physical fitness activities. In this context, a sectarian religious group that seeks to recruit the very young stuck out like a barstool in a bunny cage…The CEF labels the Good News Club program as “Bible Study,” but the term “study” in this context is a euphemism for indoctrination in and practice of a particular religion. Once class begins, there is no pretense of analyzing the bible as a literary, cultural, or historical document. The program moves directly to the CEF’s stated purpose, which is “to evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, disciple them in the Word of God, and establish them in a Bible-believing church for Christian living.”

Before the Good News Club, afterschool programs were physical activities of various kinds. The Good News Club masquerades as a kind of teaching – complete with ‘instructors’:

[T]he Good News instructor was found approaching students and distributing leaflets just outside school grounds. Often, instructors arrive on campus before the bell rings. When young children exit their regular classrooms, they find the instructor outside the door bearing treats and trailing balloons. In Valencia, California, a parent of a kindergartener reported that the Good News Club actually started 15 minutes prior to the end of her child’s school day. The instructor, she said, would enter the classroom as kindergarten was winding down and perform a roll call – effectively segregating the children by religious affiliation.

So that it all seems like just more school, with teachers teaching content to the students.

In short, the confusion Ashley evinced on the playground about just what her school was teaching her was no accident. It is built into the design of the Good News Club program. The average six-year-old cannot reliably distinguish between programs taught by his/her school and those taught in his/her school; and the CEF may be determined to make use of this fact in order to advance its religious aims.

There’s a big problem here, and it’s not just the familiar old separation of church and state. Or it is that, but the reason for we need separation of church and state is particularly starkly revealed. The problem here is that these people are teaching stuff to children, and the stuff they’re teaching is not true, and there is no good reason to think it is true. That’s not what education is.

That’s part of the social contract when it comes to schooling. People don’t expect the schools to teach their children falsehoods. That’s not the job of the teachers and it’s not the job of the schools.

Given that, I’m not sure why the administration at Cold Spring couldn’t have told the Good News Club people that they don’t have afterschool education programs, Milford decision or no Milford decision. I don’t see why the administration couldn’t have said education was their job and they couldn’t parcel it out to amateurs after hours. I don’t see why the administration couldn’t have taken its stand on education as education and just said No thank you to rivals.

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