Freethought Today · September 2017

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Good News Club may get bad news

Evangelical Christian group targets Milwaukee area schools; FFRF steps in

Evangelically based "Good News Clubs" are trying to infiltrate nine school districts in the Milwaukee area, but FFRF is working with local groups and Protect Our Children to get information to parents and school officials before they even get in the door.

On Aug. 16, FFRF Co-Presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker sent a letter to the superintendents of all nine districts being targeted, informing them that the clubs are coming and reminding them of their obligation to protect their students from proselytizing adults.

Each year, "Good News Across America," a national children's outreach sponsored by Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), targets one major city for evangelism. For 2017, it has chosen Milwaukee. As part of this evangelical invasion, local churches backed by CEF will seek to establish Good News Clubs at 16 elementary schools in the Milwaukee area.

The invasion has been a long time coming, first planned for 2016 and then rescheduled to 2017. This means FFRF has had ample time to prepare, and we've been using it. FFRF's Patrick O'Reiley Legal Fellow Chris Line has been working with Protect Our Children, a Portland-based group that helped protect Portland's children from the Good News Club's 2014 invasion, and local Milwaukee freethought groups to shine a spotlight on the Good News Club's activities in Milwaukee.

The Good News Club is an evangelical Christian program for children ages 5-12 that has often been criticized for its tactic of meeting in public elementary schools, blurring the distinction between church and state, and for masking its goal of proselytizing children. Its self-described mission is: "Child Evangelism Fellowship is a bible-centered organization composed of born-again believers whose purpose is to evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and to establish (disciple) them in the Word of God and in a local church for Christian living."

FFRF urges the districts involved to monitor these new Good News Clubs and ensure they are following all district rental policies and not getting access to students while classes are in session or as they leave school for the day.

It's certainly not the first time that FFRF has gotten involved with the Good News Club. Over the years, FFRF has written dozens of letters to districts regarding constitutional violations involving Good News Clubs. The most recent of which occurred as part of this current invasion, when club leaders entered an elementary school in Racine Unified School District while students were there for summer school classes and proselytized, asking them to join in the club they were holding outside the school.

On the plus side, it appears that a summer evangelizing project in Milwaukee did not work as well as it had in the past. In 2015, during its Indianapolis invasion, CEF partnered with 31 local churches, set up clubs in 92 locations across Indianapolis, evangelized 3,406 children and "counseled" 322 children. "Counseled" is the fellowship's term for conversion, meaning that a child has now been "saved." But in Milwaukee this summer, CEF was only able to partner with 20 local churches, set up clubs in 60 locations across the area, evangelize 1,838 children and "counsel" 88 children.

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