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Katherine Stewart: How Christian clubs in schools turned into faith-based bullying

Katherine Stewart
Katherine Stewart

Next month, members of the Child Evangelism Fellowship will gather in the Twin Cities for a two-week event called Good News Across America. Among other things, they will be looking for local churches and parishioners willing to lead weekly meetings of religious Good News Clubs in public schools.

You may remember the story about the clubs’ inroads into Twin Cities schools that ran in this space in March. It quoted a then-new book, “The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Assault on America’s Children,” by investigative reporter Katherine Stewart.

As it turns out, the clubs are the tip of a proverbial iceberg of evangelism. Stewart’s groundbreaking book chronicles not just the strange back-story to the clubs’ legal toe-hold on the public schoolhouse, but many other ways in which fundamentalist groups are finding their ways into the classroom. For those who support the separation of church and state, “The Good News Club” is compelling — and disturbing — reading.

If that description fits you, you should buy a copy. And then take it to one of two appearances here Stewart will make next week and ask her to sign it. On Monday, June 25, she will speak at 7:30 p.m. at Magers & Quinn Booksellers, 3038 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis. On Tuesday, June 26, she will be at Common Good Books, 38 S. Snelling Ave., St. Paul, at 7 p.m. 

Need further convincing? Consider the edited interview with Stewart that follows a taste of what you’ll hear.

MinnPost: Tell us how your book started.

Stewart: I was alerted to this whole phenomenon by the appearance of a Good News Club in my own daughter’s public elementary school when we were living in Santa Barbara, California. At first I thought it was no big deal, but I started to hear from parents around town whose kids attended schools where Good News Club had recently been established.

I started hearing stories about how kids attending the clubs were starting to target their non-Christian peers for what I can only describe as faith-based bullying. I heard from several parents who signed up their kids to attend the clubs and said their kids came home and told the parents that they were going to go to hell because they didn’t go to the right kind church.

The Good News Club seeks to convey the false but completely unavoidable impression in very young kids that it is actually endorsed by the school. Kids would say they knew the religion of the Good News Clubs must be true because they taught it in school. 

You know how little kids are. For them, no institution has as much authority as the school. They don’t teach things in school that aren’t true.

This bumped up against everything I thought I knew about the separation of church and state. The more I looked into it, the more I realized that Good News Clubs were just one small part of a much larger picture.

MinnPost: Why are these clubs appearing now?

Stewart: They’re taking advantage of a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Good News Club vs. Milford Central Schools. It removed any serious Establishment Clause concerns with Good News-style activities.

Whenever a school creates what is technically known as a limited public forum — say it opens its doors to soccer or art or pretty much anything  like that — it also has to allow groups such as the Good News Club because the religious activities in the club are now basically considered nothing more than speech from a certain point of view.

The number of Good News Clubs in public school went up 728 percent in the 10 years since the Milford decision. Other religious initiatives have made use of that decision as well.

They really have a much broader and deeper agenda than they appear to when a nice lady shows up in a public school and says she just want to start an after-school Bible study club for these kids. Their aim, in the words of one movement leader, is to “knock down all doors, all the barriers to all 65,000 public schools in America. Take the gospel to this open mission field now.”

MinnPost: You went on to find and write about a number of ways religion is finding its way into the schools. Give us some examples.

Stewart: Right now there are enormous resources being devoted to peer evangelism — getting kids to try to convert other children. Last fall I participated in an annual prayer event that takes place in thousands of public schools, See You at the Pole. Children gather around the American flag and pray.

The Good News ClubIt’s well established that kids are allowed to pray in school. The legal understanding is as long as they lead the prayers themselves, it’s perfectly acceptable. But the event is this huge spectacle, which it wouldn’t be without adult involvement at every level.

Churches order materials from See You at the Pole’s central offices near Fort Worth, Texas. Adults basically organize the event on behalf of their youth groups. At the one I attended local pastors told their youth groups about it and produced a slick video telling their kids to attend and put it up on YouTube.

The same pastor showed up and participated in the event. Afterwards there was an after-party held at a local mega-church and staffed by adults wearing See You at the Pole T-shirts. So even though the students are leading the prayers themselves, adults are really involved at every level.

Using kids to do what grown-ups are not allowed to do is called, by one of the movement leaders, “a God-given loophole.”

Another example is the Life Book Movement, a project of Gideons International. They have attempted to distribute Bibles on public school campuses for years. They’re not supposed to do it, but they hit the jackpot with the peer evangelism exception. The Life Book Movement gets kids to distribute these evangelical books written with teens in mind to other kids at school.

The Life Book Movement has been around just two and a half years, and they’ve distributed almost three million of these evangelical tracts on public school campuses. I wish I could show you one. It’s just the coolest looking thing. It looks like a CD case. It’s very appealing. A lot of these religious initiatives in the schools have become extremely media savvy, with very hip graphics.

MinnPost: Does the evangelizing work?

Stewart: I do a lot of speaking. When I travel around the country, parents tell me about stuff that their kids are going through at school where religious sharing turns into something more like faith-based bullying.

This one mom in Kansas told me at her son’s school every single day, kids from a particular youth group leave religious literature on his desk. He would tell the kids to stop and they wouldn’t. So finally the mom went to the pastor of the youth group whose kids were doing this and said, “Look, we know you mean well, but we’d really rather you didn’t do this.” And the pastor said, “We don’t care about you, lady, we want your kid.”

Are these actions really going to turn this young boy into the type of Christian they want him to turn into? No. But what it does do is it gives children the idea that there is one group in society that is privileged and that they themselves are sort of second-class citizens.

MinnPost: Does your book look at the religious controversies over academic standards?

Stewart: I attended the Texas State Board of Education hearings over textbook curriculums and wrote a chapter about efforts to inject ideology into the standards for Texas. The board has been dominated by a far-right faction. There have also been moderate Republicans who have attempted to mitigate some of the changes that have been proposed.

The far-right majority was able to sort of push through large numbers of changes particularly in history and social sciences. They also tried to change the standards with regard to the teaching of creationism. They were prevented from the worst of it by coalitions of scientists who got together and were able to mitigate the worst of the damage.

Texas is the largest purchaser of textbooks in the country, so [publishers] often produce their books to conform to Texas standards.

MinnPost: In the end, after all your research, what’s your bottom-line takeaway?

Stewart: Many fundamentalists simply don’t accept public schools as a legitimate enterprise. In the first place, they see public education as secular education and therefore intrinsically hostile to their religion. I think the real issue is that they don’t accept the religion of a diverse society or the secular form of government.

Child Evangelism and Fellowship is the group that sponsors Good News Clubs, and they say the public schools de-educate children by failing to educate them about Jesus. They compare public schools to acts of war on the American population.

A lot of times people fail to recognize that at the heart of this movement to inject a fundamental form of religion in the public schools, there is a hostility to the very idea of public education to begin with. The same forces that are clearing the way for initiatives like Good News Clubs are also the same ones advocating for school vouchers, which divert money from the public school system and funnel them to private and religious schools instead.

Just because some things are legally or constitutionally permissible does not mean that they are the right thing do to. If a school in a diverse community is to function effectively, its members need to treat one another with a certain amount of respect and civility. We are all free to exercise our religion, if any, in our houses of worship, homes, and any number of other venues. Do we really need to turn our public schools into religious battlegrounds? 

I think there should be a concern not just to parents, but also very much of concern to educators and anyone who cares about the institution of public education.

Comments (33)

  1. Submitted by Tim Walker on 06/22/2012 - 09:57 am.

    Stewart: “Many fundamentalists simply don’t accept public schools as a legitimate enterprise. In the first place, they see public education as secular education and therefore intrinsically hostile to their religion. I think the real issue is that they don’t accept the religion of a diverse society or the secular form of government.”


    And one can see this in the many public pronouncements on the topic by Rep. Michele Bachmann and others of her ilk.


  2. Submitted by Jim Drey on 06/22/2012 - 10:03 am.

    Love your neighbor as yourself

    Whether you believe in God or not, no one should forcefully spread their belief on someone else. If they did, it only hurts themselves and their following. If these groups worry you at all, prepare your children from these “stealth assaults” when they occur. If you have a problem with these after-school groups, don’t join them!

  3. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 06/22/2012 - 10:36 am.

    Good News Club v. Milford Central School

    I don’t know how my fellow Christians think they’re going to win souls for Christ by getting into people’s faces and “bullying” them. Any sort of bullying is unacceptable; I would expect any adults involved with the Good News Clubs to remind their young followers that Christ was not a bully and would expect no less from his followers.On the other hand, I’ve seen plenty of evidence that any talk about Christ and faith make some people uncomfortable. I get the impression that Mrs. Stewart’s objection seems to be more that Good News Clubs are successful in winning members. Most people in this secular country of ours have been exposed to Christianity at some point in their lives, usually their young lives, from they’ve turned away never to return. They don’t want their their children exposed to it for that reason, which is their right.

    Of course we should be concerned about public schools being used to promote one religion. But the decision which Mrs. Stewart is writing about does not do that. The decision is about schools that make their facilities available to nonschool activities after school. The case only holds that if you’re going to rent your school facility for nonschool purposes, you can’t discriminate against a group that wants to rent it on the grounds of their religion. The principle would be the same if a Muslim group wanted to have done this. In fact, the case would prevent a school from rejecting a Muslim meeting or school or prayer group. Such as what happened last year with the proposal to build a mosque near Ground Zero. Mrs. Stewart’s point might be equally made against Muslims who wished to rent the school that children would assume that the school is endorsing Islam.

    This strikes me as what educators call a “teachable moment” . Milford Central has nothing to do with the far more serious problem of changing educational standards to teach “creationism” as science and similar actions by school boards. These policies are objectionable on separation of church and state grounds. The lesson of Good News Club v. Milford Central is that if you don’t want your school turned into a battleground in the culture war, don’t open it up for use by any group.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/22/2012 - 02:14 pm.

      First Amendment

      This is of course under the current interpretation of the first amendment.
      Some of us still agree with the interpretation in effect for ~225 years, which held that public tax money could not be used to support a religion since that would be public support of religion.
      This is the difference between (any) religious group using public resources and non religious groups using those same resources.

  4. Submitted by mark wallek on 06/22/2012 - 11:05 am.

    Not at all suprising.

    If you take your average, difficult to bear teenager, add the arrogance of true belief, and you have a formula for over the top dictatorship. Most self righteous religious groups want to be able to TELL people how to live, regardless of the particular faith. That these so called “christian” clubs become nothing more than gangs of believers is not suprising. This is why we like to keep religion OUT of education.

  5. Submitted by David LaPorte on 06/22/2012 - 11:54 am.

    What’s a Christian?

    I was raised Catholic. We still prayed in school when I was a kid, but it was the Protestant’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, not the Catholic version, so I didn’t join in. Ever day, the fact that I was an outsider was reinforced.

    I can only imagine how Jews, Muslims and member of other non-Christian faiths must have felt.

    • Submitted by Pete Barrett on 06/22/2012 - 05:07 pm.

      Workin’ The Beads At The Pole?

      I wonder how the evangelicals would react to Catholic kids praying the rosary at the pole before classes begin? They likely would not take kindly to the Blessed Virgin horning-in on their action.

      Same deal for continually leaving rosaries on the desks of evangelicals.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/28/2012 - 03:18 pm.

      As a Jew

      being an outsider came with the territory — prayer was just one more drop in the bucket.
      Now that I’m an atheistic Jew, the issue is more of an annoyance at how my tax dollars are spent than an emotional threat.

  6. Submitted by Peter Swanson on 06/22/2012 - 12:02 pm.

    Public Fora for Everyone

    “Whenever a school creates what is technically known as a limited public format –…”

    Uh, that should be limited public _forum_.

    Anyway, the public forum doctrine also protects clubs like Gay Straight Alliances and atheist/skeptics clubs. How should the law be changed in your view?

  7. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/22/2012 - 12:35 pm.

    There’s a phrase that comes to mind

    about a “taste of your own medicine” or something like that, but I forget. Now you know what decent religious parents have to deal with when their kids are singled out and ridiculed for not going along and participating in the cesspool that is today’s cultural norm.

    Look, lady, go watch the YouTube video of the 68 year-old bus monitor being taunted and bullied by foul-mouthed middleschool brats that has everyone in an uproar.

    The problem in this society isn’t too much morality.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/22/2012 - 01:46 pm.


      Those terms are synonyms?

      Religion has plenty of its own normative cutlural cesspools. Encouraging kids to bully their classmates is but one example.

    • Submitted by Lance Groth on 06/22/2012 - 04:06 pm.

      Same thing

      Substituting religious bullies for mundane bullies does not make it better. Bombarding the desk of a kid who doesn’t want it with religious materials every day, and making him feel like an outcast if he doesn’t drink the koolaid, is no different than the kids on that bus.

      I’m also surprised that a conservative would not be concerned about a group – any group – targeting the kids of parents who don’t welcome the pressure. “We don’t care about you, lady, we want your kid.” Dennis, if someone said that to you, I have no doubt you would have a very strong reaction to it, and would express same in no uncertain terms. And rightfully so. That kind of thing should offend anyone, but conservatives most of all. I guess principles are relative, eh?

      Religions have their churches, and families have their homes, which are the proper forums for moral upbringing, be it based on a religion or not. Public schools exist to teach fact and critical reasoning skills, not religious beliefs. Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Madison were wise to insist on separation of church and state, and those of us who believe in the founding principles of this secular Republic don’t appreciate these constant, insidious efforts to theocratize it.

      The last thing any freedom loving person should want is a government takeover of religion, or a religious takeover of government.

    • Submitted by Brad Lane on 06/25/2012 - 11:37 am.

      And the Lord said “Suck it!”

      Hahaha, a Christian endorsing ideological bullying of children and a group that seeks to usurp parental rights by using public schools to proselytize to their children. Nice… Surely, that is precisely what Jesus would do.

      And “taste of your own medicine,” really? “Taste of your own medicine” implies that the people you’re talking to are going through the schools trying to teach kids that there is no god, or that other faiths are going through schools trying to convert Christian children… neither of which is happening. Schools NOT teaching Christianity is not the same as teaching against Christianity. Schools are to maintain a vacuum of religion, precisely so that everyone is free to practice their own beliefs without interference, harassment, or being treated like second-class citizens.

      This is just classic Christian “pre-emptive defense,” seizing on some illusory idea of being persecuted, so that you can justify your actions and pretend to be the victim instead of the aggressor.

      I mean really… “I don’t like modern culture, therefore I am justified in cramming MY religion down YOUR kid’s throat.” That’s a reasonable position to you? I’m sure you’d feel the same if a radical hard-line Muslim said “all this alcohol and sex and decadence in the American culture… We must bring Allah into the American schools to cleanse the nation of this filth!”

      I want you to take a moment to realize that that’s EXACTLY what you sound like… a radical Muslim theocrat. It’s not magically made better simply because it’s YOUR god instead of theirs.

      Furthermore, I’d bet you dollars to donuts that the boys doing the bullying of that lady on the bus come from Christian homes.

  8. Submitted by Keith Nybakke on 06/22/2012 - 12:39 pm.

    One way to respond

    The Secular Student Alliance is experiencing unprecedented growth. What better answer to over-the-top fundamentalist propaganda and in-your-face recruiting pressure?

    p.s. They gladly accept contributions.

  9. Submitted by Dan Johnson on 06/22/2012 - 12:40 pm.

    Christian on a phone lacking spell check

    I have a problem with the bitter tone of this piece. It reminds me of equally ignorant Christian writers who believe their personal value are always under attack. This article implies through a few isolated incidents that the schools are roaming with Christian bullies, ready to condemn non-believers to hell. Relax fellow reader, most kids could give a hoot about Jesus when adults are absent.

    At 29, I’m still young enough to remember participating in See You at the Pole when I was in 8th grade at Osseo Junior High. It was a simple meeting that involved a couple of local churches and even some teachers. It took about 20 minutes before the school day started.

    I was also one of the most bullied people in school, and could safely say the same for my non-Christian/Christian friends alike. The reason people are bullied is because of many complex reasons, but the largest is indifference by school administrators who ignore bad behavior to make their job less complicated. Not a conspiracy of church goers.

    With several friends from college in teaching positions cross-country, a wife teacher, and an aunt and uncle ready to retire from teaching – I can say with great authority that this article is exaggerated to sell a book at best, and an attack on Christianity at worst.

    There are many loud-mouth bigots in the church and Christians in pop culture, but they are just like this author: a minority.

    To rid ourselves of bullying, schools need to invoke free discourse reflective of our society at large. Allow GLBT clubs organized by a teacher, Bible Studies organized by a kid, Muslim Prayer groups organized by parent, etc.

    AND DO NOT SHY FROM PUNISHING BULLYING on an individual basis.

    • Submitted by Anita Newhouse on 06/26/2012 - 11:49 pm.

      Coundn’t disagree with you more

      With 3 children currently in elementary, middle and high school, I completely disagree with this commenter. Each one of my kids has experienced being isolated and separated from the larger group due to having a different religious background from other kids they were with (OMG, we’re methodists). Basically, my kids have been taught to think (and do) for themslves and NOT suck up religious/political talking points like many of their peers from ‘seed’ churches. My kids walk the walk, spending many hours serving others- as a family doing meals on wheels, homeless meals, collecting food for food shelf networks, building and repairs for those who can’t do it themselves, etc. etc. because we understand that it’s all about grace and choice, not words without action.

      Bullying in schools is about power and by forming their religious herd using their doctrinaire words, these particular kids seek to serve themselves by controlling how kids treat one another. So much religion in society today is about power- enforcing one view over another at all costs. THIS is what is playing out on playgrounds, in the lunchroom, in hallways, even in bathrooms-not in classrooms where teachers set the tone through articulating their expectations. It does happen- alot- and my family has been impacted by this personally.

  10. Submitted by Ray Marshall on 06/22/2012 - 01:53 pm.


    Putting literature on a desk. How cruel!

    Here’s a tip. Take it and keep tearing them up in front of them and putting them in the recycling bin. Literature costs money. They eventually they will get the hint.

  11. Submitted by Richard O'Neil on 06/22/2012 - 02:11 pm.

    “Faith” based bullying

    So-called “bullying” from either the left or the right is, to me, repugnent. But the piece of reporting here doesn’t appear to support the implication that Christian “bullying” is rampant in our schools nor is it a “stealth assault” as described on the jacket of Ms. Stewart’s book. If it is, please do let us know.

  12. Submitted by David Frenkel on 06/22/2012 - 02:45 pm.


    All this is nothing new just a new version. Decades ago I attended a public elementary school in Minneapolis across the street from a Catholic parochial elementary school (figure it out) and I wish I had a nickel every time when of the Catholic kids told me I was going to hell because I was not baptized.

  13. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 06/22/2012 - 04:17 pm.

    Two contradictory thoughts

    First, I wonder about Ms. Stewart’s example:

    “…This one mom in Kansas told me at her son’s school every single day, kids from a particular youth group leave religious literature on his desk. He would tell the kids to stop and they wouldn’t. So finally the mom went to the pastor of the youth group whose kids were doing this and said, “Look, we know you mean well, but we’d really rather you didn’t do this.” And the pastor said, “We don’t care about you, lady, we want your kid.”

    How is this different from Mrs. Bachmann’s justifiably-ridiculed use of an anonymous mother’s testimony that the woman’s daughter was rendered mentally handicapped by the use of a vaccine? Who was this “one mom in Kansas?” Who was the pastor who said, “We don’t care about you, lady, we want your kid?”

    Bachmann’s pitiful excuse was that she was just passing on what the woman told her. How is Stewart different?

    Second, from the other side:

    When I lived in a Colorado Front Range community outside Denver for several years, at least two of the city’s (and school district’s) three high schools were routinely used for Sunday Christian evangelical services. Those services were even advertised on-screen at the local movie complex. I wondered at the time, and still wonder, how “separation of church and state,” as mandated by the First Amendment, was being maintained while my tax dollars were being used to house religious services to which I might be opposed.

    I will always have a problem with religious groups being housed or organized or based in a taxpayer-supported building or institution, so I’m no fan of school-based “Christian clubs.” With a single exception, there’s no genuine reason why such a club of school-aged kids of whatever age couldn’t meet regularly at, say, the church itself, though apologists will find justifications for using the school regardless of logic and reason. They would do so because of the exception, which is that proselytizing and/or trying to convert unbelievers – hardly a constitutionally-neutral activity – would be pointless at a church gathering.

    That said, Peter Swanson raises a relevant point in his last paragraph, even if the number of Gay-Straight Alliance groups, and/or even more rare, the local atheist/skeptic club, is rather small. I understand how the relevant case law makes this issue problematic, and don’t see how a “Good News Club” could be banned while at the same time permitting Mr. Schoch’s Satanic Club.

    Mr. Tester, of course, raises a whole different point, and incorrectly. There’s little evidence, historical or contemporary, that religion “improves” morality. Instead, we have sincere and devout Catholic priests molesting youthful parishioners while their bishop piously advises society on matters sexual and marital, and the list of sleazy Protestant evangelical preachers, or equally sleazy parishioners, is exceedingly long.

    I must say that in my decades at a public high school, I don’t recall any instances of kids being singled out and ridiculed for being especially Puritanical. Plenty of laughter behind their backs, of course, but no public humiliation of the sort that Mr. Tester suggests. Being given a hard time for not conforming to the current norm in high school is hardly something confined to those who wear their religious fundamentalism on their sleeve. The hard edges of conformity have been a standard part of the adolescent / high school experience for as long as there have been adolescents and / or high schools. It has little or nothing to do with religion. Figuring out social roles and where and how to “fit in” is part of the social environment of any institution that deals with large numbers of adolescents on a regular and frequent basis.

    My observation was that bullying crossed innumerable cultural and religious barriers, and was, ironically, almost ecumenical. Bullies at my school were basically equal-opportunity jerks, willing and able to make someone’s day less pleasant regardless of reason, and sometimes for what appeared to be no reason at all. Theology simply played little part in it.

    • Submitted by Pete Barrett on 06/23/2012 - 08:21 am.

      For Rent

      Most, if not all, school districts have long rented out their auditoriums, cafeterias, etc., to outside groups. They are used by political parties for caucuses, conventions and the like, as well as other organizations of various stripes. For a public school district to rent to secular groups but not religious ones is an unconstitutional infringement on religion. Renting to a religious group, as long as other groups have equal access and are charged the same fees, does not constitute an endorsement of that religion. No one is hurt by The Holy Roller Free Evangelical Church renting out the auditorium of the otherwise empty local public high school on Sunday morning. If some atheists reserve it first, so be it. I’ll take money from either one.

  14. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 06/22/2012 - 08:15 pm.


    I was bullied by my public school faculty on a daily basis. They were constantly trying to “evangelize” me into being a democrat. They failed.

    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 06/24/2012 - 08:31 am.

      Democrat Evangelism

      Ron, I had the same experience when I attended Minneapolis Public Schools. But, by the time my sons reached the same schools, the ante had been upped.

      It was a presidential election year, so to teach the children how it worked, the classroom conducted an election. What did the children learn? All the Democrats won, and everyone’s votes were made public.

      Is that how it works? Out the minority, so the other children (majority) can set them straight.

    • Submitted by Susan McNerney on 06/25/2012 - 06:25 am.

      Care to give a specific example?

      Because I don’t believe you for a second.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/25/2012 - 03:02 pm.

        I think he means . . .

        . . . they tried to educate him. You know how well that plays with your typical conservative.

      • Submitted by Steve Rose on 06/27/2012 - 10:19 am.

        Hello, that was an example

        Susan & RB:

        The classroom election was an example. In junior high Civics class and in high school Current Events class, I learned of the wonders of labor unions. After high school, I had a union job, and unlearned it all.

        • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 06/27/2012 - 11:11 am.

          Pay attention to the indents

          Susan’s post was in reply to Ron Gotzman’s, and RB’s in turn was in reply to Susan’s.

          • Submitted by Steve Rose on 06/27/2012 - 04:23 pm.


            Because RB was clearly referring to me, I included him in the address of my response. It seem obvious to me.

  15. Submitted by Logan Foreman on 06/24/2012 - 10:09 pm.


    Has no place in public education. Want to place your child in a religious school – that is your right but not at taxpayer expense.

  16. Submitted by Susan McNerney on 06/25/2012 - 06:49 am.

    The flip side of this is how the fundamentalists look

    When I was growing up I was constantly subjected to “recruitment” by friends who were members of a very prominent and organized local fundamentalist church. But to me, it was the religious kids that looked sad – they were the ones who believed things that weren’t true, like the idea that anyone who wasn’t exactly like them would go to hell. They were the ones who had to spend all their time on church activities and often couldn’t participate in other things. Many weren’t even allowed to go to the movies with me and my non-fundamentalist friends because their parents wouldn’t let them. When I was in high school, a bunch of them refused to read Steinbeck because their parents told them the book was evil in some way. Later, some of us did a fundraiser for a local homeless shelter and they weren’t allowed to participate in that, either. I remember at the time just feeling sorry for them. Children are great BS detectors, for the most part.

    The risks of indoctrination can become greater in schools where the fundamentalists have a larger percentage of the population. But in most communities, the majority of kids are not of this background – evangelical fundamentalist Christians are a minority in this country, even among Christians, despite what these groups would like you to think. Most church-going families are really in it only for the social opportunities. The true believers are a loud but small group (and the fastest growing religious affiliation in the US is no affiliation at all). But the more threatened they feel by the growing indifference of Americans to their carefully manufactured world, the louder they’ll get. Even if the media can’t tell the difference between loudness and real influence, there’s no reason the rest of us have to fall for it.

  17. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 06/25/2012 - 07:21 am.

    Critical thinking …give youth the ability to choose

    Critical thinking would be a great addition to school curriculum even if parents are negligent.

    Riding a church bus to the Twin Cities for a Lutheran church camp some years ago, fellow church mates roamed the bus like an invasive species of religious fundamentalism, pushing their messages while carrying outsized bibles and delivering a pat phase in your face..’Have you accepted J.C. as your personal…?”

    Not standard policy in the structural roots of Lutheran doctrine but during the WWII years a new breed of seminarians pock marked the plains pulpits with some frequency…finding a safe haven and too often lacing with cult-like enthusiasm, born-again messages.

    Thank the gods my mother had instilled critical thinking in our minds that even this one, back then and so ‘recently ‘confirmed’, had the capacity to recognize truth from fallacy or whatever were such ‘messages’ intent.

    Also must give credit for the power of the-alternate-word; for discovering the New Yorker and a tissue paper news rag called The Manchester Guardian at a bus station news stand in Fargo. Fortified by two new information resources I had never read before, I buried my nose and eyes in such revelatory newsprint and avoided the bible bearers roaming the aisle trying to save the soul of camp-bound bus mates.

    Always wanted to thank the New Yorker; then too, the Manchester Guardian for saving my soul from those deviant, junior thought police…this is most certainly true. Amen

  18. Submitted by L. Bickota on 07/14/2012 - 12:50 am.

    Here we go again agressor and defender…

    Imagine seeing a liberal or conservative actually step back from a typical argument of who’s right and who’s wrong instead to call a spade a spade for a change. The anti-Christian movement topic in journalism is a hot-button topic that will always raise eyebrows because it offends or rallies; it’s instant adrenaline, it’s instant web view hits, and instant revenue from vested interests.

    Remember, bullies come from all backgrounds, Christian or otherwise. Dear reader, there is not some grandiose conspiracy about Christians infiltrating your schools. You could draw the same conclusion from someone writing a crackpot book about Muslims infiltrating your schools. Same result… Propaganda! Lets not go there, am I right? But do answer that question honestly, I am sure it has happened and it has pissed off perfectly innocent people in the process. Let the us vs. them ideology fade, live and let live. Anyone can sit at their computer and argue until they are blue or red in the face and nothing will change. Or you choose to call a spade a spade and chalk it up as hot-button entertainment. Seriously, peace.

  19. Submitted by Liz Warner on 08/31/2012 - 12:53 am.

    My Two Cents (for what it worth……HA!)

    Again, we are dealing with a one-sided story from one person. Again it is coming from an obviously biased reporter. Kudos to both for riling up everyone on this comment page, they did their job at making you all look ridiculous. Read Kipling’s poem, “If” and gather some knowledge from it: keep your sanity when others about you have lost theirs. Christians are not bad nor evil: I am one. Jews and Catholics are not bad or evil, either, my Dad’s family is from a large Catholic family, and my Mom is Jewish. Yes, I believe prayer belongs in school, as long as there are gangs, drugs, and weapons, the children need the protection of the Almighty because what they have now, isn’t working, obviously.

    Bullies DO come from ALL backgrounds, remember Nature and Nurture??? How can it be discouraged when children see adults acting just as bad, and being bullies as well? Christians that I know, and have grown up with all my life are interested in one thing: sharing the Gospel so that others are aware of it. This is what the mission of being a Christian is, to witness to others. Has been since the time of the prophets, and what Jesus instructed His disciples to do, to go forth into the world and to be a witness for Christ. I haven’t heard any complaints about the Jehovah Witnesses or the Mormon Church which goes door to door, just about an “after school club.” If it is indeed voluntary, then there is nothing anyone can do about it. Religion is a freedom here, and I fully intend, until my last breath to see it remains.

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