The Good News Club, affiliated with Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), is offered as an after school program at Fairbanks Elementary School in Churchville. Parents grant permission for their children to attend the club, which teaches lessons from the Bible using music, games and other activities.
“Our ministry is dedicated to helping children in 150 countries around the world to know God and learn from the Bible,” a permission slip from the organization reads.
However, when local atheists found out about the program, they decided to launch an after school group of their own for children. The Better News Club is now offering the program Young Skeptics to elementary school students, likewise with the permission of parents.
“The organization was created first as an alternative to the Good News Club, a Christian evangelical group who enters public schools to proselytize to children and, according to their own materials, declares them all sinners in need of salvation,” the website for the group outlines.
The Better News Club states that they see the Good News Club as “a form of psychological abuse, akin to telling small children they’re flawed or evil, and must subscribe to a dogma in order to avoid eternal punishment.”
“We felt it was harmful to children and we wanted to do something about it,” Kevin Davis of the Atheist Community of Rochester told the Democrat and Chronicle.
According to the permission slip for the Young Skeptics, the program serves as “an educational club dedicated to helping our kids find answers themselves, through critical thinking and problem solving.” Organizers state that the club isn’t necessarily an atheist program, but rather one that generally teaches children from a secular standpoint to question and analyze out of their own human abilities.
As previously reported, a summer camp hosted by Child Evangelism Fellowship in Portland, Oregon likewise came under fire last summer for teaching children that each person is a sinner in need of the Savior. Those who opposed the group asserted that CEF does not present “Jesus loves you” mainstream Christianity, but is rather “hardcore evangelical fundamental.”
“Before the Portland public schools allow ‘The Good News Club’ to use school facilities or to promote their activities on campus it would seem appropriate to allow mental health professionals to further investigate the activities of this group,” wrote Chuck Currie of the United Church of Christ in a blog post about the matter.
But CEF said that it was not teaching anything outside of the basic and fundamental truths of the gospel—and that mankind must understand the bad news to know why the good news is so good.
“Listen, the message of the gospel, the teaching of the core Christian tenets of the Christian faith that have been taught for 2,000 years in the Bible is what we’re teaching,” CEF Vice President of Ministries Moises Esteves told local television station KOIN. “There’s nothing new here.”
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