Katherine Stewart’s book, The Good News Club, is the kind of smart, in-depth reporting that makes you want to scream at the text while you are reading it–not because it’s bad, but because you can’t believe you haven’t heard about the issue before now.
Ms. Stewart uncovers a virus that is invading the public school systems. No, not MRSA or chicken pox. It is the Religious Right, a group which is becoming increasingly entwined with America’s public schools–notably our elementary schools where children 10 and younger are unable to distinguish between curricula sponsored by the state and that promoted by a group with a religious evangelical agenda.
A group with the unassuming name, The Good News Club, comes to schools offering to teach religion as nondenominational. Given this spin, school boards and parents accept the entree of these groups into their school believing it is an opportunity to expose children to religion as an anthropological, sociological or historical area of study. But, this is not the case. In fact, The Good News Club is part of an evangelical mission that stoops to “faith-based bullying”, leading to angry splits among what had been harmonious communities.
So how do these openly faith-based groups invade the very secular institution of the public elementary school? Stewart pegs this to a Supreme Court case Good News Club v Milford Central School, which equated religion with free speech. In so doing, a loop hole was created whereby if a school opens its doors to any outside organization, it must also allow religious organizations the same access.
Stewart cites a number of issues as it relates to this situation, which are too numerous to outline here. However–and this is the most compelling take-away–the entree of religious teaching in public schools hits at the core of the First Amendment. We do not have a state sanctioned religion, and we do not want one in the future. Unfortunately, if groups like this go unchecked, Stewart believes that may very well be where we are heading.