It’s time to go to school -Religious Group Targets Salem Students


Fundamentalist Christian group the Good News Club has been using Salem-Keizer elementary schools as the basis for its outreach to community school children. Constitutional scholars as well as local citizens are challenging the practice.
Salem father John E. Baker says, “Having public school employees hand out invitational fliers that promote a certain religion clearly violates the important separation of church and state that we’re supposed to enjoy in this country.”

Salem Weekly’s initial February 9, 2012 article about the Good News Club was prompted by the frustration of a local mother, Lisa Godwin, at having fliers advertising the Club handed to her daughter directly by her teacher. Ms. Godwin had complained multiple times to the district that the involvement of school personnel gave the impression the school sanctioned the club.

Good News Clubs operate in the United States under the umbrella of the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), the largest children’s ministry in the world. The club’s goal is to convert children to thier form of Christianity with an entirely literal interpretation of the Bible. It primarily uses public elementary school facilities to reach children and is currently involved in 11 of our district’s schools.

Holding  more than 3400 meetings per week in schools across the nation, the Good News Club has the stated goal of being present in “each of the 43 public elementary schools in the Salem-Keizer School District.”  (1)

“The doors of the public schools are wide open to us to teach the Gospel,” says the local site.

Instructors are trained to convert young people.  CEF teaches trianing courses to make their teaching more effective, including one that shows “both the necessity and principle of giving an invitation” (to “Receive the Savior”) in five steps. CEF says that of the 10 million children it approached last year, over 3.3 million converted “after speaking to a counselor who had been trained in how to lead a child to Christ.” (2)

The child-centered focus of CEF was determined by a 1992 study by Christian missionary Dr. Bryant Myers who found that “in the United States nearly 85% of the people who make a decision for Christ do so between the ages of 4 and 14.” CEF calls this group “receptive to the gospel and ‘ripe for harvest.’” (2)

This formative, impressionable age group is commonly referred to on evangelical sites as “The 4/14 Window,” and its importance is stressed in Christian proselytizing literature and abundant seminars that strategize approaches to “the 4/14 Generation.” It is also the age that some nations (Sweden and Norway, among others) forbid advertising to children, citing that people so young lack the critical sense to sort fact from fiction.

Bruce Adams, retired teacher of Beaverton School District, was once president of the Oregon Education Association (1993-97) and is now president of the Columbia chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Alarming to Adams and Baker is the focus on a literal interpretation of the Bible, which both men see as having serious consequences.

Good News teachers are required to sign the CEF’s Statement of Faith before going into the field.

First among the fourteen “non-negotiable and historic beliefs” they must agree to is “That All Scripture is given by the inspiration of God, by which we understand the whole book called THE BIBLE; that it is inerrant in the original writing and that its teaching and authority are absolute, supreme and final.”

The document also states: “In the evangelization of the world, that the supreme mission of the people of God in this age is to preach the Gospel to every creature. That special emphasis should be placed on the evangelization of children.”
Adams says, “Good News ‘Clubs’ are not clubs in the usual sense. They are led by adults who rent space in public schools. Their goal is to spread their brand of Christianity.”

Baker notes, “a literal reading of the Bible as the ‘absolute authority’ justifies, among many such acts, killing gay people (in Leviticus 20:13), killing any woman not a virgin on her wedding night (in Deuteronomy 22:23-24) and stoning to death any man who breaks the Sabbath (Numbers 15:32-56). These are not consistent with my understanding of the U.S. Constitution, or what I want for my children.”

The passages Baker references and many other Biblical teachings are at odds with the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Also, because Good News instructors are required to vow literal belief in the Bible, legal observers argue that the club supports beliefs that may be contrary to Salem-Keizer School District’s injunction against “materials which promote discrimination, harassment, prejudice or racism.”  (3)

One concern is the direction in the Salem-Keizer School District policy on Dissemination or Display of Materials which allows “no materials which promote discrimination, harassment (or) prejudice.” If Good News teachers teach the absolute truth of the Bible, they appear to endorse the atrocities to which Baker refers.
The legality of the Good News Club’s use of public schools to conduct religious classes was established by a 2001 Supreme Court decision, Good News Clubs vs. Milford Central School, written by Justice Clarence Thomas.

However, three justices dissented. Further, the case didn’t deal with the dissemination of religious information just the holding of Good News classes.
Since our February 9th story about mother Lisa Godwin, she say’s Salem-Keizer School District has apologized to her and told her that teachers would no longer disseminate religious flyers directly.

However, in the same time period, the District told Salem Weekly that it had no specific policy on the matter and that the handling of materials was up to each school’s principal. Rules concerning “the dissemination or display” of nonschool materials show that Good News flyers can still be passed out by Salem-Keizer elementary schools without violating policy. The latest codes, effective July 1, 2012, state that nonschool material of any kind may be distributed if the principal and superintendent have approved it. (3)

Two recent Oregon examples challenge the Supreme Court’s majority decision that Good News Clubs would not be confused with public schools. One can be found in a recent edition of the “This Week” Florence (Oregon) School District newsletter. That issue celebrated an event where, 200 “faith-based” volunteers, including numerous members of the local Good News Club, were honored on school property at a school function. Each volunteer was praised by a school principal.  (6)

In the online newsletter of the Central Point School District near Medford, the Good News Club meetings are announced on the same page as Little League tryouts and a third-grade play. (7)

Since the Supreme Court decision of 2001 that Good News was welcome in public schools, at least one other court has shown itself skeptical.  In 2011, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals found an entirely different stance.

“When worship services are performed in a place, the nature of the site changes. The site is no longer simply a room in a school being used temporarily for some activity. The church has made the school the place for the performance of its rites, and might well appear to have established itself there. The place has, at least for a time, become the church.”  (8)


(1)  Good News Club Oregon site, link to Capital District, link to Vision 45
(2)  Child Evangelism Fellowship site
(3)  Holy Bible
(4)  Good News Clubs vs. Milford Central School
(5)  Document # COM – A002, 2.d., Salem-Keiser School District, 1/5/12
(6)  Florence School District, “This Week” April 18, 2011
(8)  Bronx Household of Faith vs. Board of Education of the City of New York

9 thoughts on “It’s time to go to school -Religious Group Targets Salem Students”

  1. I agree !00%
    School children have much more important things to learn.
    For example: how to fit a condom on a cucumber.
    How to kill as many people as possible on a video game.
    Homosexual lifestyle is preferred to the outdated “alternitive” lifestyles.
    Yes, God is dead in America.
    Anyone that believes otherwise can go straight to hell and take those snot-nose kids with them!

  2. I’m writing in response to a recent article titled ‘It’s time to go to school’ about the Good News Club. I have no association with the Good News Club, nor do I know any of their members. However, the views of Bible believing Christians are hardly the problem, as portrayed in the piece.

    More than 2 billion people on this planet call themselves Christian and a good number of them embrace the Bible as true. While reading the article, I was surprised at the attack on freedom of religion, speech and association. These freedoms are either guaranteed in documents written by our country’s founders or understood to be key principles of American society.

    Speaking of founders, many of our hospitals, schools and colleges were founded by Bible believing Christians. This includes Willamette University, founded by the Reverend Jason Lee. Also consider that groups like the Salvation Army and Union Gospel Mission are among the most outstanding organizations in our community, and both are supported by many Bible-believing members.

    Regarding the writer’s concern for children learning about God, the Bible is clear about the importance of outreach to kids. Proverbs 22:6 says ‘Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.’ Luke 18:16 says ‘But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.'”

    One need only look at the recent past to see what a world view without God can bring, as the 20th century was among the bloodiest in history. However, this carnage was not at the hands of Bible believing Christians, but the decidedly non-Christian practices of people Lenin, Mao, Hitler and Stalin. This includes Mao’s approximately 70 million dead, Hitler’s approximately 11 million murders and Stalin’s purges that killed approximately 61 million human beings. From 1900-1987 some have estimated that over 250 million people were murdered by atheism’s grasp for domination. The sad truth is that eliminating Bible believing faith from the public square has resulted in a God vacuum where men think they are gods.

    I’m not suggesting that the state provide students with religious instruction. But concern over the rights of students to learn about God’s Word is hardly our society’s fundamental problem. In fact, it’s virtually the opposite. There is much to benefit those who are interested in faith-based teachings.

    When was the last time you shuddered with fear while walking past a church youth group event? However, this is not always the case with our culture at large. The article’s subtitle ‘Religious Group Targets Salem Students’ should also not go without a response, for it is a distinctly non-religious secular culture that seems all too eager to step in and provide youth with less than healthy alternatives at nearly every turn. So next time, it might be more appropriate to consider writing an article subtitled ‘Hollywood and corporate media target Salem students with denigrating music, movies and video games, all largely fixated on death, decadence and drugs.’

    Providing children with the encouraging alternative of a faith-based worldview has never been more important. Thank you for reading my letter.

    1. The response that you have provided shows that you are an articulate christian, however it also shows that you are thinking in the mindset of the “majority” and that you are not giving consideration to the vast group of people that do not share your belief. 2.1 billion people on this planet are of the Islamic faith as well, I wonder if you would be so passively accepting of Islamic material being passed out by teachers to your children.

      Do not try to tell me that one faith is any more violent in it’s letter or deed than the other. I don’t think the many atrocities caused by Christian need be brought up, please recall that Hitler himself was Catholic.

      Teaching your children about your god is important to You.
      It is very important to Me that as impressionable young children my own kids are protected from the negative byproducts of religion. As a mother I think I am qualified in this respect to decide what is best for my family, whether or not you feel it is best for yours.

      The question is not about freedom of speech, but of freedom of choice. I do not Have to be a Christian and my children should not be made to feel like outcasts in their publicly owned school because of proselytizing. They will face enough challenges in life as it is.

      I agree with your point that there are other destructive influences that target our children on a daily basis, but I would like to point out that our fore fathers were wise enough to realize that we should not allow church and state to exist as one. I am agnostic and It pains me that congress found it so vital to re-affirm the country’s motto as “In God We Trust” in 2006 only to re-re-affirm the very same thing in 2011. Talk about wasting time on unimportant issues.

      If you would like to influence children with faith based teachings lets go with something less bloody than the bible. Let’s encourage our children in the teachings of the Buddah, or the Tao Te Ching. Both of these encourage a belief in goodness and hold great respect to life, without once saying that those who are different than you (such as gays, mixed race individuals, those of other religions ie: wiccans) should not be “suffered to live”.

  3. This is ridiculous. Anyone preaching any religion at a public school should be put in jail. Keep your christian bullshit out of my innocent child’s head until he is old enough to know better than to fall for such fantasies.

  4. There is no god, stop pushing false beliefs on children that are not mature enough to defend themselves.

  5. There seem to be two issues raised in the objections by Scott and Brandon toward Good News Clubs held weekly on Salem-Keizer school property. One is the dissemination of GNC information by school employees. Although each school determines how they want to handle dissemination, this can easily be resolved by having GNC staff hand out flyers to students at the beginning of the school year. Federal law says GNC can meet in schools, so that fact cannot be disputed. The second issue, and one that seems most important to those objecting, is what is being taught to children during the one hour club. By the way, a parent or guardian must authorize, in writing, their child’s participation.

    Nearly all religions use the Ten Commandments as a part of basic doctrine. Simple rules, nothing too difficult to understand, nothing to difficult to comply with. These are in fact, what generally keeps civilization civil. I shudder to think what the world, even the United States of America, would be like without laws of the land which, if you think about it, stem from the tenet of the Ten Commandments. I was raised to not lie, cheat, steal, murder, covet, etc.. I believe non-Christians are taught these Christian disciplines and teach their children in these ways too. Good News Club, through Bible stories, games and music, teach children about kindness, love, sharing, patience, strength, goal setting and many attributes that embody Christ’s goodness…yes, found in God’s Word-The Bible. We are a nation built upon Christian beliefs. If you call yourself a Christian (and millions do), you believe in Christ Jesus and live your life as close to His principles as humanly possible. I would rather see children taught Christian values than allow children to ‘find’ his or her own way when that child is old enough to figure it out. If anyone believes they can ‘go it alone’ through life, my thoughts and prayers are with you.

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