Religious Extremism In Public Schools

Jul 7, 2012

R. Elisabeth Cornwell & Sean Faircloth interview author Katherine Stewart

Update 6/22
RDF presents two interviews with Katherine Stewart, the author of The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children. The first, with Elisabeth Cornwell, is an in depth interview on Katherine Stewart’s investigation into the Child Evangelism Fellowship that started after a Good News Club turned up at her children’s elementary school in Santa Barbara California. The second interview, with Sean Faircloth, takes a closer look at the legal issues that have allowed religion to creep back into our public schools.

The Good News Club: R. Elisabeth Cornwell interviews Katherine Stewart

You Tube Link

Update 6/21

Very good discussion over on Why Evolution is True

Religious Extremism In Public Schools: Sean Faircloth interviews author Katherine Stewart

You Tube link

Written By: R. Elisabeth Cornwell, Sean Faircloth & Katherine Stewart
continue to source article at

52 comments on “Religious Extremism In Public Schools

  • 1
    Neodarwinian says:

     Yes, not so much a monolithic delusion, but many competing delusional ideologies that more than disdain the the ‘ other. ‘

    That is a lookout for us all. One would not want to be collateral damage when these wackaloons go for one another. 

    Report abuse

  • 2
    huzonfurst says:

    This is horrifying, an abomination against the Constitution! And the right wing has the nerve to accuse the left of having activist judges… Once again, I’m glad I’m of an older generation (not as old as Richard’s, thank heaven) and have lived most of my life free of these slimy fundies getting into everyone’s business. Let’s hope there will be enough atheists coming out and able to do something about these bible-thumping traitors to democracy!

    Report abuse

  • 4
    All About Meme says:

    Great job by Sean and kudos to Katherine Stewart for her courageous book.  The energy, intelligence, and communication abilities of Mr. Faircloth seem more impressive every time I see him in action. 
    Atheists not raised in religious homes should keep the following in mind.  When Christian parents hear that a group of non-believers — led by lawyers, no less — is attempting to “ban” the teaching of biblical morality to schoolchildren, their first reaction will be along the lines of “Well then what do these atheists propose we teach them?  That it doesn’t matter if they do bad things?”  A false dichotomy to be sure, but a very common way of thinking for believers.

    One of the problems we have is the fact that there is no quick, ready answer to this naïve question.  If we had our own book of morality, for instance, we could simply refer Christian parents to it with one short and decisive reply — which is essentially the only kind of reply they will listen to and potentially remember.  Launching into a long-winded and multi-faceted philosophical discussion of morality, especially one that could potentially include Nietzsche and Camus, will not persuade any Christian I know — and I know a lot of Christians, having been raised a Catholic.  There is also the fact that religious “philosophers” like Thomas Aquinas, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and even William Lane Craig could be invoked as counters.

    As impossible and simple-minded as it might sound, in order to make headway with many Christian parents, I truly believe atheists may have to come to some sort of consensus on the subject of morality.  We may need to distill our best thinking into one or two books:  books we can refer to immediately in response to the question of what, in the absence of any religious view on morality, should parents be teaching to their children.

    Now that I think about it, I believe the philosopher A.C. Grayling is way ahead of me on this idea.  We are indeed a herd of cats, but to make significant progress rapidly our atheist herd may have to rally behind the power of a good book.

    Report abuse

  • So much about the idea of relaxing and letting internet take care of religion with this kind of super aggressive surreptitious and institutional proselytizing.

    On the defensive again..

    Report abuse

  • Aren’t there “drug-free zone” signs around the periphery of most school properties? Shouldn’t that apply to the Kool-Aid of Religion?


    Report abuse

  • 10
    CdnMacAtheist says:

    Untaxed International Cartels who send their Faith Pushers into primary schools to pass out free gateway drugs must be stopped – some of the multi-billion dollar ‘War On Drugs’ and ‘War On Terror’ budgets would be much better used against these dangerous, mind-altering inflictions upon innocent children.

    Report abuse

  • 11
    Stafford Gordon says:

    Horrifying. Devious. Cruel. Sadistic. Pity the children. If this sort of thing isn’t stopped dead in its tracks quickly it’ll spread it will spread like a virus.

    I was just about to say what a good thing it is that we don’t have this kind of nonsense in the UK, and then remembered that close to where we live there is an Xtian group calling themselves Faith Works, telling children about miracles, virgin births angels and other such drivel. 

    Further, I hear that genital mutilation of girls is being carried out by another kind of religious grouping in the UK, and that although they’re aware of the fact, the authorities are doing nothing about it.

    There seems to be an increase in this kind of madness, which I find disturbing, very disturbing indeed.

    Report abuse

  • Ms. Stewart’s book is outstanding and very eye-opening.  Her case is the reason I don’t feel that recent study results that show a dropping trend in religious young people are going to continue.  The religious right’s attack on children will result in a GROWING trend of religious young people, unless we can figure a way to combat it.

    Report abuse

  • I hate to say it, but I agree with you. I hate to say it because I don’t want to see the atheist movement turning into The Atheist Movement complete with holy book and teachers. However, as I have argued before, for believers, giving up their religion will leave a huge hole in their lives and I regret until we find something to fill it, it will be hard to wean the religious away from their drug of choice.

    Perhaps we should all read AC Grayling’s The Good Book as a start. I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has read it.

    Report abuse

  • 15
    Ignorant Amos says:

    There are Good News Clubs in the local schools…

    Currently in Ireland there are around 215 GNC’s taking place each week reaching more than 4,500 children!

    Report abuse

  • Here is a club that was at my kids’ elementary school in Texas:

    They advertised on the school clubs website (which I got the principal to remove) and they would do exactly as Katherine Stewart said.  They would come in before school officially ended with treats and try to parade the kids in to the club.

    Report abuse

  • 18
    silentbutler says:

    FFFuuuuuuuuuuck! I would flip if this slimy shit snuck into my kids school. The Good News Club? It’s not simply titled “Christian Club” Some ass hole actually want to infiltrate bullshit into some child’s brain. These schools are charged with the safety of the vulnerable sector! There should be serious laws protecting these children! These clubs are platforms for predators and nothing more.
    Discusting, slippery, deceitfull, mother fuckers!

    Report abuse

  • 20
    Hobomidget says:

    I am very glad that the RDF has a lawyer on their side. It is very hard to get through something like this with out some legal fire power of your own.

    Report abuse

  • Although it soon becomes obvious, I think pieces like this should be labelled with their country of origin. When Americans say “public schools” they mean the exact opposite of what we Brits mean. This, by the way, is one of the few occasions when American English is more useful and accurate than British!

    Report abuse

  • 22
    All About Meme says:

    The tragedy in all of this is that good people on both sides truly believe that what they are doing for the children is morally sound and justified.  The Good News clubs are merely symptoms of the greater problem that is unevidenced thinking.

    What a tangled web.  I don’t see clear villains in this; I see only the echoes of centuries of ignorance.  My own dear mother could easily fit into the shoes of a well-meaning Good News “missionary” — and she absolutely loves children, and only wants the best for them.

    It’s heart-wrenching.  My sincere thanks to Elisabeth Cornwell and the RDFRS for having the courage and patience to tackle these sensitive and extremely difficult issues. 

    Report abuse

  • 23
    Sue Blue says:

    I read Katherine Stewart’s book about a month ago and just about blew an artery from rage.  I knew all about the “intelligent design vs. evolution” education wars, which is bad enough, but I had no idea that this insidious kind of religious infiltration of our schools was going on, right under our noses.  Not only are they shoehorning it into our schools through various legal loopholes, they’re incredible pervasive.  I did a little googling and found out that there is even a Good News chapter here in my tiny little town in western Washington state – supposedly one of the most secular and progressive areas in the country.  They’re everywhere, like wildly metastasizing cancer.  
    And, as if this discovery wasn’t bad enough, I found out to my horror that my own mother took part in a similar evangelistic effort in a grade school near her home in Nevada – and didn’t see anything wrong with it!  Though she’s always been a practicing Seventh-Day Adventist, she wasn’t big on proselytizing.  I asked her why she was trying to get religion into schools, and found out that she had swallowed the evangelical position on the “evils” of secular education hook, line, and sinker.  It was like finding out your mother is not only a hooker, but has AIDS and never uses a condom.  Really.  I’m just appalled.

    Report abuse

  • 25
    All About Meme says:

    We need a simpler and more coherent message on morality suitable for children.  Even if we successfully purge public schools of the Good News clubs, there will still be a “morality vacuum” that will be filled by whatever randomly passes in front of the child’s eyes — both at school, in the playground, and at home.
    I like the “Good without God” message we employed on some billboards (or was it buses).  Perhaps some variation on that theme like “Big boys and girls are good without God,” or “Grow up and become good without God,” or even “Be smarter than your parents: be good without God.” There are few things kids like better than being considered smarter than their parents!

    Most adult Christians I’ve interacted with react rather strongly to the “grow up” strategy.  Embarrassment is a powerful emotion, and we ought to use it whenever possible.

    Report abuse

  • 27
    QuestioningKat says:

    It is interesting how the God News Club declined an offer to hold their activities in a large church next door. This is a smoking gun that they are in the schools for recruitment and proselytizing of children. They are using other children like drug runners to spread their philosophy.

    Report abuse

  • These interviews are packed with very good information, and after reading her book, it’s fantastic to listen and watch Ms. Stewart talk about her book and this subject.  But I would like to offer some constructive criticism to RDFRS in the making of these videos (I apologize if I offend anyone involved, I only mean to offer an opinion to make them better).

    If you wish for these videos to present a professional piece of media for the masses (as opposed to regular readers of this site), then there are a couple things that you need to improve on.  First off, Elizabeth Cornwell is as good of an interviewer as she is a speaker, which is to say not very good.  I don’t mean to offend, but she always seems to be grasping for a thought before she speaks and appears disorganized….a stark contrast to Sean Faircloth, who is both an outstanding speaker and an attentive, organized, and quick thinking interviewer.  I’m positive that Ms. Cornwell is a great asset to RFDRS in some way, but it’s definitely not as a public speaker or an interviewer.

    Next, the audio isn’t as bad as some of the audio that has been produced by this site, but the video is not good at all.  The set isn’t inviting or professional looking, the lighting is dreadful (why are we focused on the bland wall behind the speakers instead of the speakers themselves?), and it’s obvious no attempt was made during post-production to clean the video up.  Please understand, I WANT these videos to be top-notch, so I can send them to my friends, etc.  As it is, they’re just too amateurish to be taken seriously by the masses.

    My apologies for any offense….


    Report abuse

  • 29
    N_Ellis says:

    These people (and indeed all organised religions) are snake-oil salesmen who enjoy huge tax exemptions covering most of their pyramid sales scheme.   I honestly don’t know whether I should laugh at their ignorance or cry that they are allowed to get away with it.

    Report abuse

  • I picked this book up at the library and recommend everyone on this site read it.  I thought I had a good grasp on what we were fighting, but I was totally shocked.  Seriously, please read it.

    Report abuse

  • 31
    inleaguewithsatan says:

    The only strong, positive reaction is a reconsideration of how they exert their beliefs on others. You may have received strong reactions but there’s not much point if it’s merely resentment.

    Report abuse

  • 32
    Universeman says:

    I wonder what the reaction would be to a similar Richard Dawkins club for Science and Reason movement? We could teach kids how to think critically and ask hard questions and teach real science, show up with balloons (inflation theory) and healthy snacks (little monkeys love bananas). It breaks my heart when I think about how damaging the concept that a human sacrifice is necessary to be saved from eternal torture is in young minds.

    Report abuse

  • 33
    Universeman says:

    I love her reaction to the mention of the Mormons, “don’t even talk to me about the Mormons” lol.  But I found the part about the deceptive nature of the CEFs program especially disturbing however, this is a very underhanded and manipulative program, these are not good people, at the very least they have a very skewed morality.

    Report abuse

  • 34
    Grania Spingies says:

    I don’t agree at all that these aren’t good enough to be sent to friends. When the content is compelling – which it is – then people do not need everything to be a slickly-produced heavily-edited piece.

    Yes, I do think that the interview was conducted in an awkward corner on uncomfortable chairs. A better place could have been chosen. But on the whole I don’t find that detracts from the fascinating (and horrible) content of the interview.

    Report abuse

  •  Sending these to friends was just one example….my main point was if we’re going to go head to head with a highly organized religious right that produces mass quantity of professional level media, we have to do the same.  Professor Dawkins and Sean Faircloth have both expressed a need for secularism to get organized in order to take on the christian community, I am simply agreeing and pointing out that we should do better.  The content surely is compelling, but that is not going to be enough to sway people who may be on the fence about whether it is good to have religion in schools or not.  If those people are viewing both christian content that is professionally produced and this secular content that is amateurish, which do you think they will lean toward?  My point is very very simple: that professionalism matters, and now that the secular community is adding to its arsenal with amazing professionals like Sean Faircloth, we need to give them the best chance to make a difference by providing them a professional presentation.

    And once again, I only (desperately) want to help, I do not wish to offend.


    Report abuse

  • 37
    Jalice says:

    This is terrible… very sad and a pathetic ploy to recruit children. But why are these people helped by the state? Why do they have a right to form these clubs in Public Schools? 

    Report abuse

  • This is unbelievable, yet what do you expect?
    Even a candidate for presidency, has to say that he/she believes in god.
    We are “all under god” right?
    Look at your paper money, for god’s sake…
    The US, who showed the way with separation of church and state, is becoming MORE religious than ever.
    Can you imagine how many kids are exposed to this BAD news club?

    Report abuse

  • This is a very long video. It reminds me of the Ent rage in Lord Of the Rings.  It starts very slowly, but by the time you are done, you want to wring the necks of these Christians. Religious extremists justify violating the constitutional principle of separation of church and state and trying to impose their sect’s views on everyone in public schools and and through law because they see the vacuum of no particular religion as a particularly hated religion. It has control and they want to wrest it away.

    Religious extremists try to paint secularism as just another competing religion. Religion is asserting things for which you have no evidence. Secularism does not concern itself with such matters. Secularism is about everything but religion. Religious extremists are effectively claiming that not discussing religion in order to preserve the peace is itself a religion, thus they are justified in thrusting their sect forward to replace secularism as the state “religion”.

    It is quite possible to teach ethics in a secular way, but religious extremists don’t care about teaching ethics; they want to instill terror of god Jehovah in children because they consider ethics equivalent to placating the vengeful god Jehovah.

    Report abuse

  • Religious extremists try to paint secularism
    as just another competing religion. Religion is asserting things for
    which you have no evidence. Secularism does not concern itself with such
    matters. Secularism is about everything but religion.
    Religious extremists are effectively claiming that not discussing
    religion in order to preserve the peace is itself a religion, thus they
    are justified in thrusting their sect forward to replace secularism as the state “religion”.

    It is quite possible to teach ethics in a secular way, but religious
    extremists don’t care about teaching ethics; they want to instill terror of
    god Jehovah in children because they consider ethics equivalent
    to placating the vengeful god Jehovah.

    Report abuse

  • Kids need to video what happens and take it home to the parents. Once other parents know what is going on, that would be the end of these people.  Send in some spies

    Report abuse

  • 44
    Barbara Necker says:

    I  like this idea best, but then I have no kids in school.  It just seems to me that if we’re as raucous as the religinuts, we’re as bad as they are & I want us to be more mature, loving & better.

    Report abuse

  • Why am I constantly having to listen to groups at my high school like FCA and Teens for Christ. They not only do extracurricular activities, but they do promotional activities during school and even get out of class for doing some of these things. Meanwhile, there is not much respect for science at all at this school. I hate living in the bible belt.

    Report abuse

  • 46
    Old_Warhorse says:

    My gratitude to Ms. Katherine Stewart for writing her book, which I will be purchasing and sharing, and making us all aware of what is going on in our public schools!  I also will be sharing this page with everyone I know to spread the word and at least, hopefully, get parents to start disallowing their children to participate in these evangelical scams.

    However, I also ask that Ms. Stewart, and her interviewers, do their best to remove the words and phrases “uh”, “um”, “and uh”, “and um”, “you know, uh”, etc., from their vocabularies.  I know Ms. Stewart is not a professional public speaker and she does an incredibly good job at getting her point and information across despite that, but the constant interjection of these speech crutches becomes extremely distracting and quite annoying after just a few moments.  Seriously.  No offense meant, but it is something that should be considered before further interviews, public speaking engagements and possible televised appearances.

    *ducking to avoid thrown objects*  Someone has to say it, so it may as well be me.

    Report abuse

  • 47
    Sara James says:

    Reminds me of Mark Twain “They said there witches and then they said there are no witches and never were. One doesnot know whether to laugh or cry!”

    Report abuse

  • 49
    glorybe says:

              The speaker in the video seems to constantly imply that controversy is a negative. The very idea of living in a melting pot is that every last little lobster feels the boiling water. Controversy is the yeast of debate and progress.
              As an after school activity a church renting space is no different than anyone else renting a space. The schools offer spaces for rent.
              Yes, intense social pressure  is part of the normal tools of spreading any belief system whether it is the nonsense of Ayn Rand or the wisdom of the Buddha. Yes, childrens’ behavior can and will be altered by exposure to different belief systems. A child just might come home and tell mommie that God is against getting drunk every afternoon. Oh ! the horror! You know there are homes where drinking is a core family value.

    Report abuse

  • 52
    BenJamin10908080 says:

    Why does it not surprise me that CEF’s international headquarters is in Missouri. It can be very painful sharing a border with that state, not that the grass is much greener on this side. I’ll have to be on the lookout for these clubs and their twisted curriculum.    

    Report abuse

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.