The Child Evangelism Fellowship's (CEF) Good News Club has planned to evangelize children at pools, public parks and other locations this summer in Portland, Oregon.
However, the group Protect Portland Children is not happy about the CEF's summer mission program, and is warning parents with a full-page ad in a local newspaper.
"They pretend to be a mainstream Christian Bible study when in fact they're a very old school fundamentalist sect," Kaye Schmitt, an organizer with Protect Portland Children, told the Associated Press.
However, the CEF counters that Protect Portland Children is run by atheists who oppose Christians.
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"Children are easy to manipulate, we all know that," CEF's vice president Moises Esteves said. "We don't use any of the schemes and high-pressure tactics that we're accused of. Nothing could be further from the truth.
"We do teach that children are sinners, but we're not nasty about it," Esteves added. "If we were nasty about it, the kids wouldn't come back."
According to the Child Evangelism Fellowship website:
The most spiritually productive harvest field anywhere is among the children. Statistics show that the great majority of people who accept Christ do so between the ages of four and fourteen - when they are children.
The CEF won a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court case that ruled they could hold meetings on school grounds, where the CEF normally asks permission first.
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However, the CEF doesn't need permission to evangelize in public areas such as parks, which fall under the First Amendment.
Katherine Stewart, author of "The Good News Club: The Christian Right's Stealth Assault on America's Children," recently told OregonLive.com via email: "The whole purpose of the Good News Club is to convert children to their form of the Christian religion.
"They do that, in part, by telling children, over and over, that they will 'be separated from God forever' – that they will go to hell, 'a very dark place' -- if they don't believe in the religion of the Good News Club. If that's not a reprimand, I don't know what is."
Christian theologian John MacArthur notes there are no verses in the Bible in which babies or young children go to hell, but MacArthur, like many mainstream theologians, believes there is an age of accountability at around 12 years old.