By Al Stefanelli
“Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through. Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind” – Ray Charles
This year, in my capacity as Georgia State Director for American Atheists, Inc, I will bring new fights against those who would not only abrogate the First Amendment, but do so to the detriment of our children. There are two organizations that I will be focusing on this year, because they have chosen our public schools as their venue for proselytism, targeting the impressionable minds of our children and doing so, quite often, without the knowledge of their parents. Make no mistake, these will be difficult fights, as these organizations are large, well-funded and very influential in our schools. The fight will be worth it, though, because what is at stake is our future.
Here are two groups I will be targeting this year:
Child Evangelism Fellowship
This is a huge organization with tentacles in many different areas. The specific area I will be targeting is called “The Good News Club,” which works within the public school system, using teachers as part of their propaganda. From their website:
“Good News Club® is a ministry of Child Evangelism Fellowship® in which trained teachers meet with groups of children in schools, homes, community centers, churches, apartment complexes, just about anywhere the children can easily and safely meet. Each week the teacher presents an exciting Bible lesson using colorful materials from CEF Press. This action-packed time also includes songs, Scripture memory, a missions story and review games or other activities focused on the lesson’s theme.
As with all CEF ministries, the purpose of Good News Club is to evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and establish (disciple) them in the Word of God and in a local church for Christian living.”
You may be asking yourself how the hell can this be legal. Well, right now it is. According to the Supreme Court,
“It is legal to allow Good News Club to meet in school facilities. On June 11, 2001, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that Child Evangelism Fellowship could have access to public school facilities to conduct Good News Clubs. The decision stated that Bible clubs such as the Good News Club must be given the same access to school facilities accorded any other non-school-related outside group.”
But Justice David Souter disagrees, and wrote,
“It is beyond question that Good News intends to use the public school premises not for the mere discussion of a subject from a particular, Christian point of view, ‘but for an evangelical service of worship calling children to commit themselves in an act of Christian conversion.”
Not everyone agrees with the SCOTUS ruling on this, and neither do I. Another group I will be tackling is,
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes
This is another group that works within the confines of the public schools, and many of you who have children in high school are familiar with their magazines, which are distributed on school grounds. From their website:
“The Fellowship of Christian Athletes is touching millions of lives… one heart at a time. Since 1954, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes has been challenging coaches and athletes on the professional, college, high school, junior high and youth levels to use the powerful medium of athletics to impact the world for Jesus Christ. FCA is the largest Christian sports organization in America. FCA focuses on serving local communities by equipping, empowering and encouraging people to make a difference for Christ.
(Their vision is) To see the world impacted for Jesus Christ through the influence of athletes and coaches.
(Their mission is) To present to athletes and coaches and all whom they influence the challenge and adventure of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, serving Him in their relationships and in the fellowship of the church.”
I will also be taking on First Amendment issues with individual school boards within the state of Georgia whenever the church oversteps its bounds and infiltrates the minds of our children by doing the work of the church on school grounds. The US Constitution guarantees freedom of religion as well as freedom from religion, and that includes preaching to a captive audience.
I will also be taking on Governor Deal and the Georgia Supreme Court on the “In God We Trust” license plate sticker issue. The state has decided since the SCOTUS has ruled on the “In God We Trust” motto that it leaves open the allowance for the state to plaster this insulting slogan everywhere they can. The problem is that there are many citizens who do not trust in a god, and forcing them to pay money to not have this sticker on their car is not only a violation of the First Amendment, but it’s also extortion.
I will be taking on Governor Deal and the Georgia Supreme Court on issues surrounding the inclusion of the Ten Commandments in official state documents and displays. I will also be addressing individual city and town governments in their use of religious invocations in municipal meetings throughout the state.
It’s Time To Step It Up…
Comments about herding cats notwithstanding, we need to get more involved in what is being inflicted upon our children. It’s wonderful to sit at our computers and voice our disdain at the religious right’s unceasing efforts to Theocratize our country and put prayer back in the schools and return to the absolute lie of Creationism in our science curriculum. I do it all the time. It is a great outlet and keeps us in touch with what is going on in the world. But that’s the problem. It’s going on in the world…
The Christian Church may be a disorganized gaggle of thousands of different denominations, but the religious right is well-organized, well funded and they are out there making a difference, winning local elections, getting on school boards and are very influential in local politics. This is a strategy that they have been using for over fifty years and they are very good at it.
We need to get in the trenches and fight fire with fire. We need to run for local offices, get on school boards and start becoming influential ourselves in our cities and towns. If we don’t, we are going to end up getting steamrolled into irrelevancy. We have momentum, and we need to carry it through.
I will be working with local Freethought groups on some of these issues and will, of course, keep you posted…