Special Event! DVAU/Philly: Katherine Stewart, author, “The Good News Club” March 29, 2012

The March 2012 meeting of Delaware Valley Americans United chapter’s Philadelphia Committee will take place on Thursday March 29th at 7pm in Room 108 of the Parkway Central Library in Philadelphia PA, at 1901 Vine Street (between 19th and 20th Streets on the Parkway).

“THE GOOD NEWS CLUB: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children” by Katherine Stewart

Katherine Stewart will be on a national tour beginning January 24, 2012, to discuss her new book about the Christian Right’s stealth activity directed at America’s children. She will present her findings to the Delaware Valley Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State at our regular bimonthly program meeting, to be held on Thursday, March 29, at 7pm in the Skyline Room on the 4th floor of the Free Library of Philadelphia, Parkway Central Branch, 19th & Vine Streets, Philadelphia PA.

Stewart’s book, “THE GOOD NEWS CLUB: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children” is a powerful study of religious right activity in public schools.

Michelle Goldberg, author of “Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism and The Means of Reproduction” says: “Even those well-versed in the religious right’s attempt to Christianize American institutions will likely be shocked by The Good News Club. Katherine Stewart’s book about the fundamentalist assault on public education is lucid, alarming, and very important.”

In January, 2009, Katherine Stewart learned that the Santa Barbara public elementary school her children attended had added a Bible study class called the “Good News Club” to its afterschool program. Stewart’s curiosity turned to concern as she discovered that the unstated purpose of the club, which is sponsored by the Child Evangelism Fellowship, is to convey the impression to its young members and their schoolmates that their school favors a particular form of the Christian religion. She soon learned that the Good News Club—a seemingly spontaneous and voluntary after-school program—was in fact part of a larger, calculated initiative by national advocacy groups whose declared aim is to “take back” America’s public schools and repurpose them with a Fundamentalist Christian agenda.

What happened in Stewart’s community is happening nationwide. At the end of 2010 there were nearly 3,500 Good News Clubs operating in public schools across the country, a number that is rapidly increasing—and the Good News Club is just one of many different initiatives with similar goals. What’s more, a landmark 2001 Supreme Court ruling not only permits such an entanglement between schools and religion, it effectively makes it obligatory.

In The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children, Stewart sets out on an investigative journey to uncover the effect the Good News Clubs and similar initiatives have on our schools, children, and communities. She travels to dozens of cities and towns across the country and visits regions famous for their piety, like west Texas and Alabama, as well as places known for the opposite, like Seattle and New York City. Everywhere, she discovers religion-driven programs inserting themselves into public school systems with unprecedented force and unexpected consequences.

Stewart takes us on a chilling narrative in which she:

• Interviews members of a community in Seattle that has been torn apart by the arrival of a Good News Club in their public school

• Goes undercover to sit in on training sessions with instructors for the Good News Club, which arms its local club leaders with “The Plan,” a document hundreds of pages in length that details each step involved in setting up and maintaining a club, including instructions on how to serve legal papers to a resistant superintendent and how to incentivize “unchurched” children to attend meetings

• Visits student athletic programs that have been turned into vehicles for religious recruiting

• Listens to the stories of children who have been subject to proselytizing in classrooms and school yards and speaks with other children who have been instructed to proselytize their friends at school

• Meets with school board officials who are busy rewriting textbook standards to conform to their own religious agendas

• Interviews the people promoting and attending “Bible Study” courses that turn out to be programs of sectarian indoctrination

In The Good News Club, Stewart details how the labor behind the initiatives may be local, but the ideas, the money, and the legal firepower that make them possible are national. The movement is coordinated and given strategic direction by extremely well financed groups whose leaders write the scripts that are followed in classrooms, playgrounds, and courtrooms from New York to California. Some of the most powerful forces in public education today are groups that most people may never have heard of—the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), the Liberty Counsel, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), and other conservative legal groups—that, with combined budgets totaling over $100 million per year, have masterminded the religious assault on public education.

Today, Stewart concludes, there is more religious activity in American public schools than there has been for the past 100 years.  The Christian Right’s strategy to “take back America” is stealthy, calculated, extremely well-financed, and coming soon to a neighborhood near you.

And it has our children, our schools, and our future in its sights: “Knock down all of the doors, all of the barriers, to all of the 65,000-plus elementary schools in the country and take the gospel to this open mission field now! Not later, Now!”—Mathew Staver, President and Founder of Liberty Counsel, at the National Convention of the Child Evangelism Fellowship, 2010

Katherine Stewart is a journalist whose work has appeared in Newsweek International, Marie Claire, The London Times, The Village Voice, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. She has published two novels and was the coauthor of Rent by Jonathan Larsen, the book about the musical of the same name. She and her family recently moved from Santa Barbara, California, to New York City. Visit Katherine Stewart at www.thegoodnewsclub.com and follow her on Twitter at kathsstewart.

Due to library policy, Katherine Stewart’s book will not be available for sale at the DVAU Chapter meeting, but can be preordered through her website: http://www.thegoodnewclub.com/book.

As always, this DVAU meeting is free and open to the public. There is a pay-to-park lot on Callowhill Street behind the library, and this location is accessible via SEPTA.

Philadelphia, PA 19103 – USA

Thursday, March 29 at 7:00 PM

Details: http://www.meetup.com/churchandstate-48/events/38323842/

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