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Are Christian Fundamentalists Teaching Genocide in Our Schools?

Thanks to Good News Clubs, evangelism in schools is already subverting the separation of church and state. Now they're justifying the murder of nonbelievers.

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Asking if Saul would "pass the test" of obedience, the text points to Saul's failure to annihilate every last Amalekite, posing the rhetorical question:

"If you are asked to do something, how much of it do you need to do before you can say, 'I did it!'?"

"If only Saul had been willing to seek God for strength to obey!" the lesson concludes.

A review question in the textbook seeks to drive the point home further:

"How did King Saul only partly obey God when he attacked the Amalekites? (He did not completely destroy as God had commanded, he kept the king and some of the animals alive.)" 

The CEF and the legal advocacy groups that have been responsible for its tremendous success over the past ten years are determined to "Knock down all doors, all the barriers, to all 65,000 public elementary schools in America and take the Gospel to this open mission field now! Not later, now!" in the words of a keynote speaker at the CEF's national convention in 2010. The CEF wants to operate in the public schools, rather than in churches, because they know that young children associate the public schools with authority and are unable to distinguish between activities that take place in a school and those that are sponsored by the school.

In the majority opinion that opened the door to Good News Clubs, supreme court Justice Clarence Thomas reasoned that the activities of the CEF were not really religious, after all. He said that they could be characterized, for legal purposes, "as the teaching of morals and character development from a particular viewpoint."

As Justices Souter and Stevens pointed out in their dissents, however, the claim is preposterous: the CEF plainly aims to teach religious doctrines and conduct services of worship. Thomas's claim is particularly ironic in view of the fact that the CEF makes quite clear its intent to teach that no amount of moral or ethical behavior (pdf) can spare a nonbeliever from an eternity in hell.

Good News Clubs should not be in America's public elementary schools. As I explain in my book, The Good News Club: The Christian Right's Stealth Assault on America's Children, the club exists mainly to give small children the false impression that their public school supports a particular creed. The clubs' presence has produced a paradoxical entanglement of church and state that has ripped apart communities, degraded public education, and undermined religious freedom.

The CEF's new emphasis on the genocide of nonbelievers makes a bad situation worse. Exterminist rhetoric has been on the rise among some segments of the far right, including some religious groups. At what point do we start taking talk of genocide seriously? How would we feel about a nonreligious group that instructs its students that if they should ever receive an order to commit genocide, they should fulfill it to the letter? When does a religious group qualify as a “hate group"? Should schools be involved in choosing which passages of scripture are appropriate in the public school context? But wouldn’t that involve the state in regulating religion? And isn’t that precisely why we used to keep religion out of the public schools in the first place?"

 

Katherine Stewart is the author of "The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children" (PublicAffairs). Visit her Web site or follow her on Twitter @kathsstewart.

 
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