Dangerous Religious Zealots


These boys stopped their play at the school yard to give us a friendly once-over.

While we waited at a restaurant, my friend Ken picked up a copy of a local weekly newspaper. He suddenly exclaimed and pointed to a guest editorial. I skimmed it; no point in getting upset before a meal.

Yes, I wrote a response, which follows. I trust you can determine the flavor of that editorial from my answer. Please let me know if I’m off-base but I felt something had to be done. My response is as follows:

Rev. Rick Davis, Pastor of Salem’s Unitarian Church, began his guest opinion (April 19) on a positive note. He asserted the need to make “a profound difference” with elementary school children. Then the wheels came off as he launched an assault against Good News Clubs and Christian evangelicals in general.

Using inflammatory language, Rev. Davis wrote: “We have no business taking advantage … to evangelize the children … it’s unconstitutional and unethical … covert or overt efforts … problematic … children (are) vulnerable to seductive appeals … doing end runs around parents to entice children into religious community—a fairly widespread practice among Christian evangelicals … church/state boundaries were not observed.”

His use of the widely circulated canard about a so-called wall of separation between religion and government is one of many errors in his argument. That restriction is simply not in the Constitution. Nowhere. He claims religious activities in schools are “unconstitutional.” Wrong again. He even refers to the 2001 U.S. Supreme Court decision: In Good News Clubs v. Milford Central School, the Court ruled that Good News Clubs can meet in public schools in America during after-school hours on the same terms as other community groups.

He suggests that Good News Clubs/Child Evangelism Fellowship is a sneaky organization, indoctrinating small children without their parents’ knowledge. I have personally worked with Good News Clubs; a child may attend only with a parent’s permission.

Unethical? There’s Rev. Davis’ charge that Christian evangelicals commonly use deceptive practices to “entice children” into their groups. That’s a very serious claim of systematic deception. Could we have specifics, please, so we can correct this problem? I assure you, that is not the intent of those who claim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Such activities would tarnish the reputation of his followers and the name of the God who created us.

In one 52-word sentence, Rev. Davis posits that children aren’t mature enough to make informed choices about religious affiliation. The danger that children would believe the school to be endorsing religion is no greater than the danger that they would perceive hostility towards religion if the club were excluded from the school.

Rev. Davis’ warning about “creeping theocracy” is another attempt to scrub all references to God from the public arena. Do we want that? The communists succeeded in the Soviet Union and in China. We know how that turned out, don’t we?

Equally troubling with Rev. Davis’ column is that he gives only two sources for his views—an unnamed elementary school principal and … himself! Well, he is certainly entitled to his own opinion but, to paraphrase Daniel Patrick Moynihan, he is not entitled to his own facts.

Thanks for taking the time to comment on my response.


About samuelehall

A follower of Jesus, husband, father of 3 adult children, writer and learner.
This entry was posted in Feared Classes and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Dangerous Religious Zealots

  1. Jerry says:

    Do you understand how Rev. Davis developed his opinions about Christian evangelism? It might be valuable to sit down with him over coffee and discuss the matter. If you do, please post your results. Others may find it useful.

  2. Jerry says:

    As the saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for, since you may get it.” I doubt if you would want religious beliefs other than your own promulgated or proselytized in the public schools, but maybe I’m wrong. Since we are not a purely Christian nation, but a nation of many faiths, how would you feel about a similar after-school program for American Muslims? How about for other non-Christian faiths? Within a public school system, that could well be the result of your wish. It’s an interesting thought.

    • samuelehall says:

      Thanks, Jerry, maybe others have wondered about this, too. However, I don’t believe Christianity has to depend on deceit or bullying to get its message out.
      I see this as a free speech issue. If the Muslims or Mormons can gin up enough interest to get a group together, let them. The schools–in case you haven’t noticed–are not the privy of evangelical Christians. Other groups–4-H, gardening, quilting, etc.–meet in schools but this reverend wanted to shut down the Christians. He’s the one who wanted to deny free speech.
      The way I look at it, if the message of Jesus Christ cannot compete on a level playing field with other religions, it’s not really of God. Since it is, this reverend wants to shut it down because he opposes God’s message.

  3. Glen Kirkendall says:

    I’m a retired elementary principal and I strongly agree with the comments you made in your response to Rev. Davis. Thank You for saying so well what many of us believe strongly is true!

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