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.