Good News Club Discovers It’s Harder to Intimidate Adults than Children

[Originally published at Divided Under God on March 27, 2015]

Image courtesy
If you’ve heard of the Good News Club, a fundamentalist Christian evangelical club for elementary school kids, you’re most likely securely planted on one side of the fence or the other. You either think the GNC is great for kids, or you realize its tactics are vile and damaging to the self-esteem of children and want them removed from public schools.

Public schools you say? That’s right. In 2001, Child Evangelism Fellowship, the parent company of the GNC, won a Supreme Court case allowing them to operate their Christian clubs in public schools, citing free speech and equal access to public facilities.
If you haven’t heard of the Good News Club, I encourage you to read Katherine Stewart’s exposé called The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children. Alternatively, you can find quite a few videos on YouTube that highlight their psychologically abusive tactics.

One such GNC operates in my hometown of Churchville, NY — a quiet, mostly conservative (hence the name) village in upstate NY, consisting of chunks of suburban housing surrounded by seemingly endless cornstalks. When a fellow local activist, Dan Courtney, caught wind of the GNC and discovered there was a local group operating, he pulled a few of us together to brainstorm over what we could do to protect the children of our community from this organization that tells young children they’re inherent sinners worthy of death. Not exactly a self-esteem builder.

About a year later, we founded Young Skeptics, an after-school program for elementary school kids that focuses on critical thinking, discovery, the scientific method, and promoting self worth through empowerment. (Full disclosure, I now serve as its Communications Director, while Dan is the Executive Director.)

We had created an alternative club for kids to attend where they could discover and learn in a fun, engaging way without having dogma crammed down their throats (in GNC meetings, kids are forced to memorize Bible passages and not encouraged to ask questions about what they’re learning). But we didn’t stop there. What about the kids who are still attending GNC meetings — whose parents may not be aware of the group’s tactics? Since the GNC presents themselves to parents as a group for kids to get together and have fun, games, and Bible lessons (sounds pretty benign, right?), we figure most parents aren’t aware of what’s really happening. As community residents and parents, we wanted to protect these trusting, impressionable children.

In the meantime, Dan had contacted the school superintendent and expresses our concerns. He noted that the conduct of the GNC is intimidating to children, which was a violation of the district’s facilities use policy. The superintendent contacted the local GNC leaders who replied, stating that they are not using the CEF’s GNC curriculum, despite the requirement of the CEF that they must use it. This told us two things. One, that the local leaders recognized the CEF curriculum was over the top and bad for kids, and two, the local group was going rogue in the eyes of the CEF. We wanted to verify this for ourselves, and since all meetings had the district requirement that they be open to the public, we decided to attend and observe.

In short, the GNC did not take kindly to our presence. In the video below, Dan outlines his (and our) experience with the GNC and how they attempted to intimidate us, make us feel unwelcome, and in some cases, prohibited us from attending. But since we knew the policies and had done our due diligence, we did not back down. Despite the GNC’s repeated attempts to intimidate us, we continue to attend and observe. It’s our assumption that our attendance has forced them to adjust their language and avoid certain messaging, so we believe our presence is working.

As Dan mentions in his video, the GNC has attempted the following methods of intimidation and exclusion:

Anti-Gay Washington Florist Fined For Discrimination

Anti-Gay Washington Florist Fined For Discrimination
When she refused service to a gay customer due solely to his sexual orientation neatly two years ago, Barronelle Stutzman (owner of Arlene's Flowers in Washington) probably never imagined she'd be at the center of one of the largest and newest LGBT civil rights battles to date. Stutzman indeed discriminated (as determined by a court of law) when she refused to sell flowers to a gay man for his wedding and now faces a $1,000 fine and order from the state to cease and desist any further discrimination against the LGBT community.

In the ruling where she was fined, Judge Alexander Ekstrom ordered Stutzman to offer the same products to LGBT individuals and couples she would to anyone else “including but not limited to goods, merchandise, and services for weddings & commitment ceremonies.”
The $1,000 fine (plus $1 for court costs) follows a settlement offer issued last month by State Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Ferguson's $2,000 settlement offer was summarily dismissed by Stutzman as she defiantly proclaimed that she would continue discriminating against the entire LGBT community. "I can’t leave my relationship at the door of the Church. Christ is my life," Stutzman said in a speech to the National Religious Broadcasters International Christian Media Convention in Tennessee. "God will not be mocked."
In an interview with Fox News, Stutzman added a layer or martyrdom on her Christian persecution complex. "They're talking about bullying me into doing something that is against my faith. They can't do that," she told Shannon Bream on Fox News. "They can get rid of me but they can't get rid of God." 
The $1,000 fine may not be the end of the matter. The fine only represents the state's penalty for violating the law; the victims of her crime (Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed) may still yet receive damages now that the state has determined she violated the law and discriminated against them.
Continuing to use Stutzman as a prop in their ongoing battle against the LGBT community, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorney Kristen Waggoner released a statement belaboring a battle that Stutzman already lost and potentially costing her even more money:
“The ACLU, on behalf of the same-sex couple also suing Barronelle, has asked the court to award them penalties, fees, and costs, which will financially devastate Barronelle’s business and personal assets – including taking this 70-year old grandmother’s retirement and personal savings,” Waggoner claimed. “The message sent by the attorney general and the ACLU to the people of Washington is quite clear: surrender your religious liberty and free speech rights, or face personal and professional ruin.”
ADF seems adamant in their effort to intentionally misconstrue both the law and the literal words of the judge that used that law to find Stutzman in violation thereof.
The judge's decision against Stutzman cited the well known 1982 United States v. Lee decision that states in part,
“When followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes which are binding on others in that activity. Granting an exemption… operates to impose [the follower’s] religious faith on the [person sought to be protected by the law.]”
In layman's terms, this means that a person may not use their faith in the public sphere to deprive another person of their rights.  

About Tim Peacock:

For virtually his entire life, Tim has been writing. Over the years he's dabbled in mainstream fiction, science fiction, dystopian fiction, and personal essays. The one consistent thread through his entire writing career has been blogging - he's been doing it since 1997 in one form or another. In addition to writing Tim has frequently worked and volunteered as a civil rights advocate including on campus LGBT advocacy as well as interning with the Colorado Civil Rights Division.

You can find Tim online at his personal website. He additionally guest contributes at Blue Nation Review. You can find him on LinkedIn as well as on Twitter as @timsimms

My Idea for the LGBT Response to the Indiana (and any other state’s) Religious Freedom Bill

[Originally posted at Scott's blog on March 29, 2015]

My Idea for the LGBT Response to the Indiana (and any other state’s) Religious Freedom Bill
Fair warning dear readers, this post will be a little tongue in cheek, but then again…….maybe not. Regular readers know from my last two posts that I really don’t find boycotts effective, and I have been slowly converted into Agnostic/Atheism by Conservative Christians. However, with the recent passage of the so-called “Religious Freedom Law,” in my neighboring state, Indiana, I have come to a revelation. It’s time for the LGBT Community to create our own religion. 

For the ten people on holiday in the wilds of Alaska who might not know, the “Religious Freedom Bill,” was drafted by the Republican majority Statehouse in Indiana, as a version of the Federal law of the same name but with much different intentions. It basically allows public business owners to refuse service to anyone based on their religious beliefs. Republican Governor Mike Pence, a potential Presidential candidate, signed the bill into law last week saying at the time of signing that the bill in no way allows discrimination. Of course it does, and by the Governor’s appearance on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, he flat out refused to answer the question that it does not discriminate against the LGBT Community, and even added that he would never make the Community a protected class, exempted from such legislation as many other States have done. 

Commendably, many national businesses and celebrities have come out against the law with some boycotting expansion and/or holding events in the Hoosier State. Angie’s List, Sales Force, GenCon, Yelp, the NCAA, Audra McDonald, Ashton Kutcher, Charles Barkley, and more have voiced their disappointment in the new law. As much as the law was intended to discriminate against the LGBT Community amid all the growing support for same-sex marriage and equal rights, the law lets anyone discriminate based on any religious beliefs. Realistically, a Muslim shop owner can refuse service to women because they refuse to wear a burka or some type of head covering. 

Now back to forming our own LGBT Community religion. I looked it up. It doesn’t really take much to become ordained and to start your own ministry. An online blessing and certification along with a quick charter and tax paperwork filed and viola!, you are an official religion that has all the same rights and grievances afforded everyone else in Indiana’s new law. 

Let’s start with a name and a Diety to worship. Personally, I think we should call the religion, “Disciples of Star Fleet,” and worship to our God, Takei. He will be a benevolent God, teaching in the ways of acceptance and non-discrimination. I think we should take the shooting star logo from, NBC’s, “The More You Know,” campaign, layering it above the Starfleet symbol. With the simple prime directive, ummm, I mean religious purpose statement of, “Accepting everyone from all the colors of the rainbow,” we will have just cause to not serve anyone who does not believe as we do. 

Not to stereotype, (okay, just a little), what if our first “recruitment” drive to our religion was aimed at all the hair stylists of Indiana. Most good hair stylists I know are either in our Community, or are strong allies of it. Could you imagine what would happen if the, “bless your heart, little old blue haired ladies,” could not get their regular weekly or monthly stylings, and could be refused service without promising to accept the LGBT Community? Heck, just the 15 Republican women in the Indiana State Legislature alone, (thank you google), would never vote for another discrimination bill. 

What if just ten percent of the star forwards of all of Indiana’s high school, college, and professional basketball teams came out as gay and refused to play against the religious private schools, on our their religious grounds? (Basketball is big in Indiana. Didn’t you see the movie, “Hoosiers,” with Gene Hackman? Shame on you!) Or what if one of our stars of stage, screen, or behind the cameras, like Ryan Murphy, Jeremy Jordan, Mike Epps, Vivica A. Fox, and Brendan Frasier, decided you could not see their movie, play or television show because you support LGBT discrimination? 

What if our religion really took one of the Bible verses to heart and agreed that the most important commandment is to, “Love one another as I so love you,” with the caveat that it’s only if you aren’t straight. Wouldn’t that be a kick in the head to the Christian Right? So in all silliness/seriousness, who wants to become ordained with me in the Disciples of Star Fleet? Let’s go out and spread the good word in Indiana, and maybe in Arizona and Georgia soon, that our LGBT Community has a religion as well, and some of you all that discriminate against us, may find the shoe on the other foot sometime soon. 

Purporting to run a business for the general public should mean the ENTIRE public. There should not be a law that allows discrimination based on your religious beliefs to just one segment of the population. It has been tried before with women, black people, Irish people and more, but it just doesn’t stand up. Not only is it not good for business, it’s not good for your so-called spiritual health. As I kneel down, all I am asking is that the great and mighty Takei, look down upon our people, and share his enlightened wisdom.

About Scott Fullerton:

Scott Fullerton is a Movie/TV/Theatre Junkie #TeamGay #Writer #Foodie and #Fanboy living in Northeast Ohio. His thoughts usually run a little Left of Straight. 

Yo can find him on Twitter @LeftofStr8,  Instagram at LeftofStr8, and Facebook at Leftof Straight. You can also follow his blog.

IN Gov Pence Wants (Then Refuses) to Clarify SB101's Discriminatory Intentions

IN Gov Pence Wants (Then Refuses) to Clarify SB101's Discriminatory Intentions
In the ongoing saga proceeding the signing of Indiana SB-101 (the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, also known more frequently as the state's 'License to Discriminate' bill), Governor Mike Pence took to media arguing that the intentions behind SB-101 were being misconstrued by journalists and press and that the law really wasn't discriminatory. He even went so far as to promise that a piece of legislation would be introduced in the Indiana Legislature this week to 'clarify' the contentious law. When given an opportunity to answer a simple question that would once and for all dispel any myth that the law was specifically enacted to target LGBT people, however, Pence refused to comment with a direct answer.

While speaking with George Stephanopoulos on This Week With George Stephanopoulos, Pence had the opportunity not only to save his state millions of dollars in tourism and corporate business, but also to save face and the reputation of "Hoosier Hospitality." Alas, he once again stuck to his guns and cost his state yet another chance at redeeming themselves in the world's eyes.

“I understand that there’s been a tremendous amount of misinformation and misunderstanding around this bill, and I’m just determined...and I appreciate the time on your program. I’m just determined to clarify this,” Governor Pence told Stephanopolous.

“So this is a yes or no question,” Stephanopolous plainly stated. “Is Advance America right when they say a florist in Indiana can now refuse to serve a gay couple without fear of punishment?” 

The question presents a simple yes-no question that strikes at the heart of SB-101 and why 3,000 people showed up at the Indiana State House on Saturday (with only two days notice) to protest the new law. One would think Pence would accept the olive branch being offered.

Instead, Pence continued using his canned response claiming the legislation is only meant to "empower" those with sincerely-held religious beliefs. No yes or no response - just obfuscation.

Acting like a true journalist, Stephanopolous didn't let Pence off the hook that easy. He spent the better part of the rest of the interview asking the same question again trying to get a yes or no answer. “And so yes or no, if a florist in Indiana refuses to serve a gay couple at their wedding, is that legal now in Indiana?” Stephanopolous asked. “Yes or no?”

Clearly irritated over being forced to clarify the primary complaint behind the law, Pence offered another canned, accusatory response. “This is where this debate has gone, with misinformation. There’s been shameless rhetoric about my state and about this law and about its intention all over the Internet. People are trying to make it about one particular issue. And now you’re doing that, as well.”

Still awaiting a yes or no answer, Stephanopolous added, “That was one of our supporters who was talking about the bill right there. It said it would protect a Christian florist who — against any kind of punishment. Is that true or not?”

“George, look, the issue here is, you know, is tolerance a two way street or not?” Pence responded. “I mean, you know, there’s a lot of talk about tolerance in this country today having to do with people on the left. But here Indiana, steps forward to protect the constitutional rights and privileges of freedom of religion for people of faith and families of faith in our state and this avalanche of intolerance that’s been poured on our state is just outrageous.”

Stephanopolous  (once again) rephrased the question. “So when you say tolerance is a two way street, does that mean that Christians who want to refuse service or people of any other faith who want to refuse service to gays and lesbians, that it’s now legal in the state of Indiana?”

And once again, the man who was so hell-bent on "clarifying" SB-101 responded, “I’m telling you, George, it is a red herring and I think it’s deeply troubling to millions of Americans and, frankly, people all across the state of Indiana who feel troubled about government overreach.”

Perhaps the most revealing portion of the interview was where Pence outright admitted his clarification had nothing to do with protecting LGBT people from codified discrimination.

“A final question, a final yes or no question, Governor,” Stephanopolous said. “Do you think it should be legal in the state of Indiana to discriminate against gays or lesbians?” Knowing Pence would attempt to pivot away from yet another simple question, he added, “It’s a yes or no question."

“Hoosiers don’t believe in discrimination,” Pence argued. “I mean this is not about discrimination. This is about protecting the religious liberty of every Hoosier of every faith.”

Pence concluded, “We’re going to continue to explain it to people that don’t understand it. And in — and if possible, we will find a way to amplify what this bill really is in a legislative process. But I stand by this law,” he concluded. “I’m proud that Indiana has adopted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

This follows another response Pence gave to the Indianapolis Star on the same question. They reported, "Asked if that [clarifying] legislation might include making gay and lesbian Hoosiers a protected legal class, Pence said, 'That's not on my agenda.'" 

So Governor Pence wants to clarify what SB-101 means without answering simple yes or no questions as to whether the law will allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT individuals in places of public accommodation. He wants to let everyone know their concerns about the law's intent are misplaced and intends to pass another law to clarify that, but that clarifying law won't actually address everyone's actual concern about LGBT people's civil rights.

The coming weeks in Indiana should be interesting.

About Tim Peacock:

For virtually his entire life, Tim has been writing. Over the years he's dabbled in mainstream fiction, science fiction, dystopian fiction, and personal essays. The one consistent thread through his entire writing career has been blogging - he's been doing it since 1997 in one form or another. In addition to writing Tim has frequently worked and volunteered as a civil rights advocate including on campus LGBT advocacy as well as interning with the Colorado Civil Rights Division.

You can find Tim online at his personal website. He additionally guest contributes at Blue Nation Review. You can find him on LinkedIn as well as on Twitter as @timsimms