Do Evangelical Kids’ Clubs Deserve Freedom of Speech in Public Schools?


The problem with “Good News Clubs” isn’t constitutionality. It’s deceptiveness.

The Good News Club Spectacular that took place in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, this past weekend billed itself as a “family fun day.” It offered inflatable rides, puppet shows, face-painting – all of it free and, according to the posters advertising the event, cosponsored by McDonald’s. What could be wrong with that? The only hitch is that you’ve got to take in all the preaching. The point, as one of the organizers put it, was to “bring the Christian gospel message to people without a church.” It’s a free country, so who would object?

On Saturday morning, approximately 40 members of the Forsyth Area Critical Thinkers, Winston-Salem Chapter of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and other like-minded citizens stood outside the Dixie Classic fairgrounds in peaceful protest. One of their placards included a quote from me. I’ll offer it here, so that you know where I’m coming from: “Deception ≠ free exercise.”

Now, I’m a staunch advocate of the rights of free speech and the free exercise of religion. But I think the protesters here have reason to be concerned. The issue with Good News Clubs isn’t about the exercise of constitutional rights; it’s about the fraudulent invocation of those rights in a way that tends to subvert the Constitution.