A Christian nonprofit, Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), is facing opposition in Portland as it seeks to bring youth to Christ.
The group's "Good News Club" is being called "psychologically harmful to children" by a newly formed coalition – Protect Portland Children.
The Good News Club is a youth ministry in which children are taught about sin, Jesus, and holiness through engaging songs, games, and Bible stories.
On its website, CEF states that "the purpose ofGood News Club is to evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and establish (disciple) them in the Word of God and in a local church for Christian living."
Critics of CEF and the Good News Club say the program teaches fundamentalist beliefs to children, and encourages fear, judgment, and divisiveness in youth.
Attorney and blogger Eric Ceynar wrote on his "Intrinsic Dignity" blog that the Club uses shame and fear indoctrination, thought control, attacks on science education, authoritarian conditioning, and deceptive marketing to negatively influence students.
A Seattle parent, John Lederer, said that the Good News Club is not appropriate for young children.
"When I read their mission statement and values and principles it was clear that this was a very theologically conservative, right wing and evangelical form of Christian faith," he told AwayPoint.com.
"My initial concern wasn't that they existed but that they had targeted my child's school and my child is only 6 years old. They are targeting very, very, young children."
The Club is voluntary and requires parents' permission, but Lederer said that children want to participate because of the treats, toys, and games that are available.
"Cake, cookies, balloons are very attractive to [children]," he said. "[CEF] use enticements like these to get children to say to their parents, 'Can I go?' Children can't tell the difference between good news club and school sponsored activities like chess club."
Protect Portland Children seeks to "spread the word that the Good News Club's extreme teachings can be psychologically harmful to children," member Kaye Schmitt told Alternet.
However, the CEF states that the Good News Club shares biblical principles in ways that engage children, and also encourages moral enrichment.
"Each club includes a clear presentation of the Gospel and an opportunity for children to trust the Lord Jesus as Savior," their website states. "Every club also includes strong discipleship training to build character and strengthen moral and spiritual growth."
The Club meets once a week during the school year at community centers, churches, schools, and other locations across the country.