Evangelical Group’s Plan to Proselytize Children at Portland’s Parks and Pools This Summer Comes under Fire

JesusSermononMountBy Elaine Magliaro

Stateside Oregon: The Child Evangelism Fellowship’s Good News Club plans to “try to convert children as young as 5 at Portland apartment pools, public parks and dozens of other gathering spots this summer…” Some residents have been disturbed by CEF’s efforts to proselytize the youth of their city—and have banded together in order to warn parents about the eager evangelizers. Protect Portland Children (PPC)—a group of concerned residents that has taken issue with the CEF’s “message and the way it’s delivering it”—bought “a full-page ad in the local alternative weekly to highlight the group’s tactics.”

Kaye Schmitt is an organizer with PPC. She was quoted as saying, “They pretend to be a mainstream Christian Bible study when in fact they’re a very old school fundamentalist sect.”

CEF claims that PPC “is a shadow group run by atheists who seek to dismantle Christian outreach.” Robert Aughenbaugh, a member of Protect Portland Children denied CEF’s claims. In an email to KATU, he wrote the following:

“Protect Portland Children is a grassroots coalition or concerned parents, grandparents and citizens. We have members of all faiths and belief systems. Many of our supporters are Christians.

One prominent local pastor, Rev. Chuck Currie, wrote on our Facebook page:

“As a minister in the United Church of Christ, I have deep concerns about the Good News Club and the message it spreads. I appreciate your work.”

CEF asserts that “its methods are above reproach.” Its vice president Moises Esteves said, “Children are easy to manipulate, we all know that. We don’t use any of the schemes and high-pressure tactics that we’re accused of. Nothing could be further from the truth.” It was reported that CEF “decided to hold its annual summer mission program in Portland because of the area’s irreligious leanings.”

PPC sent out a press release to the On Your Side Investigators earlier this month that was critical of CEF’s curriculum. In the release, PPC said that the curriculum is “not the Jesus-loves-you mainstream Christianity that parents might expect.” Instead, the group stated that the “curriculum teaches young children that they’re born sinners, bound for eternity in hell unless they obey the club’s teachings”—and that the “curriculum contains over 5,000 references to sin, 1000 references to hell and punishment, 1000 references to obedience, and only one reference to the golden rule.”

Esteves, the vice president of CEF, told the Associated Press that his group doesn’t “use any of the schemes and high-pressure tactics that we’re accused of.” He added, “Nothing could be further from the truth.” Esteves told KATU that CEF doesn’t “convert anybody because God is the one who is in the business of converting. If a child is going to place their faith in Christ, that’s between them and God.” He did admit that his evangelical group does “teach that children are sinners…” Then he added that CEF wasn’t “nasty about it.” He continued, “If we were nasty about it, the kids wouldn’t come back.”

According to the Associated Press, CEF has been “the subject of a critical book that asserts the group advances a fundamentalist agenda and uses public spaces like schools to make children believe such views are endorsed by authority figures.”

Mia Marceau, a Christian and a mother of two who resides in Vancouver, Washington, was “intrigued” when the evangelical group “approached her apartment complex pool” one day this summer. She said she didn’t approve of what the evangelizers were “telling her 8-year-old son and his friends”—that they “were headed to hell, needed to convert their friends and were duty-bound to raise money for the organization.” Marceau added, “I raised a free thinker. He didn’t buy in. All of a sudden, he’s having arguments with his friends over salvation.”


Evangelical Group Aims to Convert Children as Young as Five at Portland Parks and Pools (Talking Points Memo/AP)

Evangelical group works to convert children in Portland (KATU/AP)

Portland Child Evangelism Fellowship Under Fire for Preaching to Kids About Sin (Christian News)


Statement Concerning Child Evangelism Fellowship Mission Trip to Portland, Oregon (CEF)




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15 Responses to Evangelical Group’s Plan to Proselytize Children at Portland’s Parks and Pools This Summer Comes under Fire

  1. swarthmoremom says:

    They proselytized at the public schools in Texas during lunch and recess.

  2. Elaine M. says:


    This same group?

  3. blouise says:

    Good lord! I decided to look these people up here in Ohio and took this from their website:

    “Child Evangelism Fellowship of Ohio ® Inc. is part of a Bible-centered, worldwide organization composed of born-again believers whose purpose is to evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, disciple them in the Word of God and establish them in a Bible believing church for Christian living.

    Child Evangelism Fellowship, CEF, has been in existence since 1937 and has the same purpose and statement of faith today. CEF is currently working in over 186 countries around the world and continues to grow. In 2013 CEF ministries worldwide reached more than 14 million children with personalized and individual ministry. God has given CEF a vision to go “Around the World in 80 Years”. It is our goal to be in every country in the world by 2017, which is CEF’s 80th birthday.

    CEF is here to train, equip, and encourage you and your church in reaching the children of Ohio for Christ. We are currently active in 55 of Ohio’s 88 counties. Last year we reached over 26,334 children with 3,076 professions of faith recorded. It is our desire to see CEF developed in all counties of Ohio. It is also our desire to partner with Local Bible believing churches to reach every child for Christ and to impact the public schools with at Good News Club.”

    Okay … I then wrote a short email to the Director of our City Recreations Department and our School Superintendent regarding this group and asking if they were active within our governmental sponsored, tax supported institutions. Both have responded with an empathic “No!”

    Thanks for the heads-up, Elaine

  4. swarthmoremom says:

    http://www.cefdallas.org/ I don’t know for sure but this group is based in Dallas.

  5. Help - blouise says:

    stuck in filter and tried twice to post so only one attempt needs to be cleared … thanks

  6. Elaine M. says:


    I retrieved one of your comments.

  7. Elaine M. says:


    It looks like it’s one of CEF’s affiliates.



    You are a true woman of action. Way to go!

  8. swarthmoremom says:

    Elaine, Yep. You are right. Since it was Texas, and there are so many fundamentalists there I assumed that Dallas would be the headquarters.

  9. blouise says:


    He who hesitates is lost … The good folk at City Hall and the school system have now been put on notice … somebody is watching or … blouise’s evangelism has raised its holy head.

  10. Annie says:

    Oh wow, but I’m not really surprised. We were told to “Spread the Good News” everywhere, even at elementary school. How would it go over if Jehovah Witnesses or Mormons, or Heaven forbid Muslims were out the prosthetizing? If I was at that pool with my grandchildren they would’ve gotten an earful from me, when my grandchildren were out of earshot.

  11. Anonymouly Yours says:

    See if I go swimming there…..

  12. Sunny Peneka says:

    Thank you Elaine for writing about this.

    “According to the Associated Press, CEF has been “the subject of a critical book that asserts the group advances a fundamentalist agenda and uses public spaces like schools to make children believe such views are endorsed by authority figures.”

    I believe the book referred to is The Good News Club: the Christian right’s stealth assault on America’s children by Katherine Stewart. I read this book some time ago and found it very very shocking. I guess I am still naive. These “clubs” utilize tax supported locations (elementary schools) to spread their “message” of hate and brainwashing. Among other things revealed in this book are how the children are told their parents will go to hell if they are not the appropriate sort of Christian or of a non-Christian faith. They turn children against parents and against other children. They utilize sweets and treats to entice the kids. It was really sickening and is going on all over. There is a lot of intimidation that from the club “leaders” with other people like parents who don’t buy in and school officials. Read the book!

  13. Elaine M. says:


    Thanks for the information about that book. It sounds like an interesting read.

  14. Mike Spindell says:

    The original meaning of Gospel is “good news” and truly in its beginnings Christianity had good news to spread, if we can judge by the early history and by Jesus’ words such as the “golden rule”. Along the way though the early Christian message was conflated with the Roman Empire at the Council of Nicaea 320 CE. It then became an instrument of the Roman Empire and Jesus preachings were synthesized into a bland acceptance of temporal/spiritual authority and an emphasis on “sin”, most particularly as it was applied to sexuality. The prospect of heaven and hell were also brought to the fore. Throughout history this emphasis on sexual sin predominated and worked hand in hand with the notion of eternal salvation. Our lives on Earth became mere preambles to our lives in eternity. Martin Luther broke away from the Roman method, but then his Protestant cause too was subsumed into the interests of various kings and princes and split into various preachers own personal predilections.

    Christianity, as well as Islam, was spread by the sword, which if you think of it actually meant a trivialization of the original message. We thus have a long history of the use of both force and propaganda to propagate a belief in “God’s Love”. I find people who proselytize quite annoying, sometimes to the point of making me angry. I can remember for instance being in my 40’s and being constantly approached at Penn Station by 20 year olds, many from Jews for Jesus, some evangelicals and others Morman, who presumed to preach to me. Then too were the Lubavitcher
    sect with their “Mitzvah Mobiles” who would ask me as I passed “you Jewish”. When I told them I was their eyes lit up thinking me a potential new recruit only to dim when I blew them off. At least their target was only Jews, but still the proselytizing annoyed me.

    As to this group I would flat out say they are despicable. They aim at children of tender age, who are easily scared by the idea of eternal damnation for breaking a rule. It is propaganda of the worst sort, aimed at those least able to discern reality from fantasy. We so easily bandy about the word “terrorist” today, applying it in all directions. To me this is non-violent terrorism aimed at those whose life views are unformed and responsive to propaganda. There is nothing Christlike about this group save that they believe they are doing Jesus work.

  15. Sunny Peneka says:

    Another thing about the Good News Club in the book I recommended (The Good News Club by Katherine Stewart): These clubs are purposefully meeting in public schools. Children of such a young age think that everything that is “taught” in school must be “true.” They do not grasp the difference between an after-school or lunch-time event with the actual classroom teaching. It is real indoctrination.

    Mike, I agree wholeheartedly with your observations.

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