Sep 25, 2014

A journalist who exposed the Religious Right’s efforts to infiltrate America’s public schools and a Mississippi student who bravely challenged unlawful religious activity at her public high school will be recognized by Americans United for Separation of Church and State on Nov. 10.

Katherine Stewart, author of The Good News Club: The Christian Right's Stealth Assault on America's Children, will receive Americans United’s Person of the Year Award.

Stewart’s book dissects an evangelical Christian movement aimed at students attending public elementary schools. Called “Good News Clubs,” the effort focuses on children who are in many cases too young to read. Sponsors of the clubs, which often meet immediately after school, believe that even very young children can make professions of faith. Many parents view the program as an ecumenical Bible study and aren’t aware of its hardcore fundamentalist slant.

Kirkus Review said of Stewart’s book, “Solid reporting… compelling investigative journalism about an undercovered phenomenon.” The Minneapolis Star-Tribune noted “the book is an important work that reveals a movement little discussed in the mainstream media, one Stewart worries is poised to damage ‘a society as open and pluralistic as ours.’”

In addition, Gracie Bedi will receive Americans United’s David Norr Youth Activist Award. Bedi sued her school, Northwest Rankin High School in Flowood, Miss., after the school held Christian assemblies sponsored by Pinelake Baptist Church. (The Youth Activist Award is named in honor of the late David Norr, who staunchly backed the principle of church-state separation and generously supported Americans United for more than 25 years.)

“Katherine Stewart and Gracie Bedi are courageous individuals who, in two very different ways, exposed the machinations of those who would turn our public schools into centers for preaching,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “We are pleased to have the opportunity to honor two activists of this caliber.”

The awards ceremony will take place during a luncheon meeting of the Americans United Board of Trustees in Washington, D.C.