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Atheist sponsored after school club begins at an Arroyo Grande elementary school

A new after school program is being offered for students at Harloe elementary in Arroyo Grande. The Young Skeptics club aims to teach students critical thinking skills.

The concepts aren’t necessarily what has some parents up in arms, it’s who’s teaching it.

“As atheists, what we believe is that you need to use the evidence to come to the best decisions possible. So, this is sort of in line with the way we think about things but as I said – it’s not about a particular point of view it’s about how to think about things carefully,” explains Atheists United Board Member David Leidner.

The Atheists United Group of San Luis Obispo says they picked this campus to start because it’s one of the largest elementary schools in the area and it also hosts a “Good News Club” – an evangelical club that focuses on the teachings of the bible.

“We are also concerned about the proliferation of good news clubs in our county because again – better than telling children to believe something because somebody says it’s true, teach children to believe things because there’s good evidence for it,” Leidner says.

Both clubs have the right to be after school programs thanks to a Supreme Court ruling in 2001 which basically allows them to say what they want under the First Amendment.

Some parents say these concepts being shared by the Young Skeptics Club like separating fact from opinion and how evidence can be used are too advanced for the group’s elementary audience.

“I think that the idea of introducing a club that counters maybe the beliefs the children were instilled with, I think that’s something that could be introduced at a later age,” says parents Ryan Olsen.

Parent Charles Holden says that as long as the group doesn’t try to change his children’s morals, he’s fine with the club being offered at school.

“The thought of karma, treating people the way you want to be treated, as long as a club teaching very mold-able young minds has that in it, I don’t think there’s a danger in it,” Holden explains.

We reached out to the local chapter of the evangelical group that runs the Good News Club, in a written statement a spokesperson says: “We respect the rights of other groups with opposing opinions, but hold fast to God’s instruction to teach children about Jesus and His love for them.”

The Lucia Mar School District also provided us a statement saying: ” We are legally required to provide them access if they meet our rental requirements and maintain appropriate behaviors. All after school programs require parent permission. Parents make choices for their children to attend these various clubs and activities throughout the community and classes like Young Skeptics is no exception.”

The next Young Skeptics meeting is March 16th.

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