Recently we’ve been the subject of a disinformation campaign by Geoff Westlake, who claims that if schools let him do programs designed to bring children “good news, in good ways” that this is “ethical” and that he should be allowed to do it.  According to him there are two concepts (http://geoffwestlake.com/2014/06/16/firis-pros-and-cons/):

Evangelising: ethical sharing of good news

Proselytising: unethical coercion to join the group

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Geoff accuses FIRIS of applying the meaning of Proselytising, which is wrong, to Evangelising, which is “ethical” (i.e. good)

FIRIS recently asked Marion Maddox if Geoff was right, and we were being unfair, here is what she replied:

I have a PhD in theology and am a nationally recognised expert in religious studies, and have never heard of any technical distinction between evangelising and proselytising (except that the latter has a more pejorative connotation: we evangelise, they proselytise).

Both have Greek roots: evangelism comes from eu (= good) + angelion (=message), so it is what you do when you are sharing the ‘good news’. Naturally, you expect that people’s response to the ‘good news’ will be the same as your own response was to the same news, ie, conversion. Proselytising is from pros (= towards) and eleusis (coming)

I also looked up the word in various dictionaries.  None place the term “coerce” in the meaning of “proselytising”, and none distinguish between a form that is “ethical” or not.  Both words mean to attempt to bring a person into a religious belief, both imply an intent and a desire to “induce” or “bring in” … both terms are appropriate when describing the agenda of Geoff Westlake, of OAC Ministries and of ACCESS Ministries, and in our objective view of “Religion in Life” the curriculum used by ACCESS.

As much as Geoff Westlake wishes to object, his claims to scholarship, knowledge or even qualification are deeply suspect.

This doesn’t make him a bad person, it just calls him out as someone who really shouldn’t be put in charge of something as important as “education”.