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More than 200 signatures are on a Baptist Center for Ethics pastoral letter supporting public education issued three weeks ago.

The Nashville, Tenn.,-based BCE issued the letter with 56 original signatures April 21. Other pastors, church staff members, convention and fellowship leaders and other ministers have continued to add their endorsement. As of late Thursday, the list of signatories stood at 201 names.

The letter, issued amid calls by some Southern Baptists for an “exit strategy” and mass exodus from public schools, decries demonization of public education and encourages Baptists to “speak positively about public education and to take proactive initiatives that advance a constructive future for America’s public school system.”

Signatories pledge to:

–Pray for public schools.
–Support public schools through worship services that affirm all school-related personnel.
–Advocate for “a high wall of separation between church and state that is critical to good public education.
–Pursue a just society that benefits every child.
–Speak up for the role public education plays in democracy, especially the unity it creates in the midst of diversity so necessary in our society.
–Challenge religious voices that “demonize public education.”
–Share the letter with others.

“Public education is ground zero in America’s culture war,” said Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics. It’s the place for fundamentalists where faith and science clash, church and state collide, racial/ethnic diversity and cultural purity war.”

“Thankfully a growing number of Baptist clergy committed to the common good identify themselves visibly as advocates of public education through their signatures on our pastoral letter.”

Other Baptist clergy wishing to sign the letter may do so here. Parham said he hoped others would add their support. “It is a time of clarity for clergy when a yes is yes and a no is no,” he said. “Clergy either support public education or oppose it. Good will Baptists are saying yes to public education.”

While the pastoral letter is addressed specifically to Baptist clergy, others, including school teachers and non-Baptist ministers, have also inquired about adding their support.

In addition to the clergy letter, the BCE also has released a free, 20-page resource for advocacy and action on behalf of public education and a worship resource for congregations. EthicsDaily.com has established a special section to archive stories and commentary about Christians and public schools.

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

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