At least 10 Baptist state conventions are being asked to consider resolutions this fall inspired by a failed Southern Baptist Convention resolution calling for a mass exodus from public schools.
An SBC resolutions committee in June declined to recommend a resolution proposed by two Southern Baptist laymen denouncing public schools as godless and anti-Christian and urging parents to either home-school their children or educate them in Christian schools.
A press release dated Tuesday, however, listed contact information for sponsors of similar resolutions in California, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, New England, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
“One of the great tragedies of American Christianity has been the near-universal failure of its leaders to boldly proclaim the inherent dangers lurking within America’s government-owned and controlled schools,” Roger Moran, a Southern Baptist leader from Missouri said in the release.
Larry Reagan, pastor of Adams Chapel Baptist Church in Dresden, Tenn., and editor of the Concerned Tennessee Baptists newsletter, said removing children from public schools “is becoming a very hot issue among Baptists and other evangelical Christians.”
Wiley Drake, a pastor and broadcaster in California famous for his support of the SBC Disney boycott, adds: “As Christians, we must rescue our children from public schools. They are being coerced and persecuted there.”
The co-founders of the proposed SBC resolution, former SBC vice president T.C. Pinckney and Houston attorney Bruce Shortt, said they were disappointed the convention did not vote on their statement but were pleased by the amount of attention it received.
Shortt says several organizations have formed in response to the resolution.
Get the Kids Out, an interdenominational organization dedicated to removing children from public schools, started as a direct result of the resolution.
The Alliance for the Separation of School and State claims to have collected 25,500 names in an effort to gain a million on-line signatures to a proclamation calling for an end to government involvement in education
In addition to the state convention resolutions, members of several other denominations are said to be considering submitting similar resolutions.
“More and more Christians are beginning to see that the little red schoolhouse has become a little whited sepulcher,” Shortt said in a recent interview on a home-school radio program.
Moran, a current member of the SBC Executive Committee and research director of the Missouri Baptist Laymen’s Association, reportedly tried to work out a compromise between Pinckney and the SBC Resolutions Committee at the SBC meeting this summer. He said he was disappointed when a toned-down measure didn’t reach the floor and an amendment offered by Pinckney including some of the language was defeated.
“Southern Baptists, for whatever reason, were willing to quench a resolution that I think came from someone who is like an Old Testament prophet, who told us something that is clearly true,” Moran told the Missouri Baptist newspaper The Pathway in June. “So where do we go from here, we continue to build a foundation. We will start laying the foundation of why this is as much a part of the pursuit of holiness as all these other things.”
SBC leaders opposing the resolution said it was outside of the mainstream and that decisions about educating children should be left up to parents, an argument that its backers say they don’t find compelling.
“As far as we could piece it together, the SBC committee appears to believe individual Christian parents have a God-given right to NOT provide a Christian education, if God forbid they should incline that way, and it would be usurping parental rights for the SBC to inform them otherwise,” Mary Pride wrote in an article reprinted from Home-School News titled, “The Baptists Blew Their First Shot.”
“Since the SBC can’t force parents to do anything anyway, this line of reasoning didn’t impress us.”
Another argument against Pinckney and Shortt’s resolution was that Christians need to remain in secular schools to provide a Christian influence and witness. Supporters of the pullout countered that statistics show that Southern Baptists are losing far more kids to unchristian influences than are being won to Christ.
“My children are not evangelical tools,” Grady Arnold, pastor of Forestwood Baptist Church in New Caney, Texas, told Fox News. Despite the SBC’s failure to adopt a resolution, Arnold said he also was glad it got the publicity it received.
“People are now grappling with the idea, ‘Should I pull my kid out for home-school or Christian school?’ I think there’s a majority who have never thought about it before,” Arnold said.
A moderate critic called it a “rhetorical rope-a-dope” for SBC leaders to oppose the resolution while continuing to speak unfavorably of public schools.
“If Southern Baptist fundamentalist leaders cannot speak well of public schools for their inherent educational, social and cultural value, then they need to be honest with rank-and-file church members, who support public education,” said Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics. “The leaders need to state publicly their anti-public school agenda.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.