Focus on the Family founder James Dobson says a proposed resolution calling for all Southern Baptists to pull their children out of public schools is too broad, but that leaving government schools is the best move in most cases.
Dobson said parents should remove their children from public schools in liberal states like California and Massachusetts, “where homosexual propaganda and same-sex ideology are taught on all levels,” according to the Christian news service Agape Press.
Some states have school systems, however, that “are not contrary to Judeo-Christian values,” Dobson said. In those cases, he said, the proposed Southern Baptist resolution may be a little “over-broad.”
Dobson said he strongly disagrees, however, with those who argue against the resolution by saying that young people should be left in public schools so they can be “salt and light” to unbelievers. “We’re not talking about adults here,” Dobson said.
Dobson agreed with resolution co-sponsors T.C. Pinckney and Bruce Shortt that the public education system as a whole is “antithetical to Christianity” and more often than not fails children “academically and morally.”
“We’re going to send our kids into Sodom and Gomorrah and hope that they’ll change the system, minister to the system? I think that’s our job as adults,” Dobson said. Saying such work is not suitable for vulnerable junior high- and high school-aged children, Dobson admonished, “You get your kids into Sodom and Gomorrah, you just might not be able to get them out.”
Dobson said in many cases pulling their children out of public schools may be the best way for Christians to influence public education. If schools knew they could not keep Christian children, Dobson said, they might change.
Dobson said on his radio program in 2002 that parents should pull their children out of public schools in Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Washington, Wisconsin, Vermont and Washington, D.C, states with “safe schools” legislation prohibiting discrimination against homosexuality. He also mentioned Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Hawaii and Alaska as promoting homosexuality, according to Christianity Today.
While not a Baptist, Dobson views are influential among many Southern Baptists. Dobson spoke via video at last summer’s Kingdom Family rally, which preceded the SBC annual meeting. He was the closing speaker at the 1998 convention in Salt Lake City. He spoke again via satellite in New Orleans in 2001, after mechanical problems forced an emergency landing of his private plane.
Most observers don’t believe the proposed resolution calling for mass exodus from public schools will pass, but a resolutions committee considering the measure is expected to recommend an education resolution in some form.
Another evangelical leader, meanwhile, endorses the Pinckney-Shortt resolution outright.
“We don’t send our 8-year-olds off to war,” said D. James Kennedy, senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Kennedy, who has for years encouraged parents to pursue alternatives like homeschooling and private Christian education, compared parents sending their Christian kids out to witness in public schools with Christians persecuted in the Roman Empire being sent out to witness to the lions. “They are in no way able to deal with adult teachers that eat them for lunch,” Kennedy said, according to an earlier release by Agape Press.
While gaining support among some conservative evangelicals, the sentiment behind the “Christian education” resolution has been criticized in other circles.
The Mainstream Baptists of Alabama board of directors, for example, unanimously approved a resolution June 7 declaring “admiration and appreciation to the many thousands of Christians whose vocational sense of calling has led them to serve in both the public and private arenas of education.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.