An Associated Press story last week profiled a movement among evangelical Christians to convince parents to withdraw their children from public schools.
“The courts say no creationism, no prayer in public schools,” the story quoted Roger Moran, co-sponsor of a failed resolution introduced at the recent Southern Baptist Convention urging an “exit strategy” from public schools.
“Humanism and evolution can be taught, but everything I believe is disallowed,” said Moran, a Missouri layman and member of the SBC Executive Committee.
The story also quoted resolution co-sponsor Bruce Shortt, as well as seminary president Albert Mohler, who first used the “exit strategy” language in a column last year. Mohler said it has become a “new normal” for younger parents to consider alternatives to public education. “It’s a very different assumption from their parents’ generation.”
It also named D. James Kennedy and other religious broadcasters as leaders in the movement.
Shortt, a Houston lawyer and author of The Harsh Truth About Public Schools, said he found the report “quite fair overall,” but that it contained an error, describing reports last year that school officials in a Dallas suburb banned students from wearing red and green because the colors represented Christmas a “false rumor.”
Kelly Shackleford, chief counsel of the Liberty Legal Institute, said the school district banned red and green napkins and plates at school winter parties. It was reporter Bill O’Reilly, and not opponents to the school district, that mistakenly reported the district had banned red and green clothing.
Shackleford said a judge issued a restraining order against the school district. “The key–the reporter needs to understand that this is not some false rumor,” he said. “It is a true story with real discrimination of a number of children. We have the sworn complaint and the court’s ruling if he needs it.”
Baptist defenders of public education spoke out about the story.
“Moran, Kennedy, and Mohler are leading a campaign to cripple our education system,” wrote blogger Aaron Weaver at Big Daddy Weave.
While public education isn’t perfect, he said, Baptist Christians should support, rather than abandon, public schools.
“The demonization of our public schools as being ‘the enemies of God’ must stop,” he said. “Baptists such as Roger Moran must realize that public schools promote civic responsibility, a common bond in society and provide for equal opportunity for a good life.”
Jim West, a pastor in Petros, Tenn., said he has submitted a resolution to the Tennessee Baptist Convention decrying “rhetoric of attack” on public education by those calling for an exit strategy.
“We affirm the value and worth of Christians involved in public education, and we resist those who are calling on Christians to exit the public arena and withdraw from public life out of fear and anxiety,” it says.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.