Anti-public school Southern Baptists are divided into two camps–those who offer misdirection and those who articulate a clear direction.

Reacting to the Baptist Center for Ethics’ initiated pastoral letter supporting public education, Kenyn Cureton, vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, said our letter “mystified” him.

Cureton told an Associated Press reporter that the SBC did not advocate that Baptists pull students out of public schools, referring to the 2005 SBC resolution.

“In fact, the resolution commends Christian educators and students who feel called by God to be a positive witness in public schools,” he claimed.

The resolution’s relevant paragraph says, “We commend godly teachers and students who feel called by God to take a stand for Christ in secular schools as a light shining in the darkness.”

Those well-versed with fundamentalism know that the word “secular” is a code word for evil, any non-Christian organization and movement opposed to their version of Christianity and outside their realm of control.

The reference to secular schools as places of “darkness” reinforces how the SBC really sees public schools.

The resolution expresses disdain for public schools. It was passed in a context of growing support for the anti-public school movement, after SBC leaders had made countless anti-public school statements and Southern Baptists had passed many anti-public school resolutions.

To commend Christian teachers and students who feel called to public schools is not the same as supporting public schools. To suggest that the denomination really supports public schools is misdirection.

The SBC leaders would do well to read James 5:12: “Let your yes be yes and your no be no, that you may not fall under condemnation” or what one biblical version calls hypocrisy.

Either the SBC supports public schools or the SBC opposes public schools. It’s that simple. Honest speech is needed. To say one thing when another thing is true misleads rank-and-file church members.

The SBC leaders need to be honest with those who pay their salaries–public school teachers and public school parents, the same folk who order literature from the very SBC publishing house that undermines their jobs by selling homeschool curriculum.

Unlike the anti-public school SBC leaders, who posture support for public education, the supporters of the exodus movement speak a clear word. Their no is no to public schools.

They are wrongheaded, albeit without duplicity. No wonder they are so frustrated with the SBC leadership. They claim to know what the SBC leadership harbors in their heart and practices with their own children.

The SBC leadership is apparently afraid of what will happen if the truth becomes known.

Rather than candor, SBC leaders say they are mystified and engage in misdirection. If SBC leaders really do support public education, then the SBC leaders need to go on record with a clear resolution supporting public education at the meeting this year in Greensboro. Full stop.  No more hypocrisy. Let their yes to yes.

If that is not possible, then the SBC leaders need to speak clearly about their real worldview as do the exit-strategy proponents, who have a third resolution in as many years encouraging
Christian parents to abandon the public school system.

SBC leaders need to let their yes be yes or no be no on public schools.

Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.

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