|A new resolution proposed for consideration at next month's Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting urges parents in California to withdraw their children from public schools at least until the state repeals a law that social conservatives decry as homosexual indoctrination.
The resolution, submitted by prominent preacher and lecturer Voddie Baucham and Christian-schooling advocate Bruce Shortt, also calls on Southern Baptists nationwide to support expansion of Christian schools, homeschooling and other alternatives to public education as a mission strategy.
Shortt, author of The Harsh Truth About Public Schools, said California Senate Bill 777, signed into law last year by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, requires California schools to teach children that homosexuality, bisexuality and cross-dressing are normal and morally acceptable forms of behavior.
In a cover letter to the SBC Resolutions Committee, Shortt said the law "represents a complete repudiation of 2,000 years of Christian moral teaching on human sexuality, family and marriage."
Conservative organizations including Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum have called for a boycott of California's public schools to protest the law, which prohibits schools to teach or promote activities that promote bias based on gender or sexual orientation.
The state's definition of "gender," said Shortt, a Houston attorney and homeschool father, includes "a person's gender identity and gender related appearance and behavior whether or not stereo-typically associated with the person's assigned sex at birth."
Shortt said that means: "Every California public school will now be required to teach children that the homosexual, bisexual, transgender and other sexually deviant lifestyles are normal, acceptable and the moral equivalent of biblical heterosexuality."
Shortt said that process will begin in pre-kindergarten or kindergarten and continue as long as a student remains in a California public school receiving financial assistance from the state, including colleges and universities.
Shortt said many parents are unaware of the law, because there has been a virtual news blackout about it in the mainstream media.
Along with pulling kids out of public schools and working to expand alternatives, the proposed resolution calls for SBC agencies to "communicate repeatedly with California parents, pastors, and Christian California school employees" about details of the law.
"We need to begin by doing the job that the mainstream media won't do," Shortt said. "The SBC and the California Southern Baptist Convention have considerable resources that can be used for communicating with California parents, pastors and Christian school employees. If more people within these groups have good information, more of them will make good decisions."
The resolution proposed by Baucham and Shortt says California law now "mandates that all children in California public schools, including kindergartners, be indoctrinated to believe that the homosexual, bisexual, and other sexually deviant lifestyles are normal, acceptable and the moral equivalent of biblical heterosexuality."
It encourages Southern Baptist churches "to work vigorously as a missional effort to encourage and support the expansion in California of (1) Christian schools, (2) homeschooling and homeschool co-ops, and (3) alternative models for providing Christian education such as University Model Schools and Christian One Room Schoolhouses, giving particular regard to the needs of children from low income and single parent families."
It further asks Southern Baptist agencies "to communicate repeatedly with California parents, pastors, and Christian California school employees about: (1) what has been done to California's public schools by SB 777 and its related legislation, (2) what that legislation means for California's children, families, churches and culture, and (3) what Christian educational alternatives are available."
"I am convinced that if government schools had to recruit students by sending out brochures outlining the academic, moral and spiritual aspects of their curriculum, most Baptists would throw it in the trash without a second thought," Baucham said. "However, when these schools can hide behind stealth phrases like tolerance, safe schools, multiculturalism and safer sex, parents are often unaware of the dangers lurking beneath the surface."
Parents who do protest, Baucham said, "are often branded as narrow-minded bigots with outdated values." He called the resolution "an effort to shine the light of truth in the dark corners of our schools and force our brethren to take a long, hard, honest look at what we have tolerated for far too long."
Shortt and Baucham have collaborated before on resolution drafts critical of public education. In 2005 the convention adopted a resolution urging parents and churches to "investigate diligently" whether their local schools advance a homosexual agenda, incorporating language suggested in a draft submitted by Shortt and Baucham.
In 2006 the SBC passed a resolution criticizing "dogmatic Darwinism," acceptance of homosexuality and a "humanistic and secular orientation" in public schools but called for influencing schools by engagement rather than withdrawal advocated by Baucham and Shortt.
Shortt attributed the SBC's cautious response so far to pressure from teachers and public school administrators who are members of Baptist churches but said it is time for the nation's second-largest religious group to speak up.
"Instead of boldly stating the truth about government schools, the church's voice has been hesitant and compromised by the public school tares within our congregations and organizations," he said in a press release. "Now, we are confronted with a calamity in California that will not allow pastors and other leaders to mouth the usual evasions about 'our schools are different' or 'our children are salt and light.' Under the new legislation, no school in California is permitted to be 'different.' The question today is whether the SBC leadership can find the moral courage to do something."
EthicsDaily.com has tracked stories out the "exodus" movement from public schools within the SBC since 2004 and carried opinion articles speaking up for public education. In 2006 the Baptist Center for Ethics collected signatures on a clergy letter "to speak positively about public education and to take proactive initiatives that advance a constructive future for America's public school system."
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.