A call for Southern Baptists to develop an “exit strategy” from public schools has been submitted to a committee responsible for drafting and recommending resolutions at the 2006 Southern Baptist Convention.
Bruce Shortt, who last year successfully led Southern Baptists to adopt a resolution urging parents to accept responsibility for making educational choices that protect their children from indoctrination by “homosexual activists” in public schools, on Wednesday released a proposed resolution that calls for “developing an exit strategy from the public schools,” giving particular attention to needs of the disadvantaged, orphans and single parents.
Shortt, a leader in the Exodus Mandate organization and author of The Harsh Truth About Public Schools, is co-sponsoring the measure with Roger Moran, a member of the SBC Executive Committee and conservative leader best known for articles researched and distributed by the Missouri Baptist Laymen’s Association.
Before getting a resolution through committee last year, Shortt and another co-sponsor, Virginia conservative leader T.C. Pinckney, in 2004 proposed a resolution labeling “government” schools as “anti-Christian” and “officially Godless” and urging Christian parents to pull their children out of them to either home school them or enroll them in Christian schools. That resolution died in committee.
Last year the Resolutions Committee adapted a resolution co-authored by Shortt and popular author and speaker Voddie Baucham. The 2005 SBC resolution, which won endorsement from conservative groups, warned that “homosexual activists and their allies are devoting substantial resources and using political power to promote the acceptance among schoolchildren of homosexuality as a morally legitimate lifestyle.” It urged parents to “investigate diligently” their schools’ educational resources and urged Christian parents to “fully embrace their responsibility to make prayerful and informed decisions regarding where and how they educate their children,” whether in public, private or home schools.
Just prior to the SBC annual meeting last June, Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, endorsed the Shortt/Baucham resolution, writing, “I believe that now is the time for responsible Southern Baptists to develop an exit strategy from the public schools.”
“This strategy would affirm the basic and ultimate responsibility of Christian parents to take charge of the education of their own children,” Mohler said. “The strategy would also affirm the responsibility of churches to equip parents, support families and offer alternatives. At the same time, this strategy must acknowledge that Southern Baptist churches, families and parents do not yet see the same realities, the same threats and the same challenges in every context. Sadly, this is almost certainly just a matter of time.”
In their new resolution, Shortt and Moran encourage churches “to heed Dr. Mohler’s call to develop an exit strategy from the government schools.”
It calls on SBC agencies to “assist churches in the development of exit strategies from the government schools and help coordinate efforts, including partnerships with churches in low income areas, to provide a Christian educational alternative to orphans, single parents and the disadvantaged.”
On the heels of last year’s resolution calling for increased scrutiny of public education, Moran and Shortt agree with Mohler in their resolution that “there is no reason to believe that each year will not bring even more urgent concerns related to public education.”
The resolution mentions a November 2005 decision by the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals–saying if parents choose to send their children to a public school, they do not have a constitutional right to prevent the public schools from providing information they choose on any topic, including sex. It also cites a December 2005 ruling in Pennsylvania outlawing teaching of Intelligent Design.
Together, the resolution says, the two court cases further illustrate that “the government schools are required by law to be humanistic and secular in their instruction.”
In light of government school curricula, court rulings and the influence of the National Education Association, parents “cannot satisfy the criteria for the education of Christian children set forth” in last year’s education resolution by “educating Christian children in today’s government schools,” it says.
Southern Baptist congregations “can draw upon many existing buildings and other resources to provide an alternative to educating children in government schools,” the resolution says. They also have other resources to be used in educating children and “can collaborate in providing alternatives to the government school system.”
It “encourages each church associated with the Southern Baptist Convention” to heed Mohler’s call for an exit strategy from the government’s schools and “urges that particular attention be given in the development of such exit strategies to the needs of orphans, single parents, and the disadvantaged.”
Finally, it “applauds the many adult members of our congregations who teach in government schools” and encourages “adult believers who are truly called to labor as missionaries to unbelieving colleagues and students to continue their missionary work in the government school system.”
Rick Scarborough, founder of Vision America and a leading Southern Baptist activist, endorsed the proposed resolution.
“Public schools have long ceased to be a positive reinforcer of traditional values,” Scarborough said in a press release. Instead, he said, “Education in the public sector now aggressively undermines Biblical values.”
“Our children deserve better and Southern Baptists should be given the opportunity to express their feelings about this,” Scarborough said.
Voddie Baucham, co-sponsor of last year’s resolution, an African-American raised by a single mother in the inner city, added, “I know what its like to be a poor kid trapped in underperforming schools.” Southern Baptists, he said, need “a comprehensive plan to create a new system of Baptist education open to everyone, and that plan needs to take a clear stand on behalf of kids who find themselves in the same predicament I was in.”
Moran called public schools the “golden calf” of the religious left, with their calls for separation of church and state, and a “Trojan Horse” for “infiltrating and destroying the faith of those we have commanded to train up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
While some church leaders persist in talking about reforming schools and remaining in them as a presence of “salt and light,” Shortt said the public education system is academically “as dead as Elvis” and ideologically is “indoctrinating children with cultural Marxism and dogmatic Darwinism,” along with “the colorful folkways of homosexuality.”
Last week the Baptist Center for Ethics issued a pastoral letter affirming public education. A total of 102 pastors and organizational leaders had signed the document by Tuesday afternoon.
Robert Parham, executive director of the Nashville, Tenn.,-based BCE, said the letter’s arrival was “in the fullness of time,” one week before announcement of another attempt by Southern Baptist leaders to denounce public schools.
“Perhaps, like the tribe of Issachar, we ‘had an understanding of the times to know what [the nation] ought to do,'” Parham said, quoting First Chronicles 12:32.
“The right thing to do is for thoughtful Southern Baptists and other Baptists to speak up for public education with two concrete actions,” Parham said.
“First, church leaders need to add their names to the pastoral letter, publicly identifying themselves as supporters of public education.
“Second, church leaders need to consider honoring public school teachers in a worship service and articulating the theological and moral reasons why public schools are critical to the nation’s well being. Now is the time for Baptists of good will to engage incisive analysis and decisive action.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
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