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April 26, 2006

Southern Baptists and Public Schools

Last summer, it was the Presbyterian Church in America. Now it looks like it's the Southern Baptist Convention's turn to debate whether a resolution should be passed calling for members to withdraw their children from public schools:

Southern Baptist activists are again urging the denomination to remove its children from public schools, two years after a similar action was blocked.

The resolution calling for an “exit strategy” from public schools is co-sponsored by Texas lawyer Bruce Shortt and Roger Moran, a member of the Southern Baptist Convention's executive committee. They plan to submit the proposal for a possible vote by the convention at its annual meeting in North Carolina in June.

The resolution says recent federal court rulings have favored public schools “indoctrinating children with dogmatic Darwinism” and have limited the rights of parents in deciding what schools can teach, including on matters of sexuality.

Shortt and Moran announced their resolution after 56 pastors and church leaders urged Southern Baptists in a letter last week "to speak positively about public education."

This is not a new issue for Baptists, having rejected a similar proposal co-authored by Bruce Shortt two years ago.

But the debate raises some interesting questions such as whether a denomination has the right to dictate to its members what choices they should make in educating their children.

Although I have chosen to educate my children at home, I find such resolutions troubling. As far as I know, there is no specific prohibition in the Bible against sending children to public school to receive their education. While that is not necessarily the best option that is available to parents, it's not up to the churches to dictate what is essentially a matter of liberty to its members.

Baptists would do well to stay away from debatable social issues such as this and focus on being salt and light in the world as Jesus commanded.

Posted by Tom at April 26, 2006 10:58 PM

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Tracked on May 15, 2006 06:12 PM


Follow the money. A friend of mine who runs a school was contacted by an SBC leader who wanted "to learn" about how do run a school. But on the visit the official didn't appear interested in learning much of anything. He talked about the SBC getting "into education" in a big way, creating a new income stream by rolling out a new product: private Christian schooling. He is part of a group working on this, and they figure they have amazing distribution in the form of thousands of Baptist churches.

Call me a cynic about the "exit" from public schools. Seems like an adroit way to set-up the next step: the SBC itself providing the alternative.

Posted by: GL at April 27, 2006 07:29 AM

I understand your sentiment. However, the danger with that is that you immediately hand-wave away anyone who says, "I can do that better." The quick "follow the money" response doesn't allow for folks who really want to do it better, regardless of the money. (Although it's hard to pay your teachers without it.)

I'm not saying that you're wrong about their motives (although given the climate in today's public schools, I'm inclined to believe that the SBC group's motives are what they say they are). I'm just saying don't too easily dismiss their stated intentions because money's involved.

And BTW, I share Tom's opinion that a denomination shouldn't be telling their congregations how best to educate their children. That is a personal choice.

Posted by: Doug Payton at April 28, 2006 12:10 PM

I think the thing to remember here is this: resolutions don't dictate what the parents must do. The SBC cannot force you to remove your kids from schools. I think everyone should check out the resolution itself and read it through. It really helps out when considering the issue. You can find it at

Posted by: Agent Tim at May 3, 2006 03:36 PM