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Christian-Education Supporters Criticize Anti-Public School Resolution

A resolution calling for Southern Baptists to exit public schools could face an uphill battle, if supporters of church- and home-based education attending a meeting in one state are any indication.

Church leaders at a Tuesday “summit” for Christian educators in Florida faulted the resolution under consideration by the Southern Baptist Convention Resolutions Committee as going too far, according to a story in Wednesday’s Orlando Sentinel.

“This is not mainstream,” Ed Gamble, executive director of the Southern Baptist Association of Christian Schools, said of the call to remove children from public schools in favor of home schooling or private Christian schools.

“I oppose it,” he said. “The language parts of it are inflammatory.”

The resolution, proposed by Virginia editor T.C. Pinckney and Houston attorney Bruce Shortt, describes “government” schools and “Godless” and “anti-Christian.” It says it is foolish for Christian parents to “give their children to be trained in schools run by the enemies of God.”

Gamble and others spoke to Sentinel reporter Mark Pinsky while attending what is believed to be the first statewide meeting for Southern Baptists interested in providing home- and church-based alternatives to public schools. More than 80 pastors, teachers and administrators attended the meeting at First Baptist Church in Orlando, which was co-sponsored by Gamble’s group and the Florida Baptist Convention.

Gamble said it would take 20 years to develop a system of Baptist schools large enough to accommodate the school-age children in Southern Baptist homes.

Jason Dukes, pastor of Westpoint Fellowship Church near Orlando, said while he objects to some things taught in public schools, abandoning the education system outright would represent a “withdrawal of the church from the culture,” which is not what Jesus intended.

Florida Baptist Convention Executive Director John Sullivan said his guess is the resolution is “going nowhere,” according to the article.

Southern Baptist Convention president Jack Graham, who supports Christian schooling, said in a statement that he doubts the Resolution Committee will recommend Pinckney and Shortt’s resolution “in its present form.”

Graham’s language appeared to leave open the possibility that a toned-down resolution on Christian education could be forthcoming. The SBC passed resolutions on Christian schools and home schooling in 1997 and 1999. While long strongly supportive of public education, Southern Baptist resolutions over the last 20 years have frequently criticized state-run schools for being too secular and limiting religious expression for students and teachers.

“We are concerned about what happens in public schools, some of which is contrary to Southern Baptist faith and sensitivities,” Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy with the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said in Wednesday’s Washington Times. “But we’ve never said public education is incompatible with Christian life.”

The resolution put forward by Pinckney and Shortt would change that. It says the Bible gives the responsibility for children’s upbringing to parents and that all education should be biblically based. “Government” schools are by their own admission humanistic and secular and thereby, as the resolution puts it, “officially Godless.”

While claiming to be neutral toward religion, state-run schools are really “anti-Christian,” the resolution claims. As examples, the resolution says curricula and policies in public schools teach that homosexual lifestyles are acceptable and cites the spread of gay student clubs in schools across America.

Christian children in public schools are more likely to be “converted to an anti-Christian worldview” than to successfully evangelize their classmates and teachers, the resolution says.

The solution proposed by Shortt and Pinckney is for Southern Baptist parents to pull their children out of state-run schools and see to it that they receive a “thoroughly Christian” education. Their resolution encourages all SBC churches to provide their children with alternatives to public education through home schooling or private schools.

“I pray that the Resolutions Committee finds the courage to do what is so plainly right regarding the education of Christian children,” Shortt said Wednesday in an e-mail to EthicsDaily.com.

Shortt is a state coordinator for Exodus Mandate, a conservative Christian organization which encourages parents to remove their children from “Pharaoh’s” schools. The 6-year-old organization, led by E. Ray Moore, a Bible teacher in Columbia, S.C., and author of Let My Children Go, has been endorsed by leaders including author Tim LaHaye, D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries and James Dobson of Focus on the Family.

While admitting that the notion of abandoning public education is controversial, Shortt said in an earlier interview that Christian education advocates “are going to change the climate of opinion.”

“People eventually are going to have to face up to this, and I think sooner is a whole lot better than later,” he said.

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.