Southern Baptists eye exiting public schools

A resolution urging Southern Baptists to remove their children from public schools has been proposed by an Alexandria man for the denomination's annual convention in Indianapolis next month.

Thomas C. Pinckney, a retired Air Force brigadier general and former second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Bruce Shortt, a Houston lawyer, co-submitted the resolution on April 29.

"It dawned on us that academics were going downhill," said Mr. Pinckney, who edits the monthly Baptist Banner newspaper, which he said has a circulation of 20,000. "That was the beginning of our awakening."

The resolution urges Southern Baptists to "remove their children from all government schools and see to it they receive a thoroughly Christian education." It also instructs the denomination, which is the nation's largest non-Catholic sect at 16.2 million members, to "counsel parents regarding their obligation to provide their children with a Christian education."

It notes that public school students receive "an anti-Christian education," that public schools teach the acceptance of homosexuality and that student-run clubs friendly to homosexuals are spreading in public schools.

Quoting a biblical passage comparing children to "arrows in the hands of a warrior," the resolution notes: "Just as it would be foolish for the warrior to give his arrows to his enemies, it is foolish for Christians to give their children to be trained in schools run by the enemies of God."

The resolution will be one of several dozen submitted to the SBC's Resolutions Committee, which decides whether to present it to the full convention during the annual June 15-16 meeting. If the committee favors the resolution and sends it to the floor, it will need a simple majority to pass.

If rejected by the committee, Mr. Pinckney will introduce the resolution on the floor, which would need a two-thirds majority vote to pass.

He said many Christian parents eventually will boycott public schools.

"Some public schools are doing a good job, as are some teachers who are Christians," he said. "But they are in a system that is officially and legally godless."

Last year, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson created a stir by suggesting that California parents remove their children from any elementary schools where homosexuality is presented as an acceptable lifestyle.

But Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy for the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said Southern Baptists have never taken such a position against public education.

"We have suggested parents make sure their children are receiving appropriate instruction in public schools and that they remain engaged with all of their children's education," he said. "We are also concerned about what happens in public schools, some of which is contrary to Southern Baptist faith and sensitivities. But we've never said public education is incompatible with Christian life."