Southern Baptists To Abandon Public Schools?

Southern Baptists will be asked to pull their children out of public schools if prominent leaders of the denomination have their way. 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, have submitted a resolution urging all 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 religious group at 16.2 million members, to "counsel parents regarding their obligation to provide their children with a Christian education," according to The Washington Times.

Although the growth of the denomination has slowed and baptisms are down for the fourth consecutive year, this resolution reflects the continuing power of the far right within the SBC. The Southern Baptist Convention broke with the national Baptist movement in 1845 over the issues of slavery and centralization. Fundamentalists in the denomination grew concerned about the influence of moderates in the late 1970s and began a concerted -- and ultimately successful -- effort to gain control. For the last 25 years the movement has grown more extreme, culminating in the consideration of this resolution to abandon the public school system. The resolution will be considered at the denomination's annual meeting in Indianapolis in June.

This Southern Baptist resolution comes on the heels of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson's suggestion that California parents remove their children from any public schools where homosexuality is presented as an acceptable lifestyle.