Image: Southern Baptist Convention
Sara D. Davis  /  AP
Newly elected Southern Baptist Convention President Frank Page, second left, votes during the SBC's annual meeting Wednesday in Greensboro, N.C.
updated 6/14/2006 8:14:47 PM ET 2006-06-15T00:14:47

There will almost certainly be no Southern Baptist exodus from the nation’s public schools — at least for now.

Leaders of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination Wednesday refused to support a resolution that would have urged the denomination to form an “exit strategy” for pulling Southern Baptist children from public schools in favor of home schools or private Christian schools.

The proposal, offered by Roger Moran of Troy, Mo., and Texas author Bruce Shortt, came as many of the nation’s 16.2 million Southern Baptists are concerned about how classrooms are handling subjects such as homosexuality and “intelligent design.”

Instead of putting the exit strategy before delegates to the SBC’s annual meeting, the denomination’s resolutions committee called on members to “engage the culture of our public school systems” by exerting “godly influence,” including standing for election to local school boards.

Those ideas were part of a more moderate resolution titled “On Engaging the Direction of the Public School System” scheduled for debate Wednesday evening at the final session of the denomination’s annual meeting.

The public schools issue has been simmering for several years. A resolution similar to the one offered by Moran and Shortt failed to pass two years ago. Delegates at last year’s annual meeting approved a resolution urging parents and churches to “to exercise their rights to investigate diligently the curricula, textbooks, and programs in our community schools.”

“We are commanded biblically to train our children in the nurture of the Lord,” said Moran, who sits on the SBC’s executive committee. “The public schools are no longer allowed ... to even acknowledge the God of the Bible.”

Moran could raise his resolution again from the floor of the convention Wednesday night, but such efforts rarely succeed.

Offering the ‘harsh truth’
Moran, who owns a company that makes construction supplies, is a father of nine children, ages 18 months to 18 years. All have been home-schooled or attended Christian schools, he said.

The proposal from Moran and Shortt, author of “The Harsh Truth About Public Schools,” complained that curricula teaching “the homosexual lifestyle is acceptable” are being implemented in public schools. It also criticized a federal court ruling last year that banned a Pennsylvania school system’s classroom mention of “intelligent design” — the notion that life is so complex it must have been created by a higher intelligence.

The resolution approved by the SBC committee refers to the Pennsylvania decision, but also goes out of its way to “affirm the hundreds of thousands of Christian men and women who teach in our public schools.”

Also Wednesday, the SBC unofficially barred members who drink alcohol from serving as trustees or members of any SBC entity.

The ban, part of a larger anti-alcohol resolution that was easily approved by delegates, was proposed by Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. While stopping short of officially preventing drinkers from serving, it “urges” that no one be elected or appointed to SBC offices if they are “a user of alcohol.”

“Use of alcohol as a beverage can and does impede the message of Jesus Christ” that Southern Baptists are trying to spread, Richards said.

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