Law & Courts

Southern Baptists Decline To Take Up Call for Public School Exodus

By Mary Ann Zehr — June 23, 2004 2 min read
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A proposal that the Southern Baptist Convention urge Christian parents to remove their children from public schools didn’t get the support it needed to be considered for a vote last week at the convention’s annual meeting.

T.C. Pinckney, a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general from Alexandria, Va., who had pushed the measure, said he doesn’t plan to give up trying to persuade Southern Baptists to opt for home schooling and private Christian schooling instead of public schools that he sees as hostile to Christian beliefs.

Mr. Pinckney said in an interview last week that he plans to submit a similar proposal to the convention next year. “We will not fold our tents and tuck our tail between our legs and sneak away,” he said.

Numbering 16.3 million, Southern Baptists make up the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. Some 8,700 representatives gathered for religious services and to vote on church matters at the meeting, held June 15 and 16 in Indianapolis.

The resolution sought by Mr. Pinckney and co-author Bruce N. Shortt, a Houston lawyer and home schooling father, called public schools “Godless” and “anti-Christian.” It criticized such schools for “teaching that the homosexual lifestyle is acceptable.” (“Vote Sought on Public School ‘Exodus’,” May 26, 2004.)

In its rationale for urging parents to remove their children from public schools, the proposal said: “It is foolish for Christians to give their children to be trained in schools run by the enemies of God.”

Amendment Defeated

Calvin R. Wittman, the chairman of the 10-member resolutions committee for the convention, told the assembled Southern Baptists last week that the committee had unanimously decided not to bring Mr. Pinckney’s resolution up for a vote before the convention.

He explained to the attendees that the committee members felt that parents—and not the denomination—should be the ones to decide where to send their children to school, according to John Revell, a spokesman for the convention.

But Mr. Pinckney made sure that the church representatives, which Southern Baptists call messengers, had a chance to consider the matter at the annual meeting. As an amendment to another resolution, which criticized the secularization of American society, he proposed urging Christian parents to choose home schooling or private schooling for their children.

Messengers discussed that amendment for about 20 minutes, according to Mr. Pinckney, before voting it down.

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