The Associated Press
NASHVILLE — Most Southern Baptists send their children to public schools, but some leaders in the faith are urging members to yank children out of schools deemed too tolerant of homosexuality.
The issue is expected to be prominent at the annual Southern Baptist Convention next week in Nashville, where Houston lawyer Bruce Shortt and popular Christian speaker and writer Voddie Baucham Jr. are co-sponsoring a resolution that says churches should look into whether schools are teaching acceptance of homosexuality.
If they find that’s the case, the resolution says, churches then need to inform parents and encourage them to remove their children from the schools.
“Much of this is deceptively labeled as anti-bullying, diversity, safe schools, AIDS/HIV awareness,” Shortt said. “For those who care to investigate, homosexual activists with their agenda are moving through the public schools like freight trains. It’s a problem I think too many denomination leaders don’t understand.”
Shortt, who wrote a book titled “The Harsh Truth About Public Schools,” co-sponsored a failed resolution at last year’s convention that called on Southern Baptists to remove their children from “godless” public schools. A similar resolution is being proposed this year as well, in addition to Shortt and Baucham’s proposal.
“The powers that be don’t like these schools resolutions,” said Baucham, author of the book “The Ever-Loving Truth” and who is expected to speak at the convention Sunday. “The powers that be aren’t willing to take a stand on that issue because it would be too costly. Some 85 percent of Southern Baptists send their children to public schools.”
SBC President Bobby Welch, a pastor in Daytona Beach, Fla., said Baptists should not retreat from public schools, adding that many Southern Baptists cannot afford to homeschool their children or send them to private Christian schools.
“I believe that public schools offer the greatest mission field,” Welch said. “We are put on this planet as change agents. It seems contrary to me we would draw back from the opportunity to make a change. Public schools are a great place to make a difference.”
Welch said he doesn’t expect the resolution calling for a universal withdrawal of Christian students from public schools to be debated on the floor of the convention. Proposed resolutions must first be approved by a committee, which will decide whether to present them to the whole convention.
Robert Parham, executive director of the nonprofit Baptist Center for Ethics, said many SBC leaders fear a backlash from public school teachers and an “awakening within churches about the extremism of their world view.
“These SBC leaders who are resisting the resolutions engage in the worst sort of moral duplicity,” Parham said. “They oppose the anti-public school resolutions while they send their own children to Christian academies or homeschools.”
With more than 16 million members, the Southern Baptist Convention is second in size to only the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. Resolutions approved by the convention are nonbinding, and all member churches are autonomous in their ministries.
Shortt and Baucham’s resolution says schools promote acceptance of homosexuality through officially sanctioned gay clubs, diversity training, anti-bullying courses, safe sex and safe schools programs.
Joe Solmonese, president of the gay rights advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, said it plans to hold a news conference at next week’s convention disputing the resolution, which claims homosexuality is more dangerous than smoking cigarettes and leads to “drastically increased risk of contracting various cancers.”
“We have seen for too long the co-opting of faith and religion in this country, the use of faith as a weapon,” Solmonese said. “I’m concerned about the focus of the Southern Baptist Convention. I feel like the leadership, given their priorities are skewed toward our community, that says to me they’re more dedicated to creating a culture of hatred and violence toward the gay community.”