The Southern Baptist Convention has rejected a proposal to urge its members to withdraw their children from the public schools, but the homeschool advocates who offered it say the effort "succeeded beyond our wildest expectations."
"This is going to hit church leaders right between the eyes," said Houston attorney Bruce Shortt, a homeschooling father. With retired Air Force General T.C. Pinckney and others, Shortt introduced this "Exodus Mandate" on the floor at the SBC's annual meeting in June.
The delegates rejected the measure in a show-of-hands vote, but the unexpectedly heavy major-media coverage made the effort well worthwhile, Shortt said.
"We got the word out; that's for sure," he said. "Thousands of stories, all over the country, in the print media — millions of readers, I'd say."
The high point of the media experience, for Shortt, was an appearance on the ABC Nightly News. Other television networks covered the story, plus major national newspapers like TheWall Street Journal, TheBoston Globe, and The Washington Times. Shortt also praised supporters for circulating the story via email to at least 300,000–500,000 more people, many of them leaders in the Christian community.
Public schools, Shortt said, have become indoctrination centers for a godless agenda that includes atheism, sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, "alternative spirituality" (paganism, Islam, etc.), abortion, and anti-Americanism.
"These schools are incredibly toxic places for children," he said, but the biggest problem is convincing adults that this is so.
"Some, especially the older people, really don't know what's going on in the schools. Some suspect there's a problem, but studiously avert their eyes. And some do know, but don't seem to care.
"Some of the things that go on in public schools these days are so incredibly crude, you can't describe them in private conversation. People simply can't believe it when you tell them, and they get mad at you when you try. They remember the schools as they used to be — nostalgic memories, now irrelevant. The little red schoolhouse has become a whited sepulcher, nice to look at on the outside, but on the inside filled with corruption."
The actual resolution presented to the SBC may be seen on two websites, exodusmandate.org and getthekidsout.org. The resolution details the corruption of the public schools — a subject on which Shortt has written a soon-to-be-published book.
"Once it finally sinks in how bad it is in these schools, some parents will take their kids out," he said. "My book, for instance, is full of fact-checked stories on school violence — which is consistently underreported by school authorities — sexual incidents, and the constant manipulation of test scores by the school authorities to make it look like the kids are getting an education, when they aren't."
Salt and Light?
The SBC Resolutions Committee never accepted the "Exodus Mandate" as an agenda item. Shortt and his colleagues had to move it on the floor as an amendment to a resolution decrying the growing secularization of American life. They had 15 minutes to make their argument, he said. Delegates then voted it down with a show of hands.
Rev. Jack Graham, the outgoing president of the SBC, declined to comment on the matter. But the new president, Dr. Bobby Welch, said he did not support a Baptist-led "exodus" from the public schools.
"We've absolutely got to maintain the right of parents to exercise their own personal responsibility for their children," Welch said, in an sbc.net article. "They need to … get a word from God what to do with their kids … There are probably places where folks ought to take their children out of that school.
"But public schools are places that need the witness of Christians. I don't think Christians should abandon them … If the public school system is in such bad shape, then I think we should stay there and … help them."
"That's the old 'salt and light' argument, and it's preposterous," Shortt said.
He pointed to a recent incident in Newton, Massachusetts, where hundreds of parents thronged a school board meeting to protest the school district's aggressive homosexual-friendly policy. Here, a second-grade teacher invited his class to attend his "wedding" — to another man.
"How are a bunch of eight-year-olds supposed to evangelize an environment like that?" Shortt said. "How is a Christian teacher supposed to do it without getting fired? This would be a case of casting your pearls before swine. They'll turn on you and eat you."
The Next Step
"We've told the people they need to run out of a burning building," he said. "Now they need to have somewhere to run to."
Advocates should concentrate on creating alternatives to the public schools, he said. Although there are not enough Christian schools to replace the government schools, and some parents don't consider themselves capable of homeschooling, "There are a lot of models in between those two poles. And more are being developed."
For instance, Shortt said, churches can buy prepared curricula and present them to children a few days a week, with parents doing one-on-one tutorial work the rest of the time. This would cost parents approximately $1,000 a year (less than $20 a week), he said, and bring churches into play without requiring the construction of separate school buildings.
"The important thing is that the media is finally catching on, and more and more parents and church leaders are getting the message," Shortt said.
"Maybe we'll try to pass our resolution at state conventions — we haven't decided yet. But we've already accomplished much more than we ever thought we could."