Why do so many Christian parents still send their children to anti-Christian public schools?
"I know you're telling the truth. I just can't believe it," my wife used to say every day when I came home from teaching at a public school and told her what I saw and heard.
Telling people what's happening in the schools is one thing. Getting them to believe it is another.
"Many people don't believe me," said Jen Shroder of Blessed Cause, an organization in California. Ms. Shroder, a single mother of two children, has been battling the California schools for years, as a parent and through her ministry (see www.blessedcause.org).
Why don't people believe her?
"It's hard to believe," she said. "It's hard to believe that many schools in California actually asked children to get down on their knees and pray to Allah or that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals [San Francisco] ruled it is appropriate to have children pretend they are witches and sorcerers, creating spells and chanting them, and participating in [pagan or New Age] religious practices when regulations say they cannot."
Bruce Shortt, a Houston attorney who made news last summer when he asked the Southern Baptist Convention to call on Baptist parents to remove their children from the public schools, has also come up against the "denial factor."
"Yes, I have a hard time getting people to believe me," he said. "They may finally concede it happens somewhere, but it couldn't possibly happen in their school district."
Why Won't They Believe?
"Most parents are working full-time," Ms. Shroder said. "Moms have precious little time for their children. We work, cook dinner, have loads of laundry that need to be done in the evening, help our children with homework—and when we finally get to have a normal conversation with our kids, they do not want to waste it talking about school or how the teacher asked them to taste condoms."
For parents whose lives are not quite so hectic, disbelief arises from another source, Shortt said.
"If they admitted to what's happening in the schools, they'd have to act," he said. "But they don't want to have to change what they're doing. They don't want to take responsibility."
For some, it's harder than that.
"There are no private schools in this area," Ms. Shroder said, "and I couldn't afford private schools if I tried. I could homeschool my kids, but Child Protective Services would probably be happy to accuse me of neglecting them when I was at work. So my kids are in public school, and I represent millions of single moms in the same situation."
Shortt has recommended that more churches set up children's daytime care to help hard-pressed parents make the transition to homeschooling.
"Christians who deny that government schools are aggressively anti-Christian are deluding themselves," Shortt said.
As a "comic opera" example of the schools at work, he pointed to an incident in Plano, Texas, just before this past Christmas. There, school authorities went so far as to ban red and green napkins from the children's "holiday parties," lest the colors be construed as a tacit endorsement of Christmas. A judge overturned their decision after Christian parents sued the school district (see http://www.earnedmedia.org/cws.htm).
Shortt pointed out that Plano is the home of the Prestonwood Baptist Church ("perhaps the largest and most powerful SBC church in Texas"), pastored by the immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention. "The schools in question are in exactly the sort of 'red state' community that we were repeatedly told had schools that were 'different' and 'Christian-friendly,'" he said.
"Our pastors and parents obviously have no idea about what is really going on in these schools," Shortt said. "Maybe now the Southern Baptist leadership will do what should have been done last summer—recommend to our brothers and sisters in Christ that we take our children out of Pharaoh's schools.
"Christians talk about their children being 'salt and light' in these schools. But what happened in Plano proves that Christian parents and teachers have absolutely no influence in these schools."
"We warn children not to accept everything the teacher tells them—which furthers disrespect—but parents have no choice," Ms. Shroder said. "If a parent does approach a teacher with a concern, we have to deal with the fear that our children will suffer retribution. And they often do."