Godless government schools

Southern Baptists voted down a proposal to urge parents to pull kids out of public schools in favor of Christian schools or home-schooling.

Earlier this year, a statement denouncing “government schools” as “officially Godless” had been proposed by retired Air Force General T.C. Pinckney of Alexdandria, Va., and attorney Bruce Shortt of Spring, Texas.

The meeting’s resolutions committee rejected that in favor of a broader and less pointed warning against “the cultural drift in our nation toward secularism.”

Pinckney took the floor to move a briefer amendment encouraging parents to provide their children “a thoroughly Christian education” through private day schools or home schooling. That was defeated that by a show of hands after the most spirited debate of the meeting.

Public schools are officially godless, according to the ACLU.

About Joanne


  1. Ken Two says:

    In the morning papers was news that Southern Baptists had severed ties with the Baptist World Alliance because that group was friendly to homosexual marriage. I imagine that the conference got pretty nasty following that vote and participants might have backed away on the school item.

    Having watched delegates at The Episcopal Church’s Diocesan and General Conventions labor over agenda items on gay bishops and the divinity of Jesus I understand the pain Baptists are feeling.

    People of orthodox faith are walking out of the churches they have given time and treasure to support because a heresy is moving within their denomination. Well it’s time for a little backbone among the orthodox in the churches and the schools.

    Those institutions do not belong to bureaucrats and hierarchy that sit in the principal or bishop’s chair. They belong to us and we shouldn’t be walking away. We should be fighting.

    So I welcome the Baptist saying no to pulling your kid out of public school. That’s an accommodation with the devil. Instead we all need to take up our figurative arms and start the battle to end all battles.

    Invite your friends over to your house. Put “Return of the King” and “Master and Commander” into the VCR and get pumped up – People.

    There are plenty of Orcs for all of us.

  2. I rather doubt there is much disagreement about gay marriage in the SBC. Those churches who were pro-gay were kicked out of the convention long ago. I know about one such church in Raleigh and they found another baptist convention to join. It’s the general way of Baptist churches – policy is really decided on the church level and then churches of like minds band together.

    Give it a little time for the Yankee influx to totally change the southern schools, so that they get the same beyond-secular curriculum. Then we’ll see how the SBC votes.

  3. Lou Gots says:

    A couple of observations here. First, I am not a Baptist, but I have spent a lot of time in a mostly-Baptist Bible study, and I have a feel for how they think on this. Baptists tend to like public education and are big–very big–on church-state separation. Thus the above does not surprise me in the slightest.
    I agree, however that most Baptists would find social anti-nomianism hard to swallow. Our district expects us to teach that “there is no right, there is no wrong” with respect to interpersonal intimate behavior. I’d yank my kids in a heartbeat if they were being subjected to this pediphile recruitment and I suspect a lot of Baptists would do the same.

  4. Steve LaBonne says:

    If you can’t deal with the reality that this is a secular society then by all means stay away from secular, public institutions like the public schools. You and your kids will be better off according to your lights, and so will the rest of us according to ours (we don’t want you in there “battling” to force the system to inculcate beliefs we consider abhorrently bigoted; what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander)- it’s a win-win. (And yes, I DO believe you should be able to take your tax dollars with you so that you can use them to educate your kids as you see fit instead of sending them to a system you can’t use- I’ll stand by you in advocating that.)

    P.S. Southern Baptists USED to be big on church-state seperation before the denomination was taken over by fundamentalists.

  5. Lou, please pass along the policy that states you must teach that ‘ there is no right, no wrong, with respect to interpersonal intimate behavior’. I don’t believe for one second that such a policy exists which sanctions pediphile behavior.

    If people want their students to have a religious education they should send them to a religious school of their persuasion. I teach in a ‘godless’ public school, and proudly so. We teach a lot about respecting other people’s feelings. We tolerate no bullying, fighting or offensive language. We say the pledge every morning.

    We are a public school. This means we serve the needs of all as best we can. We are by definition, secular.


  6. Ken Two says:


    Please explain to us:

    What is the basis for your teaching the children “about respecting other people’s feelings”… and why “bullying, fighting or offensive language” is something to avoid.

    What would your argument be to little Johnny or Susie as to why they shouldn’t go into Billy’s lunchbox and take his candy bar?

  7. Ross (The Heartless Conservative) says:

    I have to agree with Steve LaBonne on this. We do not want religion established in the schools.

    I don’t have a problem with reasonable accomadations. Such as prayer rooms or breaks in the school day that could be used for prayers (or other purposes depending on the student) when such breaks can be worked into the schedule. I don’t see any need for public schools to be hostile to a students religion.

    However if I am being forced to fund public education then I should be free to take the amount that would have been spent on my child and spend it on an adequate education if I don’t feel the public schools provide one. And for the record, the public schools where I am are great and tend to stick to the basics.

  8. speedwell says:

    “I don’t have a problem with reasonable accomadations. Such as prayer rooms or breaks in the school day that could be used for prayers (or other purposes depending on the student) when such breaks can be worked into the schedule.”

    Ross, I’m confused. When did it become necessary for religious kids to confine their praying to a designated area? It’s never been illegal for kids to pray in public school, so long as the prayer is voluntary, isn’t organized, and is the pray-er’s own idea.

    For crying out loud, nobody is contaminated by any “secondhand prayer.” If the devout Christian woman who sits next to me in Quaker meeting feels like lifting herself up to the Lord, she does so in silence and with full cooperation from me, the confirmed atheist spending “quality time” with her higher cognitive and moral functions.

  9. “Public schools are officially godless, according to the ACLU”

    Not godless just Christian Godless…

  10. “Not godless just Christian Godless…”

    No, it’s godless, roux. You don’t see excerpts of the Vedas or the Upanishads or the Eightfold Path in our school office, and no Muslim has ever demanded that we put quotes from the Koran into our mission statement.

    Thank heaven.

  11. No, but it’s interesting that the ACLU is going after the removal of a tiny cross from the seal of L.A., while ignoring the full-size, seal-spanning image of a pagan goddess in the center of the same seal…

    We can’t have Christian displays on public grounds at Christmas, but pagan displays of trees, yule logs, mistletoe, etc. are apparently okay.

    Hypocrisy and/or ignorance at it’s finest…

  12. Hey Susie Q…

    A national talk show host is making a point this Thursday morning that he often has neglected to look at instruction manuals for the many products he owns, but recently he delved into one for a new camera and discovered the incredible amount of features and things the camera could do.

    For him the Torah is the instruction manual for life. He recounts meeting a person on a cruise to whom he asked: How do you deal with questions of morality in your life. The person answered that they trusted their heart,… their feelings.

    And so I refer to my previous question to Atlas: What would your argument be to little Johnny or Susie as to why they shouldn’t go into Billy’s lunchbox and take his candy bar?

    You might feel that the act is wrong, Susie might feel differently.

    The radio host admits there are several instruction manuals for living your life. To judge which to choose he suggests looking at how good the “pictures” turn out among the various users. But to not have an instruction manual leads to “chaos”.

    And that word pretty much sums up the condition in our schools.

  13. Steve LaBonne says:

    I hope I never sink so low as to derive my philosophy of life from the ranting of a talk-show host.

  14. Ken Two, the debate wasn’t as you imagined. SBC has long had as an article of faith the unacceptablity of homosexuality. If you find yourself a homosexual and wish to remain in good standing as a Southern Baptist, you must be celibate. End of story, no negotiation, no weakening.

    the commentary from the SBC proposal sponsors was interesting Shortt alleged that many of the wives of pastors teach in school districts, so the pastors (who were also concerned about financial matters within their churches) wouldn’t do the Christian godly thing and vote for this proposal. It will be interesting to see how the Exodus Mandate (Shortt & Pinckney’s proposal) goes forward.

    This SBC unease with the content of schools is a little ribbon waving in the air. The successs of the general American public school system depends upon parental support. I see that eroding in a number of different ways–the Christian right being just one of them.

  15. Okay Steve LaBonne…

    And so I refer to my previous question to Atlas: What would your argument be to little Johnny or Susie as to why they shouldn’t go into Billy’s lunchbox and take his candy bar?

    You might feel that the act is wrong, Susie might feel differently. But what would you counsel the kids and what would you say to their parents.

    This is a serious question which you should, if you think about this stuff, be able to give some response to.

    As to the radio host: the topic was a discussion not a rant and has nothing to do with my philosophy of life.

  16. Steve LaBonne says:

    I don’t think Joanne would appreciate an attempt to run a graduate seminar in the philosophy of ethics on this comment thread. If you would like to start thinking, and begin informing yourself of what great thinkers have contributed to these debates, instead of trying to score talk-show-level debating points, I recommend starting with a slim volume by the distinguisehed British philosopher Simon Blackburn entitled _Being Good_.

  17. Well Mr. LaBonne, I’d better get busy with my “happy-clappy denial” and your humanist guru across the pond. But I notice you didn’t address the question. Is it so hard?

  18. Having read all of the comments, for those who are in support of religion in school, apparently forgot “English”. Several of them have serious problems with spelling and so forth.

    The “Three R’s” have been forgotten for, which is exactly what public school is about. Not the promotion of CHRISTIANITY, even if I , myself am a Christian.

    A separate room for study of Bible? Sure! As long as they also allow: Buddhists, Muslims, Jewish, Shinto, Paganism, etc. After all, it is EQUAL OPPORTUNITY.

    All in all, it is actually the responsibility of the PARENTS to instill their religious beliefs on their own children and, worship at their church of their choice on each’s Sabbath. Baptists, Catholics on Sunday, 7th Day Adventists and Jewish on Saturdays. The choice is yours on your own FAMILY TIME.

  19. Steve LaBonne says:

    Ken, I hate to break such a disorienting thought to you, but there are multiple schools of thought on precisely how to explain the wrongness of Johnny stealing Susie’s candy bar. (“God said so” can certainly count as one of them, but as a guide to right action it has some rather serious problems that we don’t have the space to discuss here.) Of course, few people outside a philosophy course actually _need_ to have this explained to them. I sincerely hope you’re not one of them.

  20. Steve LaBonne says:

    P.S. For explanations to _kids_, the Golden Rule, some form of which seems to be pretty much a universal in all human cultures, will do nicely for almost any situation they’re likely to encounter.

  21. Mark Odell says:

    [*sigh*] Less is more.

  22. LaBonne writes “how to explain the wrongness of Johnny stealing Susie’s candy bar…” What is the basis for your describing the taking as stealing? Isn’t that judgemental? Couldn’t there be a less threatening attitude brought to the counseling of the child.

    Frank is correct in saying that public schools are not the place to promote religion. But there is an active movement in public schools to deny that this remains a Judeo-Christian country and to inact measures to deconstruct our traditions – traditions which generally have positive effects on kids, especially their character development.

  23. Steve:

    Sounds to me that you then expect that YOUR religious/moral/philosophical beliefs are those which should be endorsed, with a stamp of official disapproval being placed upon all others.

    Remember, please, that the mere fact that an institution is secular does not mandate its hostility to religion.

  24. Steve LaBonne says:

    This is not now nor was it ever (having been founded largely by non-Christian or at best very vaguely Christian Deists like Washington, Jefferson and Franklin) a “Judeo-Christian Country”. It stands rather as the greatest monument to the 18th Century Enlightenment. And since I consider the history and traditions of Christianity to be largely a record of barbarism, I want no part of any “positive” effect of those traditions on my kid, thank you very much. You are very welcome to think otherwise and to so instruct your children- _at home_.

  25. Steve LaBonne says:

    TexasTeacher, please quote the remark that you claim has the meaning you’re trying to foist on me.

  26. Steve LaBonne says:

    Religion being, for better or worse, a very important facet of human culture and history, and good comparative religion course would be a welcome addition to the public-school curriculum. But what such a course may not teach is that the “Judeo-Christian tradition” is somehow more (or less!) correct or valuable than, say, Hunduism. Somehow I doubt that’s what people who what more “religion” in the schools have in mind.

    I do not believe it is the function of _any_ secular school (I have nothing but respect for both homeschoolers and denominational schools) to do more than teach _academic_ skills. I am no more in favor of PC indoctrination in public schools than I would be of Christian indoctrination. I say, lose the sensitivity training; just prevent kids from hurting each other, remind them that “sticks and stones may break my bones…”, and then get back to the proper function of the school. Does that make my position a little clearer? In a nutshell, what in legal discussions of these issues is called “viewpoint neutrality”.

  27. Jeez, I go away for a couple of hours and look what happens–the place falls apart.

    Ok, Ken Two, we certainly do teach that some behaviors are wrong. Taking something from someone’s lunchbox is stealing. It is wrong to call someone names, it is wrong to bully. It is wrong to steal. Any of these things gets you a quick trip to the office and your parents called.

    What I am saying is that we teach the kids that you don’t have the right to just willy nilly hurt someone else, take their things, destroy property.

    You say ‘there is an active movement in public schools to deny that this remains a Judeo-Christian country and to enact measures to deconstruct our traditions’.

    We certainly do not deny that, we just ignore it, as we should, if, in fact that is true. (How’s that for a sentence?)

    Anyway, our traditions are that yu must not bully people

  28. dang, my computer sent it before I finished. So, our traditions are that you must not bully people, call them names, steal their stuff, etc. So how are we deconstructing our traditions?

  29. Anonymous says:

    “how to explain the wrongness of Johnny stealing Susie’s candy bar…”

    Okay, I’ll bite, although I know I shouldn’t.

    If the *only* reason my children are not stealing other people’s chocolate bars is because they believe that God told them not to, they’ve got huge troubles.

    People have been able to tell good from evil long before Christiantity, and I certainly hope my children are able to determine good from evil by first principles rather than reference to religious texts.

    For example, they should be able to tell that if a God demands the murder of an innocent child to prove one’s faith, that’s evil. No book required.

  30. Mad Scientist says:

    Yep, Judiaism has been around a lot longer than Christianity.

    However, the right of personal property should be enough to teach Johnny from stealing Suzie’s candy. No god, no foul.

    I do find it ironic that we actually needed a god to command people not to steal, when violation of one’s personal property is wrong to begin with.

  31. Steve, you mentioned the Golden Rule. Here’s Matthew 7:12, and it’s Jesus talking: “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” I suppose a case could be made for “establisment of religion” if a teacher mentioned this to a kid.

    Mad, you’ve got it all backwards. God doesn’t want us to steal. That’s why it’s wrong. You even know it’s wrong because he was kind enough to give you a conscience even though you don’t believe in him.

    I’m glad the resolution failed because I think it’s silly. First of all, there are fine people in the public school systems. It’s not like devout Christians, Jews, or whatever, have to turn into heathens as a condition of employment. Secondly, there’s a little bit of let-them-eat-cake here. Some folks can’t afford to have Mom at home to homeschool, or to send the kid to private school; and in lots of places there is no private school to send them to anyway. No point in laying a guilt trip on people for doing the only thing they can, especially when the public school in their area is just fine.

  32. “However, the right of personal property should be enough to teach Johnny from stealing Suzie’s candy.”

    Anyone stealin’ my box of See’s chocolates is gonna get stink eye and a box of cow hooey.

  33. The Golden Rule?
    Here’s what Confucius said:
    “Do to every man as thou would’st have him do to thee; and do not unto another what thou would’st not have done to thee” (George Seldes, The Great Quotations, The Citadel Press, 1983, p. 174).

    And, according to The Interpreter’s Bible (New York: Abingdon Press, 1952, Volume 7, p. 329), The Golden Rule “is not a new rule. Lao-tzu, Confucius, Plato, and the Old Testament all taught it in positive or negative forms.”

  34. “God doesn’t want us to steal. That’s WHY it’s wrong.” [emphasis added]

    So, hypothetically, in a godless universe, it would be OK? At least not good, not bad, just lacking in any moral value one way or the other? Or if God said do it, theft could be not only good but required? It’s been a while, but this sounds like the basic (essentially unanswered) question of Plato’s Republic, namely whether there can be absolute moral principles that exist independently of and thus possibly contrary to any authority, even divine authority. If something is good ONLY because we are told to do it, is that really morality, or just obedience?

  35. I inferred that after reading the following quote:

    “You and your kids will be better off according to your lights, and so will the rest of us according to ours (we don’t want you in there “battling” to force the system to inculcate beliefs we consider abhorrently bigoted…”

    In other words, the schools should be teaching the values and beliefs that YOU find acceptable, and teaching hostility to those which are “abhorrently bigotted”. More to the point, those who hold to views you find “abhorrently bigotted” should not be permitted to even have those views accorded equality with your views since their views are religiously based and therefore out of place in your version of a secular world.

  36. Steve LaBonne says:

    TexasTeacher, please read more carefully. To help you understand better, let’s take as an example an issue that I suspect is on your hot-button list- gay rights. I am JUST as opposed to school-sponnored “gay pride days”, stifling of (reasonably civil) student expressions of religious disapproval of homosexuality, etc. as I would be to schoools teaching a fundamentalist Christian position on homosexuality. NEITHER is the proper business of the school- it’s the role of PARENTS to convy their chosen values to their kids. That’s viewpoint neutrality, which is what a secular, public institution should strive to achieve.

  37. Steve LaBonne says:

    Laura, you have simply illustrated my point that the Golden Rule is both a very useful ethical guide and one that is essentially religion- and culture- neutral, because passages like the words of Jesus that you cited could be found in the writings of virtually any religious or ethical tradition. The sense of fair play embodied in the Golden Rule seems to be built right into human nature.

    I prefer, as a slight refinement, the negative form- do _not_ do unto others what you would _not_ have done unto you.

  38. Steve LaBonne says:

    As it happens Erin O’Connor’s “Critical Mass” right now has a very good illustration of what I’m talking about. I fully agree with her that the school in that situation is in the wrong and deserves to be sued and to lose.

  39. Now, let’s see… “God doesn’t want us to steal. That’s WHY it’s wrong.”.

    That, by itself, is INDICATIVE that, parents are ABSCONDING their own RESPONSIBILITY of teaching their own children RIGHT from WRONG. THAT is where the children learn firsthand, how to respect everyone, every race, every religion, every culture, every language.

    Do not forget that, the Clergy in many religions, are themselves, beoing charged with many different crimes. From seduction, abuse, murder, emblezzement (Of church monies or, Church Investors’ money). Such examples as Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, etc. The millions earned from poor people for the excess of Benny Hinn to live in the lap of luxury. Recall the Televangelists who, together warned of the “01/01/00 Prophesy”? They got rich selling booklets explaining their definition of “Day of Doom according the computer crash on 01/01/00” THEN, after it was all and over, they said nothing about it and, continued to “Preach for dollars”.

    No, not “Because GOD said so”. The responsibility BEGINS and ENDS with the PARENT raising the child.


  40. The problem is that such neutrality leads to a noral relativism that is pretty disgusting.

    Like a couple of years ago when I had a group of students, who had been taught to be appropriately non-judgemental and unwilling to impose values on others by their secular schools, proceed to tell me that we really couldn’t say that the Nazi Final Solution was immoral (or even wrong) because it might have been viewed as right by the Germans.

    If we don’t teach our students values and morality, we end up teaching them “no values” and “no morality”.

  41. Steve LaBonne says:

    Tough. Southern Baptist Christianity is quite disgusting to me. The public institutions of a secular country which contains a wide diversity of opinions need to be neutral on such disagreements.
    If you don’t like this as it applies to public schools, the solution is simple- don’t teach in them and don’t send your kids to them.

  42. Steve LaBonne says:

    In case I still haven’t made myself clear enough, the moral formation of children is a job for parents (assisted by private schools if the parents so choose), not public schools. I object just as strongly when this maxim is violated by left-wing PC indoctrinators as when it is violated by conservative “family values” types. In certain parts of the country- the more backeward areas of Texas, for instance- I suspect that the latter are still at least as great a nuisance as the former. In the “blue states” the former problem tends to predominate. A plague on both their houses.

  43. Steve LaBonne says:

    One more thought. Hey conservatives, remember “A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take it all away”? It applies to what we’re talking about here just as much as to economics. Think about it.

  44. Ken Two says:

    Readers: Isn’t it interesting how many times LaBonne writes three messages back to back? Do you suppose he thinks he invokes the trinity? ……………… Nah!!

  45. Tom West says:

    Laura writes: God doesn’t want us to steal. That’s why it’s wrong. You even know it’s wrong because he was kind enough to give you a conscience even though you don’t believe in him.

    Wait a moment. You either follow God’s rules because they are God’s rules, or you follow *your* rules because you know better, and thus don’t require God to tell you what is good and evil.

    The obvious question is how do you know what God wants you to do? Well, the Bible provides a lot of guidance, much of it contradictory. How do you know what parts to obey and which to ignore (assuming you aren’t into stoning witches, etc)? You know what God wants because *you* know what is good, and God would never command you to do something you feel is bad.

    Uh oh. Now you are taking direction from yourself, not God.

    The whole point being if God has provided us with a conscience which acts as a moral compass, then we don’t need religious beliefs to tell right from wrong. (Mighty considerate of him :-))

    In fact, he was considerate enough to choose a moral compass that comes pretty darn close to what you get if you derive a morality based on compassion for one’s fellow human beings, common sense, and logic. It only really gets sticky with more modern concepts like abortion, gay-rights, etc.

    Do you really believe that as Ken Two was implying, it is impossible to be a moral being without belief in God?

  46. Mark Odell says:

    Steve LaBonne wrote: I prefer, as a slight refinement, the negative form- do _not_ do unto others what you would _not_ have done unto you.

    Ah, “great minds,” and so forth.