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Resolution On Accommodation Of Religious Expression In Public Schools

WHEREAS, Religious freedom has long been a Baptist distinctive, integral to Baptist faith and practice; and

WHEREAS, Religious freedom was a distinctively Baptist contribution as formulated in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; and

WHEREAS, Religious freedom has suffered severe erosion in the last half of the century, especially in America’s public school policies, partly as a result of errant interpretations of the First Amendment Establishment Clause to require extreme “strict separation of church and state,” which can accommodate only arid secularism in public school policies rather than accommodating religious pluralism; and

WHEREAS, In Lee v. Weisman, 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court banned public school commencement prayers which were faculty-initiated and directed; and

WHEREAS, Prior Supreme Court decisions have held that accommodation of religious expression in public schools does not violate church/state separation.

Therefore, be it RESOLVED, That we, the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Houston, Texas, June 15-17, 1993, decry the decision in Lee v. Weisman for failing to accommodate the religious traditions of the community, and for holding instead that prayers by a private citizen were necessarily school-sponsored and coercive, in a lopsided emphasis on “strict separation” rather than religious freedom; and

Be it further RESOLVED, That we affirm the interpretation of Lee by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which permitted student-initiated, student-led prayer at commencements and other public school-related events, and commend the Supreme Court for leaving undisturbed the Fifth Circuit decision (Jones v. Clear Creek Independent School District, 1992); and

Be it further RESOLVED, That we call upon the courts and public officials not to blur the distinction between government action, which the Constitution may prohibit, and private religious expression, which the Constitution must protect; and

Be it finally RESOLVED, That we call upon Southern Baptist parents, students, teachers, and officials in public schools to work aggressively for full and free accommodation of prayer and religious expression in public school policies, including public school-related events.