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Resolution On Free Exercise Of Religion In Public Schools

WHEREAS, Baptists in general and Southern Baptists in particular share a proud heritage and have a biblical and historical devotion to and responsibility for the existence of religious freedom in our nation; and

WHEREAS, Some Supreme Court decisions on mandated prayer and Bible-reading in public schools have resulted, as Justice Goldberg warned they should not, in a “brooding and pervasive devotion to the secular and a passive, or even active hostility to the religious”; and

WHEREAS, Justice Goldberg stated, “Such results are not only not compelled by the Constitution, but it seems to me, are prohibited by it”; and

WHEREAS, The decisions have been greatly misunderstood and grossly misapplied by some public school boards, administrators, and teachers to mean that the United States Constitution prohibits voluntary prayer and Bible-reading in America’s public schools; and

WHEREAS, The free exercise rights of students are not forfeited at the doors of America’s public schools; and

WHEREAS, The Supreme Court has indicated by recent decisions that the “strict separationist” doctrine which has dominated church-state philosophy and constitutional law for several decades may be giving way to an “accomodationist” doctrine of religious expression in the public schools; and

WHEREAS, In 1990 the Supreme Court upheld the Equal Access Act which guarantees the constitutional right of public high school students to initiate and lead prayer and Bible study groups before and after school if other non-curricular clubs are also permitted; and

WHEREAS, The Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and many Baptist state convention evangelism departments have properly encouraged students to exercise their religious liberties through the nationwide “See You at the Pole” effort; and

WHEREAS, Though the Equal Access Act is a significant step toward a balanced concept of religious liberty, the Act still more closely resembles religious toleration rather than religious liberty, since the rights guaranteed by the law are tied to students’ rights of free speech and assembly, rather than their right of free religious exercise.

Therefore, Be it RESOLVED, That we, the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, June 9-11, 1992, commend recent actions taken by the Supreme Court to recognize and enforce the free exercise of religion for students in our nation’s public schools; and

Be it further RESOLVED, That we urge all Southern Baptist students vigorously and aggressively to seek all means by which they may share the love of God with their fellow students; and

Be it further RESOLVED, That we commend the Home Mission Board, Baptist state convention evangelism departments, and all Baptists exercising their religious liberties for the furtherance of the Gospel; and

Be it finally RESOLVED, That we encourage the United States Congress to seek means by which the Equal Access Act may be expanded to maximize the free exercise rights of public school students.