As we conclude another year by celebrating the birth of Jesus, America’s future seemingly hangs in the balance. Whether we become one thing or another may well depend on how we react in the days ahead. Our decisions are sure to impact generations to come.
As I think about the coming year and the challenges it will present, I can think of none more important than parental control of their children. Mask/vaccination mandates, gender identity programming, uni-sex restrooms and school curriculum that portrays America as “systematically racist” are attempts to shape the minds of the young – counter to what the Bible teaches. Such thought is pervasive in our government bureaucracy (the Department of Education), much of corporate America, the entertainment industry and media. Now, they think, public schools are next.
As the Missouri General Assembly prepares for another session beginning Jan. 5, expect parental control to be a major issue before lawmakers. Such control could include legislation banning the teaching of Critical Race Theory and the discredited “1619 Project,” which falsely claims America was founded by slaves in 1619. Expect stiff resistance from the teachers’ unions, particularly the National Education Association.
Another remedy: More parents run for seats on their local school boards – and win.
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On Dec. 8, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on whether Maine, which provides funding for secondary school students, can reject providing money for those who want to attend religious schools, if its rejection is based on the institution’s inclusion of sectarian teachings. This could lead to greater parental control and school choice, thus breaking the backs of the teachers’ unions and government bureaucrats offering resistance.
Mike Whitehead, who serves as MBC legal counsel (not in this case) and his son, Jonathan, are on the legal team that argued for those wanting to send their children to religious schools. We are cautiously optimistic the court will rule on the side of parental choice. I hope you will read Mike’s assessment of the hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court on page 21.
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Two Republicans in the Missouri House, Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, and Rep. Chris Sander, R-Lone Jack, have filed a bill prohibiting discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. This legislation has failed more than 20 times and for good reasons. It threatens the First Amendment rights of all Missourians. If passed it could force the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home, the state’s largest provider of foster care, to hand over children to homosexual couples. It could also force the Missouri Baptist Convention’s three universities to accept homosexual students as well as threatening people of faith who desire to run their privately-owned businesses according to the dictates of their faith. Florists, photographers, bakeries and many other businesses could be severely impacted.
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Several Southern Baptists are set to run for seats in the Missouri General Assembly. Rep. Doug Richey, R-Excelsior Springs and pastor of Pisgah Baptist Church and evangelist Dirk Deaton, R-Noel, will be running for re-election. Scott Riedel, a retired military Southern Baptist chaplain from Camdenton, a Republican, is running for the state senate seat presently held by Justin Brown. Terry Brown, a bi-vocational pastor from Cabool is running for the House.
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It was a pleasure joining the public policy advisors from other state conventions in the Southern Baptist Convention for two days of meetings in Nashville. It was a beneficial meeting in which issues and ideas were discussed. I was particularly pleased with the work of the current Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission staff.
The search for a new president will continue into the new year. We need strong, wise leadership that will develop relationships in Washington so lawmakers will hear the concerns of Southern Baptists. One final piece of advice: Never, ever, leave the room – even when things are going badly. Nothing will happen if you are not in the room.
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There are two significant prayer events scheduled for next month in Jefferson City. The first will be at 9 a.m., Jan. 5, as Concord Baptist Church hosts the annual Legislative Prayer Service. Then at 7 a.m., Jan. 6, Gov. Mike Parson will host The Governor’s Prayer Breakfast at the Capitol Plaza Hotel.
Thank you for another record-setting year! Much thanks to Associate Editor Dr. Ben Hawkins, my marvelous assistant Beth Peeper and all the great columnists and freelance writers that have contributed to The Pathway in 2021.