Category archives: Education

Can American Higher Education Be Salvaged?

by FRC

December 6, 2017

American higher education is in crisis.

At an FRC Speaker Series event on December 5th, this important issue was explored in a discussion with Dr. Richard Bishirjian Dr. Peter Wood entitled “The Anti-American Bias of American Higher Education.” Here is a summary of some key points that were made during this event:

  • College education costs have increased exponentially over the past 30 years. Tuition debt currently stands at over $1.2 trillion. Yes, that’s trillion. About half of students default or fail to pay down their debt within seven years of graduation.
  • Sixty percent of college faculty are politically on the Left, while less than 15 percent are conservative, displaying a disturbing absence of intellectual diversity.
  • Core curriculum requirements at most universities have been drastically slashed. This means that a large percentage of students are not exposed to courses in history, western civilization, economics, American government, English literature, and foreign language.
  • There is a huge disparity in how conservatives and liberals view higher education. A recent Pew study found that 58 percent of conservatives think that colleges and universities “have a negative effect on the country,” while 72 percent of liberals say that higher education has a “positive effect on the country.”
  • College presidents are initiating programs for students to become community organizers so that they can eventually engage in political activism for the Left.
  • Higher education has from the beginning set out to serve four public functions: (1) The pursuit of truth; (2) Shaping the next generation with the knowledge and values already obtained by civilization; (3) Preparation for a career or vocation; (4) Preparing students for public commitment to become citizens. These goals are difficult to accomplish when much of higher education is centered on the idea that America is bigoted and colonial, and whose foundations must be completely changed.
  • A recent survey found that 44 percent of millennials would prefer to live in a socialist country.
  • A study found that 78 percent of American history courses at Texas A&M were race/class/gender related.
  • The $600 billion higher education industry built almost entirely on borrowed money is not sustainable.

Despite being in dire straits, the speakers also made it clear that they are hopeful for the resurrection of American higher education. The growth of online courses is a means by which people can opt out of the higher education paradigm and experiment to other tracts. Another hopeful sign is the enduring popularity of biographies and other historical books (much of which is ignored in modern higher education), which indicates peoples’ continued thirst for expanding their knowledge outside of the college paradigm. The expanding popularity of publically available online lectures and podcasts may provide a glimpse as to what the future may hold for higher education.

View the entire event to learn more about this important issue.

Georgetown University’s Identity Crisis

by Kelly Marcum

October 27, 2017

In today’s bitter and vitriolic political climate, there are few labels more intellectually lazy than “hate group.” When you label an entity as a “hate group,” you automatically demonize it. In so doing, you immediately remove from your shoulders any mantle of responsibility to dialogue or engage in civil discourse with this denounced entity. “They” are haters and must be sacrificed at the altar of tolerance without any further question.

This cowardly melodrama is currently playing out at our nation’s oldest Catholic university, where a student group has come under attack for taking the allegedly “hateful” position that Christianity got it right when it said sexual relations were meant for marriage, and that marriage was meant to be between a man and woman.

Students at Georgetown University founded Love Saxa, an affiliate of the Love & Fidelity Network, because they saw a gaping void on campus. In the face of the ubiquitous hookup culture, widespread pornography usage, increasing sexual assaults, and attacks on the institution of marriage, Love Saxa sought to be a voice that would argue for the cultivation of healthy relationships, the repossession of sexual integrity, and the defense of traditional marriage.

Love Saxa’s position is not a popular one, particularly on a D.C. campus of politically active millennials. But one would hope that its place at a Catholic university, even one so liberal as Georgetown, would provide some level of security.

Alas, however, when the utter complacency of the Georgetown University administration is combined with the insatiable appetite of social justice warriors, no strand of orthodox Christianity can be left unthreatened.

On Monday, members of Georgetown’s Pride group filed a petition to sanction Love Saxa and strip it of its university funding and ability to operate on campus. Several days earlier, the editorial board of Georgetown’s student paper The Hoya—whose staff clearly hold up CNN and The New York Times as paragons of journalistic integrity—penned an op-ed accusing Love Saxa of fostering hostility and intolerance because of their commitment to the Christian view of procreative marriage.

The authors of the article at least recognize that Love Saxa’s mission statement is in line with the Catholic Church’s view of marriage and sexuality; however, their faculties of logic fail them when they go on to claim that despite upholding the same faith as their university, Love Saxa is violating the university’s code of conduct by arguing against same-sex marriage.

But then, logic and rationality needn’t play a large role when one can simply bandy about “hate group” terminology. The Left’s modus operandi appears to be to toss out words like “intolerant” and “dehumanizing” alongside a few accusations of “hostility” and “bigotry” and hope that in the subsequent maelstrom of indignant outcries, no one notices the utter lack of coherency in their position.

Unfortunately, their ploy has proven successful far too frequently. Even now, in the face of this sham of a petition, Georgetown’s official statement is predictably weak, and they even appear to be giving a semblance of credence to the calls to silence Love Saxa:

As a Catholic and Jesuit institution, Georgetown listens deeply and discerningly to the plurality of voices that exist among our students, faculty, and staff and is committed to the care of each member of our community,” Rachel Pugh, a university spokesperson, said.

Pugh provides no further clarification of how the school will deal with a “plurality of voices” when only one voice is defending the faith it purports to believe. G.K. Chesterton wrote that “tolerance is the virtue of the man without conviction,” and, speaking as a Georgetown alumnae and a founding board member of Love Saxa, it is unfortunate—though I confess not entirely unexpected—that Georgetown is once again revealing the tepidity of its own commitment to Catholicism, and choosing the “tolerant” path over that of conviction.

Perhaps they think doing so will quiet the liberal voices calling for the disbanding of Love Saxa, but that is a position so naive as to be indefensible. The Left has proven that it does not stop in its quest to silence its opposition, no matter how “discerningly” that opposition hears its complaints. No compromise is sufficient for them. Once given an inch, these forces of illiberal liberalism demand a mile. Chad Gasman, a sophomore at Georgetown and the president of GU Pride, told The Hoya that this petition, which he helped to file, will “force Georgetown University to actually be queer-friendly and queer-affirming.” Such a statement reveals that nothing short of an open endorsement of all same-sex relationships, including marriage, will be enough, no matter how much it defies the faith of the institution they have chosen to attend.

If Love Saxa is banned from defending the Christian vision of sexuality and marriage, how will the Jesuits of Georgetown be able to refrain from referring to their own Church as a “hate group”? How long before they will be called on to condemn the doctrinal tenets of Catholicism?

Kelly Marcum is the Government Affairs office coordinator at Family Research Council. A founding member of Love Saxa, she graduated from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service in 2015.

The Judicial Assault on Public School Privacy Policies

by FRC

October 2, 2017

Activist judges are continuing to rule against the rights of students, parents, and public school districts to determine their own bathroom and locker room privacy policies. In FRC’s latest Facebook Live event, Travis Weber, the director of FRC’s Center for Religious Liberty joins John Rustin, the President and Executive Director of the North Carolina Family Policy Council to discuss this important issue. Here is a summary of some of the key points made in this discussion:

  • The 7th Circuit Court’s recent decision in Kenosha Unified School District v. Whitaker was a loss of autonomy and ability of school districts and parents to set the policies they want for their students, particularly that of boys and girls using private facilities separately.
  • Since children are compelled by law to go to school, parents ought to have the right to help set policies with respect to privacy issues in bathrooms and locker rooms.
  • The Kenosha case is the latest example of why the federal judiciary often gets a bad name. It is a clear example of a judge who is unaccountable to the people imposing their own policy preference in law. The judge in the Kenosha case cited Title IX’s prohibition of sex discrimination as the reason why a student who identifies as transgender should be allowed to use the bathroom and other private facilities of their choice. Until very recently, Title IX has never been viewed as a means of forcing school districts to accommodate these claims.
  • In the Kenosha case, the school district was happy to accommodate the student who identified as transgender by offering them a separate private facility to use. As is often the case, however, this accommodation was viewed as unsatisfactory. Parties and individuals pushing the transgender bathroom agenda are often not trying to be reasonable—they instead demand that their proposed policies be made into law and be fully accepted by all.
  • Reasonable accommodations can be made to protect the privacy of students who identify as transgender without infringing upon the privacy rights of all the other students. The Kenosha school system has over 22,000 students, and yet the 7th Circuit Court inexplicably decided to throw out the privacy interests of 21,999 students on behalf of one student.
  • Cases like this are stark reminders of how important it is to have an administration that will appoint judges who faithfully read the text of the law and the Constitution and adhere to it without injecting their policy preferences.
  • FRC and the North Carolina Family Policy Council along with 19 other family policy organizations signed on to an amicus brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the Kenosha case in order to bring some sanity back to the bathroom privacy issue by not only allowing parents and school districts to have a say in determining privacy policies, but also to reinforce that biological sex distinctions matter in public educational facilities.
  • Even Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recognized in 1975 that sex discrimination prohibitions in law did not mean that privacy must be compromised.
  • When courts rule as the 7th Circuit did in the Kenosha case, they are violating the rule of law itself by circumventing Congress, which alone has the people’s voice and the authority to change laws.

View the full video to find out more.

How Can Public School Students Exercise Their Religious Liberty Rights?

by FRC

September 21, 2017

How can students in public schools exercise their constitutional religious liberty rights? In part three of our “Back to School” Facebook Live series, FRC policy experts Sarah Perry and Travis Weber discuss this important question. Here is a summary of some key points from this discussion:

  • The First Amendment to the Constitution is the basis for religious liberty, particularly in its “free speech” and “free exercise” protections.
  • The much talked-about “wall of separation” between church and state that is often misrepresented in our current culture is derived from the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which states that the government cannot mandate one faith that people must follow. This notion has often been misapplied to exclude any religious mention or prayer from the public square. In reality, the intent of the Establishment Clause is much more limited—it was meant to protect the “free exercise” of all religions by not “establishing” one religion in particular.
  • Two principles should be kept in mind when considering whether an activity is protected by the free expression of religion in a public school setting: 1) is religion being treated equally with non-religion in any particular situation, and 2) is the religious activity or expression student-led or initiated?
  • If a student is confronted for and prohibited from wearing a cross necklace, for example, the first step is to establish the facts of the incident. Parents can then take their concerns to the teacher or other official who is involved in the situation. If the situation is not addressed satisfactorily at the school level, public advocacy groups such as FRC, Alliance Defending Freedom, and First Liberty Institute should be contacted in order to draw attention to the situation through the media and for legal advice.
  • The Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act was recently passed in Florida, prompted by two incidents of blatant religious liberty violation in which a student was commanded to remove their cross necklace, and another incident in which a student was reprimanded for reading a Bible during their free time.
  • The Supreme Court established in Town of Greece v. Galloway that public prayer in a local government setting is constitutional in accord with the Establishment Clause, which means that public school employees like football coach Joe Kennedy should be allowed to take a knee in prayer at a football game.
  • A school is permitted to keep order in their environments by limiting rights only when they materially and substantially disrupt the learning environment. Broadly speaking, however, this applies in very limited circumstances.
  • Religious clubs must be permitted to operate in the same way as non-religious clubs in public school settings.
  • During school, students have the right to pray as they want in a moment of silence and during lunch, read their Bibles, share their faith, hand out literature, and do other religious activities as long as they are not disrupting the school environment.
  • Public school teachers, coaches, and officials are seen as representatives of the government and cannot set forth a principle of religion that people must follow. In their private time “off the clock” while at school, they can engage in any religious activities they choose.
  • If teachers are unsure about the legality of a religious activity they want to engage in at school, they should seek legal advice before engaging in the activity in order to be safe from having litigation filed against them by a parent or the school.

View the full video to find out more.

Why Are College Students Afraid of Free Speech?

by Daniel Hart

September 19, 2017

In a startling new survey of college students conducted by the Brookings Institution, it was found that fully one in five students think that “using violence to disrupt a controversial speaker is acceptable.” There were “no statistically significant differences in response by political party affiliation.”

Other results from the survey indicate that 51 percent of students think that “shouting over controversial speakers so they can’t be heard” is acceptable. Sixty-two percent of Democrats agreed that this behavior was acceptable, compared to 39 percent of Republicans.

These disturbing findings have been born out in recent in events on college campuses across the country. This past March, students at Middlebury College in Vermont physically assaulted a professor who was accompanying guest speaker Charles Murray as he attempted to leave the campus, whose planned speech was interrupted to the point that he could not continue it. Just last week, The University of California Berkeley had to spend $600,000 on security to ensure that violent riots did not break out during Ben Shapiro’s speech there.

One has to wonder, what is it about free speech that many college students are so afraid of? What is the point of using violent and disruptive tactics to silence speakers who may have viewpoints that differ from these students? Wouldn’t engaging in respectful debate be more beneficial for everyone involved? If a certain viewpoint is seen as being so terrible as to be violently suppressed, why not simply demonstrate the terribleness of this viewpoint through rational discourse?

The protection of free speech is an issue that people of all political viewpoints must demand as a protected First Amendment right on college campuses. Thankfully, there are hopeful signs that more and more people from across the political spectrum are waking up to the urgency of this free speech crisis. Recently, New York Times columnist Bret Stephens spoke eloquently about this on Real Time with Bill Maher:

Too many campus administrators are basically cowed by small minorities of totalitarian-minded students who just don’t want to hear anything except what they’re disposed to agree with. The job of grownups is to behave like grownups and say, ‘no.’ Intellectually, a college is not a ‘safe space.’ Intellectually, a college is going to be a place where your ideas are harmed, and perhaps even destroyed, and that’s as it should be.”

Author and professor Salman Rushdie brought this point home superbly:

A college should be a ‘safe space’ for thought, not a ‘safe space’ from thought. And if you go to college and you never hear anything you haven’t thought before, then you may as well have stayed home. And people who think that they should never hear things that would upset them should go somewhere else and leave that space available to somebody who can benefit from what is called ‘education.’”

The Rights that Students and Parents Have to Challenge Transgender Policies

by FRC

September 11, 2017

In part two of our “Back to School” Facebook Live series, FRC policy experts Sarah Perry and Cathy Ruse discuss the legal status of transgender policies in public schools, what rights students and parents have to fight these ideological policies, and much more. Here is a summary of some key points from this discussion:

  • Despite the fact that there is no federal mandate to enshrine transgender policies in public schools, individual schools and states can (and in some cases are) mandating these controversial policies.
  • This issue goes well beyond bathrooms – 17 different areas within school policy can be affected by the implementation of transgender ideologies, including showers, overnight sleeping accommodations, the forced use of pronouns, etc. In Fairfax County and some other school systems, little girls are being taught that they may grow up to be men, and little boys are being taught that they may grow up to be women.
  • Some public schools are now framing “children’s rights” in terms of students who identify as “transgender” using school as the time where they are free to express their “true selves”; if parents object to their children’s behavior, they are seen as being in the way of their children’s freedom.
  • Can schools force students to call a fellow student by the sex that they identify as (that is opposite from their biological sex)? Our First Amendment right to not be compelled to speak should guard against this, but this could very well be challenged in court in the future.
  • Most states do allow parents to opt their children out of sex-ed classes. However, “gender identity” is increasingly being taught outside of the sex-ed curriculum in “general health” classes where there is no option to opt out. Parents have to fight at the state level and the school board level for the right to opt their children out of any lessons they deem objectionable.
  • Students who are being forced to undress in locker rooms in front of those of the opposite biological sex can ask for accommodations to be able to use a separate facility; this may be the only short-term recourse.
  • In the vast majority of states, parents have the right to review curriculum, lesson plans, and lesson materials. If you can’t opt your child out of the objectionable material, you can at least prepare them for what they will encounter.
  • It is not the gender-confused child, their parents, the teachers, or the school that should be blamed in all of this; they may be under pressure from outside forces such as the state or transgender activists. Compassion is always the appropriate response. It is critical to remember that 80 to 90 percent of gender-confused children will ultimately accept their true biology. By “affirming” a child in the opposite gender, these policies are locking a child into something they will likely normally grow out of.

View the full video to find out more.

Advice for Parents On Challenging Transgender Policies in Public Schools

by FRC

September 6, 2017


Just in time for the new school year, FRC presents its Facebook Live “Back to School” series. In our first video, FRC policy experts Sarah Perry and Peter Sprigg answer questions about transgender policies, gender pronouns, and more. Below are a few recommendations for parents regarding the increasing prevalence of transgender ideologies in school systems across the country.

  • If school board administrators at your child’s school claim that transgender policies must be put in place in public schools so that they will not lose federal funding, they are not being truthful. The Trump administration withdrew the Obama administration’s May 2016 guidance instructing schools to allow transgender students to use the locker rooms and restrooms of their choice.
  • Become a citizen advocate: Find out what precisely is being taught to your child regarding sexuality and what transgender restroom/locker room policies are in place. If you verify that radical transgender ideologies are being taught and/or enforced in your child’s school system, approach the school administration in hierarchical order with your concerns; this will ensure the best chance of success. Start with the classroom teacher; if your concerns are not satisfactorily addressed, move on to the school principal, then to the school superintendent, then to the elective school board.

View the full video to find out more.

For further guidance, be sure to download our brochure “A Parent’s Guide to the Transgender Movement in Education.”

School Board Rigs System for Transgender Win

by Cathy Ruse

June 30, 2017

The Chairman of the Prince William County School Board didn’t want to leave anything to chance last week when he pushed for the passage of transgender norms in public schools.

Apparently, he stacked the deck before the vote, front-loading citizen speakers in favor of his position, and relegating those opposed to the end of the line, after the vote. 

The transgender policy passed 5-3.

Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13) obtained text messages (below) from Prince William School Board Chair Ryan Sawyers via FOIA request showing that Sawyers hand-picked speakers who favored imposing a new transgender policy in Prince William Schools to speak prior to the School Board vote on that issue at their June 21st meeting.

A Legislative Services attorney advised Marshall that the Prince William School Board’s own regulations (133-1) in sections B and E, provide that persons are to speak in the order in which they have put in their requests to speak. 

Not only did Chairman Sawyers fail to follow the rules, he trampled on the First Amendment rights of Prince William county residents according to attorney Caleb Dalton.

If the transgender agenda is so appealing, why do you need to rig a meeting to get it passed?

Taxpayers and parents in Prince William County deserve better than this.

When Campuses Become Battlefields: Protecting Free Speech in a Hostile Environment

by Ian Frith

June 29, 2017

College campuses have become increasingly hostile grounds for political discourse. Citing safety concerns, student groups all over the country have seen their events cancelled by university administrators worried about violence on college campuses. Speakers who have managed to appear on campuses have found themselves harassed by student protestors, and have even faced violence by opposition groups. Take for example, Charles Murray’s attempt to speak at Middlebury College in Vermont. Not only was Murray shouted down with profanity by an enraged progressive student body, but Middlebury Professor Allison Stanger was physically assaulted for accompanying Murray on campus.

This disturbing trend has drawn national attention, and prompted a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. On Tuesday, June 20th, the committee met to discuss the volatile environment on college campuses in relation to the First Amendment’s protection of free speech. The committee heard from seven witnesses including two students who alleged free speech violations on their campuses, several college professors and administrators who have dealt with controversial events on their campuses, and two lawyers associated with First Amendment and hate speech issues. One of these lawyers was Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Cohen has been criticized for SPLC’s labeling of their political opponents as “hate groups,” a designation various progressive groups on college campuses have exploited to justify threatening the free speech of conservatives.

Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) opened the hearing by citing several particularly grievous violations of freedom of speech, including students who were arrested at Kellogg College for distributing the Constitution outside of the designated “free speech zone.” These outrageous actions were condemned by both Republican and Democratic senators alike. The First Amendment does not exist merely to defend opinions that everyone agrees with, it also protects those opinions which are controversial or offensive. Unfortunately, many on the Left only associate hate speech with conservative groups, and ignore hate speech by progressives. Senator Ted Cruz had it right when he said, “truth is far more powerful than force… if your ideas are right there is no need to muzzle the opposition.” College campuses ought to protect speech, because in doing so they’ll help further thoughtful debate.

A highlight of the hearing was the testimony of Zachary Wood, a student at Williams College and president of the organization Uncomfortable Learning. Although he identifies himself as a progressive liberal, Mr. Wood deliberately sought out conservative speakers to invite them to speak because he wanted to start a dialogue on campus. Wood eloquently defended campus free speech when he said “humanity is not limited to the views and values we admire, it also encompasses the views and values that we resist.” One controversial speaker invited by Wood was conservative commentator John Derbyshire. Predictably, the invitation caused a severe backlash and resulted in the president of the university unilaterally cancelling Derbyshire’s speech. The administration then immediately imposed new regulations for students who wished to invite speakers to campus.                                                                     

Several of the school administrators testified that they have had to deal with violent opposition groups on their campus. UCLA Professor Eugene Volokh stated that groups who are trying to force a “heckler’s veto” must be strongly reprimanded. “Behavior that is rewarded is repeated… these thugs have to learn that their behavior is not acceptable.” While college administrators appearing before the committee were generally in favor of protected free speech, some did acknowledge that there are challenges in striking a balance between campus safety and free speech. Dr. Fanta Aw of American University stated that “freedom of expression is integral to the mission of higher education, however protecting it has become increasingly difficult due to our national climate, as well as changing views by younger students regarding the First Amendment.” With an increasingly polarized political climate, this issue isn’t going away anytime soon. It is essential that these universities and administrators continue protect speech on their campuses.

Not all the senators were as adamant about the defense of free speech. Citing a lack of resources on the part of the Berkeley police department, Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) redirected the conversation towards the nature of the violent protestors involved, and away from First Amendment issues. Senator Feinstein’s attempt to pit public safety against free speech are misguided at best, and deceptive at worst. While it is important that college campuses remain safe environments for learning, safety must not be bought at the price of silencing minority views on campus.  Richard Cohen of the SPLC went one step further, blaming much of the atmosphere on college campuses on the national climate post-election, and specifically the actions of the “alt-right” and white nationalism. He also defended an SPLC publication entitled The Battle for Berkeley, which claimed that “in the name of free speech, the alt-right is assaulting the ivory tower.” Attacks on free speech should not be partisan, but Cohen ignored many groups on the Left who have also been responsible for inciting violence both on college campuses and elsewhere. In fact, SPLC’s labeling of conservative organizations as “hate groups” has been connected to violence against conservative groups, including the 2012 FRC shooting by Floyd Lee Corkins II (who cited SPLC’s designation of Family Research Council as a “hate group”), and the most recent shooting in Alexandria involving GOP Majority Whip Steve Scalise.                       

Near the conclusion of the hearing, Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) condemned the President of Williams’ College Adam Falk. Senator Kennedy admonished Falk for treating progressive liberal campus groups and speakers differently than conservative groups and speakers, and called that sort of favoritism “intellectually dishonest.” Mr. Fredrick Lawrence also defended the role of universities hosting controversial speakers saying “[There should always] be a strong presumption in favor of the speech.” He emphasized that limits should be established only based on the intent of the speaker, never the substance or the content. This is an excellent standard that is well established in public policy.   

Despite differing priorities regarding the protection of free speech on college campuses, it was encouraging to see a measure of bipartisanship in support of free speech at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. As a millennial college student, I am glad that there is a concerted effort in Congress to protect my right to free speech. While I was disappointed in the attempts of Senator Feinstein and Richard Cohen to shift blame, I am confident free speech on college campuses proved more persuasive. The right of free speech is a cornerstone in our society, and it must be protected if we are to continue to have meaningful discussion about other policy issues.

The Amish: America’s Fastest Growing Church?

by Peter Witkowski

March 17, 2017

When we think of happening Christian groups, we typically imagine big church conferences, exciting worship concerts, and authentic community groups meeting in local coffee shops. Given this mindset, the following information will probably blow your mind and the minds of most people in your church. In fact, you may need to sit down for this.

The fastest growing sector of the evangelical world right now is the Amish. That is correct—our beard sporting, bonnet wearing, and buggy driving brothers and sisters are expanding at a record pace. Over the past five years, the Amish have grown by 18 percent. Between 2015-2016, they started 66 new congregations. They have even reached out to South America, planting communities in both Bolivia and Argentina. During that same time, the number of people that attend Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches declined by 11 percent.

Despite our well-trained SBC clergy, our smooth programming, and our billion dollar budgets, SBC churches are losing out to their brothers and sisters who churn their own butter. What’s more, the Amish have no major outreach campaigns. They typically struggle to reach out to people outside their villages, making their growth even more perplexing to SBC and other evangelical denominations. Yet since 1992, the Amish have been beating our church growth percentages left and right.

When researchers began studying this phenomenon, they discovered that the growth of the Amish movement had little to do with cold calling evangelism and everything to do with birthrate and education.

The latest birthrate statistics for the SBC estimate that each SBC couple has around 2.1 kids, a number that sits below the replacement level. Once death and other things are factored in, SBC churches would slowly die even if every kid born to SBC parents stayed in the church. And unfortunately, they do not. Almost 51 percent of all evangelical kids (including our SBC’ers) will leave the church. Most of those children will not return. For a church to maintain its size, every member (including the single ones) in the church must bring about 1.2 people into the church via birth or evangelism.

The Amish do not have this problem. The average Amish couple has 6.8 kids per family. And 85 percent of their children will choose to remain in the Amish community. When given the chance to freely choose between the modern world and the Amish lifestyle, more than 8 out of 10 Amish children choose to stay. Every Amish couple will add about 5 kids to their local church’s congregation, while the average Baptist couple will add about 1. And when the couples die off, the Amish church will have grown by 150 percent, while the SBC church will have decreased by 50 percent if birthrate is the only factor.

These numbers show that evangelism is not the major failing of our local SBC and evangelical churches. Our problem has everything to do with our view of children and the family. Churches that do not have members having children will not succeed.

Now, every Christian does not have to embrace the “19 Kids and Counting” lifestyle. Christ is still our ultimate goal and not family size. But, we must begin to revive pro-family values in our churches. Being pro-family goes well past having a catchy kids’ program. We need to celebrate birth. We need to praise parents for having big families instead of chastising them with snide comments. We need to come to the point where we value kids more than traveling, nice homes, and our own tranquility. We need to live as if children are a blessing.

And then, we need to commit to training our kids. We need to organize our families around the Gospel. We need to have intentional times of family worship. We must realize that going to church twice a week or twice a month will not provide our kids with an adequate religious framework. We must realize that the world evangelizes our kids 7 days a week. We must do the same. And we must intentionally find ways to protect our kids from the dangerous doctrines of the world and find ways to train them in righteousness. Commenting on Psalm 1, the pastor Voddie Bauchman says,

We must not allow our children to stand, sit and walk with those who deny biblical truth and morality … We can no longer coast along and ignore biblical truth when deciding where and how to educate our children … Do everything in your power to place your child in an educational environment that supplements and facilitates their discipleship.

The Amish have understood this truth and have applied it. As a result of their faithfulness, most of their children remain in their communities and churches. The Baptists and other evangelicals have not grasped this principles. And now, we are losing over half of our kids to the world around us. The realities cannot be denied.

Now admittedly, the Amish have not gotten everything right. I do not think electricity leads to sin. I also think our churches should be more evangelistic than the typical Amish farmer. But the Amish have realized that family is key. They have functionally realized that children under the age of 18 are the population most open to being evangelized and have literally devoted a large portion of their life to reaching this next generation. If we want our SBC and evangelical Bible-believing churches to once again flourish, we too must be pro-family and do a better job of training our children in the faith. Are we willing to make the hard choices and to become a little more Amish?

Peter Witkowski is the Associate Pastor of Preschool and Children at First Baptist Church in Eastman, Ga.

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