I AM a Southern Baptist minister and I am not in favor of making Bible reading mandatory in public schools!
Let me make it clear from the beginning that I am not against the reading of the Bible; I am against making it a mandatory reading in public schools. The core of my Baptist faith is my recognition of Scripture as the final authority of faith and practice. It is also in the veins of my Baptist faith to respect the freedom of others in the area of religion. Historically, the Baptist of the past, called dissenters, made an influential mark in the US constitution by making sure that religious liberty is respected. I am in full support of the biblical mandate called the "Great Commission," to spread the gospel; yet it is here that I wish to present the difference between the Great Commission and the great coercion. Making Bible reading mandatory is not Great Commission. It is great coercion, defeating the very spirit of why people should read the bible. The word of God is a love letter of God to man -- an invitation for man to enter into a spiritual relationship with God by faith in Jesus Christ.
While it is too great to be neglected, God's invitation to man to enter into a faith-grace relationship with Christ is so free that no one should be coerced. My Baptist heritage started, stemmed, and has been sustained by this deep respect for soul liberty and religious freedom. Mandatory reading of the Bible in public schools chokes the very essence of what makes Bible reading meaningful -- free choice.
By all means, let the Bible be read but don't deny people the choice not to read it! Believe me, mandatory Bible reading will create more hatred than love for the Bible. Spirituality and the way it is lived will never thrive using political iron hands. Both, the Catholic and Protestant churches are guilty of employing manipulative tools to spread the faith; regretfully, so does the most well-meaning evangelical church. My Baptist faith tells me that anything forced cannot produce authentic faith, our forefathers fought for this and I think it is timely to hear a Baptist voice that says it is not right to coerce faith on others.
Persuasion, dialogue, debate are fair fields where we engage our religious differences. Time was when bible reading was denied the masses...we thank God it is now available; not outlawed in our country...but making it mandatory is worse than making it illegal. Let Bible reading be optional, not a standard of righteousness; neither make it illegal nor compulsory. The very rain that waters the love for the bible is an awakening from God...not coercion from man. My views are entirely mine...it is not representative of the views of the church I serve.
Thanks for reading...I write straight from my heart.