Leaders of Christian schools around the bay area said this week they saw no scriptural reason to prohibit girls from playing team sports with boys. The notion that coed contact sports could lead to sin, they said, is off base.
"I just can't imagine that being something that we would really have to guard against," said Wendell K. Murray, head of Bayshore Christian School in Tampa.
The Times surveyed a number of schools in the wake of a decision by Westside Christian School in Largo to quit its athletic conference rather than kick a sixth-grade girl off the junior varsity basketball team. The conference voted 8-2 to block Aliyah Farley from playing.
The administrators' views provide a window into Christian schools. Although they are united in their belief in Jesus Christ and the basic tenets of Christianity, the similarities often end there.
Tampa's Berkeley Preparatory School, affiliated with the Episcopal Church, has 1,200 students of varying religions. At morning convocation, Christian students recite the Berkeley prayer, acknowledging Jesus Christ as lord. Non-Christians usually keep silent, said school spokeswoman Heather Mackin. Students are taught to appreciate all faiths.
Bayshore Christian's 275-member student body also includes non-Christians. School leaders see an opportunity. "Our goal would be to see them receive the Lord before they leave this place," Murray said.
Keswick Christian School in St. Petersburg practices selective enrollment, requiring that at least one parent be a Christian.
Daily Bible classes and weekly chapel are common at Christian schools. Evolution is taught as a theory, and the creation story is relayed as absolute truth. Honor codes lay out moral rules.
Some schools ban public displays of affection such as holding hands. Keswick does not have proms or homecoming dances. Finding music and dance moves befitting a religious setting is a tough task.
"There's an awful lot of dancing that would be offensive in our constituency," said Keswick superintendent David Holtzhouse.
So instead of dances, the school hosts banquets. The events usually sell out.