At least two Alabama Baptist churches are taking up a fellow Baptist's challenge to help schools after churches played a key role in defeating an education lottery last year. But some think the idea is inappropriate.Wayne Flynt, an Auburn University historian, issued the challenge this summer in a column published on several Alabama newspaper editorial pages.Flynt, a longtime critic of what he contends is a dysfunctional state government, said that evangelicals who opposed Gov. Don Siegelman's proposed lottery should "put their money where their mouths were."Flynt asked all 5,000 churches, synagogues, and other religious institutions in Alabama to "voluntarily give up your tax exemption" to provide money for public schools.Flynt's own church, Auburn First Baptist, has voted to give Auburn schools the equivalent of the church's property-tax assessment."In the ensuing six months since the lottery was defeated, I concluded that evangelicals were not going to do anything," Flynt said. "I got tired of all the pious talking and no acting."Ours is a traditional, mainline Baptist church with money problems like most Baptist churches," he said. "I figured if we can do it, anybody can do it."Some other Alabama churches agree. Dennis Wiles, pastor of Huntsville First Baptist, said his congregation has responded positively to the plan."Both personally and as a Christian leader in Alabama, I opposed the lottery, but this gives us a chance to help the state of Alabama improve education," Wiles said. "This is one opportunity for the church to invest itself in the lives of children."Flynt said that "every tax assessor assesses religious property. They just don't send the church a [tax] bill. You call your county tax assessor to find out ...1
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