DALLAS — The Baptist General Convention of Texas has postponed this weekend's state final Bible Drill and Speakers' Tournament due to the swine flu scare.
The event, originally scheduled May 1-2 at the Baptist Building in Dallas, has been tentatively reset for May 15-16.
Phil Miller, director of Bible study and discipleship for the state convention, said the decision was made Wednesday, April 29, after sponsors raised questions about concerns over swine flu.
Miller called it a "necessary precaution" taken "in some unusual circumstances."
School districts in Texas and several other states have closed doors to prevent spread of the H1N1 virus. On April 29 the World Health Organization raised the worldwide pandemic alert level to Phase 5, signaling that a pandemic is imminent.
As of the morning of April 30, the Centers for Disease Control had confirmed 109 cases in 11 states. The first death from the outbreak was a 23-month-old boy who died in Houston.
"We have kids who come from all quadrants of the state," Miller said. "We felt like to get that group together to congregate here was going to be a real problem."
Miller said about 75 students qualified for the state drill, but with parents and sponsors the total crowd numbers about 250. He said the BGCT has sponsored the annual event well over 40 years, and to his knowledge this is the first time it has been postponed.
Bible Drill participants compete in locating Bible books and key passages, reciting the names of the books of the Bible in order and memorizing verses. In the accompanying speakers' tournament, youth give four-to-five-minute addresses on a topic they choose from a list.
Each year thousands of children and youth in Southern Baptist churches across the nation compete in local-church competitions, where they earn the right to advance to associational, regional, state and national drills.
Miller said if the Texas drill can be held May 15-16, it shouldn't affect plans for youth who qualify for national finals in New Orleans in June.
The Texas University Interscholastic League has suspended all sporting events until May 11. Miller said the rescheduled date for the Bible drill is beyond that window, and allows Baptist officials additional time to evaluate the threat.
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.