Statements of faith: the new restrictive covenants
Esther Kaplan printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Jan 10, 2006 at 07:11:56 PM EST
The weekend Wall Street Journal ran an excellent front page story profiling Wheaton College assistant professor Joshua Hochschild, who was fired from his job after he converted to Catholicism. At question was Wheaton's requirement that all full-time faculty sign a statement of belief in "biblical doctrine that is consonant with evangelical Christianity," including biblical inerrancy, belief in Satan, and more. In a truly troublesome trend, such statements of faith have become more and more common, from institutions of higher education to professional associations to social service providers. As the Journal reports, some 400 U.S. colleges consider an applicant's religion during the hiring process. Evangelical Christian colleges, in particular, are in the midst of a hiring boom, with faculty growing by more than a third since 1991--and each of those new jobs is set aside for the like of mind.
Hochschild comes across as something of a spiritual searcher in the January 7 article by Daniel Golden. Born to a Jewish father and a mother who was raised Lutheran, Hochschild found faith through his study of philosophy at Yale, where he was evangelized by an Episcopalian friend and later baptized. He'd signed Wheaton's statement when he was hired and kept his department chairman apprised as soon as he began to consider Catholicism; even after his spring 2004 conversion, he told his superiors that he remained comfortable with the college's statement of faith. Wheaton's president dismissed this as "quibbling" and terminated Hochschild; he also announced that the college needed to revised the pledge to make "more explicit its non-Catholic identity." Hochschild, once a shoo-in for tenure, had to take a pay cut and move his family halfway across the country to get a new job at a less prestigious school. Not coincidentally, his new college, Mount St. Mary's, is Catholic and has begun to ask candidates about their faith during the hiring process, too.

It all reeks of a disturbing Balkanization. And it's far from uncommon.

The Christian Medical and Dental Association, many of whose members were appointed by Bush to sit on scientific advisory committees, has a statement of faith so restrictive it conflicts with principles of sound science. The National Religious Broadcasters, an influential association of television and radio broadcasters whose annual convention President Bush regularly addresses, requires members to sign a statement of faith that clarifies exactly how sectarian their use of the term "religious" is. The home schooling movement, whose grass roots associations once comprised a mix of Leche League hippy moms, Jews, Catholics, and conservative evangelicals, is now dominated by large Christian organizations with quite restrictive statements of faith.

What's most disturbing is that some organizations that receive federal contracts are applying narrowly written statements of faith to current and prospective employees. The Salvation Army dismissed 18 employees during 2003 and 2004 over their refusal to sign statements swearing to uphold certain Christian principles. One of those who lost her job was Anne Lown, a child of Holocaust survivors and a 25-year veteran of the Salvation Army. "The whole time I was there no one had asked me about my own religion," Lown says. "There was never any kind of litmus test." But as of fall 2003, employees were required to list every "church" they'd attended over the past decade as well as the name of their current minister; they also had to agree not to contradict any aspect of the Salvation Army's religious mission, which includes condemning sexual relationships outside of marriage, contraceptive use outside of marriage, homosexuality, abortion, drinking, gambling, smoking, and drug use as "unacceptable according to the teaching of Scripture." Social workers with the chance to place a child with a non-Christian family, or in the position of counseling troubled teens at risk for HIV and pregnancy, found their jobs at odds with the new requirements. In October, a federal district judge in New York decided that the agency had acted legally.

Jim Towey, Bush's director of faith-based initiatives, was ebullient on NPR after the decision. "This is going to send a resounding signal out there in America," he said. "Because here you have an organization, the Salvation Army, that got 95 percent of its money from the government to do its social service work, and the court held that they were allowed to hire on a religious basis....I think it's going to tell faith-based groups, Oh, we can do this work without having to secularize and sell our soul in order to provide a public service. It's a complete vindication of President Bush's Faith-Based and Community Initiative."

Conservatives invented 'political correctness' to attack every movement of tolerance by liberals.

But this religious correctness deserves much more outing.  It is becoming increasingly pervasive.

When it comes to pro-choice issues, the Catholic Church is acting as SuperCensor. Even Catholics are censored if they don't follow the Bishop line.

Here's a clip from LifeSiteNews in August 2005, titled: Catholic Student Society wants 18 Pro-Abortion "Catholic" Colleges to Dismiss Dissident Professors:

The Cardinal Newman Socitey, a Catholic group working to restore the authentic character of Catholic academia, has thrown down the gauntlet in the case of 18 institutions who support the Culture of Death. The colleges failed to discipline professors who oppose the right to life and other fundamental Catholic moral and religious teachings.  

In two separate mailings, CNS sent a letter to 75,000 people asking for help ousting 18 dissident professors. The letter, written by Eugene Diamond, former president of the Catholic Medical Association, said, "It is for us to raise our voice in defense of the truth and demand that authentic Catholic doctrine be brought back to our beloved universities and colleges."

CNS names Fr. Kevin O'Rourke, a professor at Loyola University's bioethics institute who, in his work in the Catholic community, gives supposedly Catholic justifications for assisted suicide and euthanasia. Fr. O'Rourke was a key speaker at the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute in Toronto where he argued that it was morally permissible to remove nutrition and hydration from disabled patients.

The Society also names, Tom Beauchamp, a philosophy professor at Georgetown; Maxwell Gregg Bloche, Lawrence Gostin and Peter Rubin, Georgetown law professors; Howard Freed, Lauro Halstead and John Collins Harvey, past or current medical professors at Georgetown.

Daniel Maguire, a former priest and theology professor at Marquette University argues that there are "two traditions" within Catholic moral theology, one that is "strongly pro-choice" and that neither was "official." Prior to giving a talk on the "Hidden Tradition of Abortion" in Catholic theology this May, he said on Irish radio, ""The idea of a little cluster of stem cells being a person goes against the longest Christian tradition in existence, and makes no sense at all."

Also named was Rev. Richard McBrien, a theology professor at the University of Notre Dame who is a notorious dissenter from basic Catholic doctrines regarding the nature of God and the sacraments.

And here's another, one of many, protesting against speakers ranging from Hillary Clinton to John Kerry, although this one is about Guiliani.

This is from LifeNews:

Loyola College of Maryland is the latest Catholic higher education institution that is the subject of an abortion debate because of a commencement speaker. The college has invited former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, an abortion advocate, to give its commencement speech.

As a result of the decision, pro-life groups are up in arms and Cardinal William Keeler, the Archdiocese of Baltimore, indicated he will boycott the Friday graduation ceremony as a result.

Keeler sent a letter to Loyola's interim President David Haddad indicating he will not attend and said the boycott would also extend to his staff.
"May I state that there will be no representative of the archdiocese participating in any event honoring former Mayor Giuliani," Keeler wrote. "By now, you understand many of the consequences that spring from [the] invitation."

Mark Kelly, a spokesman for Loyola, told the Associated Press that this year's graduating class entered school at the time of the September 11 terrorist attacks and having Guliani speak is a reminder of how that event shaped their lives.
"The attacks had a huge effect on this class, many of whom are from New York," Kelly said. "The college selected Mayor Giuliani because of his courage and leadership after the attacks."

Kelly added that Loyola College, a Jesuit university, does not agree with ever speaker it brings to campus.

Guliani, considered a potential presidential candidate in 2008, was not only invited to give the commencement address, but an honorary degree as well.

That violates a document approved by the nation's Catholic bishops last summer that calls on Catholic colleges and universities not to give a platform to elected officials who back abortion.

"Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles," the bishops said. "They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions."

The statement, called "Catholics in Political Life," was adopted by a vote of 183-6 last summer.
The Cardinal Newman Society, which monitors Catholic institutions for their ability to stick with church teachings, said Loyola was one of 18 Catholic colleges and universities running afoul of the bishop's request not to honor abortion advocates.

"The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles," the group said in a statement. "They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions."

This week, a Republican congressman canceled a speech at a Catholic nursing college in New York because church officials complained about his stance in favor of legalized abortion. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, of New York, had planned to give the commencement speech at St. Elizabeth's College of Nursing's graduation ceremony.

Last month, the Catholic Church disaffiliated with Marymount Manhattan College, also in New York. It came under fire when it announced plans to plans to honor pro-abortion Senator Hillary Clinton with an honorary degree. Clinton is also scheduled to deliver the commencement address.

by cyncooper on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 12:36:16 AM EST

You're right on target with that comment.  Once again we are emulating the worst aspects of our enemies, in this case identity-based tribalism.  

by gg on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 01:02:59 AM EST

I examined some of the examples provided, and they are astonishingly similar in their order and their beliefs. And every single one starts off with the statement that the Bible is true and inerrant. They all mention Christ on the third statement, and God on the second.

These people are bibleolators. The Bible trumps everything- even God.

This really disturbs me.

by Lorie Johnson on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 09:38:07 AM EST

The Apostles Creed was penned sometime during the first or second century. The Nicence during the fouth. The Apostles Creed is the simpler. Both are used in all Lutheran church demonations, including the Evangelical Lutheran which is the most liberal.

Apostles Creed

"I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting."

by Vaclav on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 09:42:28 PM EST
The Catholic Church uses this creed as well. But note the order of items stated: first, belief in God, then Christ, then the story. No mention of the Bible as the 'inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God'.

This is probably due to the fact that this creed was created during the Council of Nicaea, where the Bible was edited into its final (Catholic) form.  

The Nicene creed puts belief in God first, not belief in the Bible. These 'Bible-first' creeds are relatively new, and are probably products of the Fundementalist and Dominionist streams of thought. I'd need to do more digging.  

by Lorie Johnson on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 08:46:11 AM EST

I can only assume that if a University fills itself with like minded people, that it can't be long until that University is irrelevant.

One of the reasons Harvard is Harvard and Yale is Yale, is because of the diversity of both the student body and the faculty.

Blogging at A Rational Being
by A Rational Being on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 12:35:24 PM EST

Found this information disheartening although not completely surprising. Was puzzled a bit about Wheaton since, as you may know, one of their chaired professors, Mark Noll, wrote a book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind , which is distinctly `off-message.' Acknowledging that it's not so easy to get rid of tenured faculty, I still decided to poke around a bit. Ran into an interesting article in the 2000 Atlantic Monthly: "The Opening of the Evangelical Mind" by Alan Wolfe. Part 4 specifically discusses the issue of oaths. It looks as though they've been around for a while. For those who aren't already familiar with the article, it may be a good investment of time to read the whole thing. Seems to be a fairly balanced, nuanced, and well-researched account of evangelical institutions of higher learning. It clarifies some of the differences between evangelical and fundamentalist institutions, discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the former, and compares them to secular schools. It also discusses their history and some of the conflicts and challenges facing them in the 21st century. There's interesting background on faculty and funding as well. I find such articles helpful since it's important that we avoid lumping together everyone on the right.

In regard to creeping exclusionism and attempts to maintain `doctrinal orthodoxy,' within the Catholic Church, it should also be noted that last spring Thomas Reese, the well-respected Jesuit editor of  America magazine, a prominent Catholic publication, was forced to resign because he had published articles about such timely topics as abortion and same-sex marriage. He hadn't advocated for either but had allowed both sides of the debate to be aired (details here) . Apparently he ran into strong resistance from the Vatican. With the new Pope in place and what seems to be a rightward drift of the Catholic Church, expect this won't be the last such incident we hear about.

by Psyche on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 02:26:16 PM EST

Thanks to Psyche for some of the deeper history when it comes to faith tests at Christian institutions of higher education. But it strikes me that the creep into other areas--particularly social services--is picking up momentum. Here, for example, a Beliefnet story from last summer about a national adoption agency screening out prospective Catholic parents, claiming their beliefs conflict with the agency's restrictive statement of faith. (The agency, incidentally, does receive some public monies through the sale of pro-life license plates at DMVs.)

And another trend is for statements of faith to become ever more doctrinaire, as happened a few years ago with the Southern Baptist Convention.

by Esther Kaplan on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 05:09:24 PM EST

I'm particularly concerned when organizations that receive federal funding discriminate in employment or require oaths. Not sure it's realistic to expect people to start filing a lot of law suits. The only real remedy is likely to be a change in the face of Congress and the WH. My fingers are crossed.

by Psyche on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 06:35:11 PM EST

"In February 1959 Martin Luther King made a pilgrimage to India and returned even more
confirmed in the principles of non-violence. On the first of December King called for "a broad, bold
advance of the southern campaign for equality."

"After numerous sit in demonstrations and college campus arrests of both King and his supporters,
King was elected chairman of the committee on the Freedom Rides in 1961 where he continued his
vision to desegregate not just the college campus but also public parks and other facilities which also
increased voter registration and the elections. Many volunteers came forward, and the movement grew
into a non-violent army. Each volunteer signed the following Commitment Card:
I hereby pledge myself-my person and body-to the non-violent movement. Therefore I will keep the
following ten commandments:

  1. Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
  2. Remember always that the non-violent movement seeks justice and reconciliation - not victory.
  3. Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love.
  4. Pray daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.
  5. Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all men might be free.
  6. Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
  7. Seek to perform regular service for others and for the world.
  8. Refrain from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
  9. Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
  10. Follow the directions of the movement and of the captain on a demonstration.

by Vaclav on Wed Jan 11, 2006 at 10:14:28 PM EST

Interestingly, it was specifically via a restrictive statement of faith that the entire social works school of the Southern Baptist Seminary was destroyed, as well as the Seminary essentially purged of non-dominionists.

The Carver School of Social Work was a world-renowned institution at the Southern Baptist Seminary that was one of the homes of progressive thought--especially in regards to women's place in ministry, in regards to the concept that man best serves God by helping others, etc.  In fact, it was one of the very few schools that gave formal social work training and accreditation in a seminary setting, and towards the end of its operation was the only school of social work in a seminary ever to be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

Then Al Mohler took over the seminary in 1994, and he and the dominionists who took over the seminary leadership passed a restrictive statement of faith:

But all these controversies pale when compared to those that have dominated seminary life since fundamentalists gained control of the Board of Trustees about five years ago. Trustees moved quickly to impose new doctrinal guidelines (beyond the original Abstract of [doctrinal] Principles) for tenure, hiring and promotion. An impending accreditation crisis led to direct faculty-trustee negotiations and a Covenant of Commitment by which moderate faculty were allowed to remain while new faculty members were required to subscribe to certain tenets regarding biblical inerrancy.

The retirement of moderate president Roy L. Honeycutt led to the appointment of a 30-year-old president, Albert Mohler, in fall 1994. Mohler's tenure has increased the level of conflict. Last fall he forced theology professor Molly Marshall to resign under threat of heresy charges. With her departure the seminary's School of Theology lost its last tenured female faculty member. Mohler also refused to renew the contract of social work teacher Timothy Johnson, the school's first full-time African-American professor.

The tumult was intensified this past March when Mohler demanded the resignation of Diana Richmond Garland, dean of the Carver School of Social Work, following a conflict between him and Garland over a candidate for the social work faculty. While accepting biblical inerrancy and other conservative theological and social positions, the candidate affirmed the ministry of women as ordained pastors. Mohler contends that while women may function in certain ecclesiastical roles, the official seminary position is that they may not be ordained or serve as pastors. Garland suggested that since the issue of women in ministry is not discussed in the Abstract of Principles, faculty members may hold a variety of opinions regarding that matter.

When the two could not agree, Mohler asked for Garland's resignation. He also appointed a committee to study the feasibility of continuing the social work school. Those decisions resulted in a series of student demonstrations, two bomb threats which disrupted chapel services, and a tension-fined faculty meeting in which numerous professors urged the president to rescind his action. He refused. Mohler has been under armed guard due to threatening calls he has received since attacking what he termed the evils of homosexuality in a speech at a March meeting sponsored by the SBC Christian Life Commission.

At their semiannual meeting in mid-April, trustees affirmed Mohler's leadership while approving measures which increase his authority and tighten constraints on the faculty. The board declared its "full support for both the process followed and the actions taken by the president" in firing Garland. It also supported Mohler's belief that women may not serve in the pastoral office, and insisted that it was simply adhering to the position of those SBC churches "which overwhelming reflect this view individually and have expressed this collectively in annual convention by adopted resolutions." This policy now informs tenure and hiring procedures. The trustees also redefined the search process for new faculty in order to give greater control to the president.

In a move aimed at squelching faculty dissent, the board went on to declare that all seminary employees must "support and relate constructively to the institution, its policies and administration. Faculty members may not use class time (or any forum designated for instructional purposes) for the purpose of undermining or obstructing the policies of this institution. Faculty members and staff of this institution are not to act in ways that are injurious or detrimental to the seminary's relationship with the denomination, donors or other constituencies within and without the seminary community." In an effort to rid the school of remaining moderate faculty, the board approved a financial "buy-out" whereby some 24 long-tenured faculty were offered a year's salary and a bonus of $500 for each year of service to relinquish their positions. It is uncertain how many will accept the offer.

Not only did this effectively shut down the Carver School of Social Work--its name ultimately being sold to a school belonging to a different Baptist denomination--but effectively purged non-dominionists out of the Seminary altogether:
In 1998, the seminary sold the Carver School name and certain undisclosed assets to Campbellsville University, a liberal arts school affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention. That transaction capped a tumultuous saga of transition that began in 1993, when Al Mohler became president of the Louisville, Ky., seminary--put in place by conservative trustees who wanted the seminary to reflect a much more conservative theology and ideology.

Amid several years of faculty upheaval--with a turnover rate of more than 60 percent--a dispute arose between Garland and Mohler over faculty hiring requirements for the Carver School. After Mohler insisted that all prospective faculty members must affirm belief that God will not ever call a woman to the pastoral ministry, Garland said the Carver School's accreditation was threatened.

Mohler promptly fired Garland for making such a claim in a public forum before students and the press.

In the ensuing months, Mohler and the seminary trustees launched a study of whether the seminary should continue operation of the church social work school, the only one of its kind in the nation. Ultimately, Mohler declared, and the trustees affirmed, that the tenets of social work are not compatible with biblical theology.

So yes, these restrictive "statements of faith" can have a chilling effect.

by dogemperor on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 10:05:16 AM EST
Yeah, this is a pretty heartbreaking tale, one with significant repercussions. There's a great account of it in Julie Ingersoll's Evangelical Christian Women, which I reviewed for the Women's Review of Books back in 2004. Ingersoll spoke to many of the players involved, including the unrepentent Mohler. My question, reading her book, with its accounts of "biblical feminist" organizations, is: when are Southern Baptist women going to rebel?

by Esther Kaplan on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 12:02:32 AM EST

Wanted to share an email I just received from a former Philosophy professor at Mount St. Mary's:

I read your blog entry regarding the WSJ article on Joshua Hochschild and the situation he faced at Wheaton.  I just wanted to correct a detail about Mount St. Mary's University, where I taught in the philosophy department from 1999-2002.  (I had been part of the hiring committee that made Josh an initial offer there.)  Having been hired there myself and having participated in four hires, I can tell you that this sentence from your entry is misleading:

"Not coincidentally, his new college, Mount St. Mary's, is Catholic and has begun to ask candidates about their faith during the hiring process, too."

The misunderstanding is more the WSJ's fault than yours, but I think your claim went beyond what even they said.  Mount St. Mary's has a longstanding tradition of "hiring for mission" as the lingo goes, although unlike Wheaton, it has no mandatory faith statement, nor does it discriminate on the basis of religion.  (There are people of all faiths on the faculty there.)  But it has long been concerned with its religious identity; that was not something new that happened when Josh was hired.  My experience is that most Catholic schools practice some degree of affirmative action for Catholics, and there are a few who would probably hire only Catholics.  (I'd bet that Ave Maria and Christendom hire only Catholics, though I'm only guessing.)

I'm not disputing the main point of your blog entry, but I thought I'd set the record straight about Mount St. Mary's.

by Esther Kaplan on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 12:19:02 AM EST

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