Purge of professors at Patrick Henry College?
Whilst purges at colleges and seminaries being hijacked by dominionists are nothing new (one of the saddest examples of this being the hijacking of the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville), hearing of academic purges at institutions originally
set up as dominionist is
Yet this is exactly what JewsOnFirst is reporting--that apparently fully one third of the faculty and staff at Patrick Henry College has left due to further restrictions on academic freedom.
And, as I'll note, Patrick Henry College was never the most academically free institution of higher education in the first place.
(Now updated with more info below.)
For those who aren't aware of Patrick Henry College and its role in modern dominionism, especially the political end (those of you who are new to dominionism research or fighting dominionism), I'll give a backgrounder of the place and why the report is so signifigant.
Patrick Henry College is a dominionist college that especially targets the product of the ever-increasing dominionist "homeschool" industry--kids who have been educated their entire educational careers on correspondence-school material (and yes, the vast majority of dominionist "homeschooling" is in fact correspondence schooling, typically run by either dominionist churches or the publishers of the curriculum) like A Beka's curriculum and other educationally substandard dominionist curricula packages designed more as "indoctrination for Junior" than as formal education.
Patrick Henry College was founded in 1998 by Michael Farris, then head of a group called the Home School Legal Defense Association--a dominionist correspondence-school lobbying association that, in addition to working for expanding legal loopholes for dominionist "homeschooling" has also explicitly promoted dominionist causes unrelated to correspondence-schooling, frequently attempts to lock out non-dominionist homeschool associations out altogether (and was actually successful for a time in South Carolina), explicitly promotes only pro-dominionist homeschooling groups (several of which require actual statements of faith for membership) and notably does not list several major inclusive state groups, and even uses dominionist parents' fears of CPS as recruitment tactics, has worked on expanding legal loopholes that permit horrific acts of religiously motivated child abuse to go undetected and even promote books on religiously motivated child abuse, and leaders have even coached their members on how to derail CPS investigations.
Patrick Henry College is presently unaccredited--for legal purposes, a degree from Patrick Henry College is worth the parchment it's written on and no more, and in several states (notably Oregon) it's actually illegal to promote yourself as having a doctorate or bachelorate if it's from an unaccredited institution. (And yes, this could get Patrick Henry graduates in trouble--according to its own website, Patrick Henry College offers bachelorates in "classical liberal arts", history, literature, government, and journalism.) In fact, despite its best efforts, Patrick Henry College has been unable to obtain accreditation; the American Academy for Liberal Education rejected it outright when its accreditation group found out about Patrick Henry's "statement of Biblical worldview" (which it requires both students and faculty to sign) which in part mandates teaching of young-earth creationism. (We'll get more into that in a bit.) It is now trying to get accredited through a group called the "Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools"--a group that itself operates as essentially an accreditation mill for dominionist "bible colleges" and is itself at threat of losing its right to perform legal accreditation.
The college has rules that fit more in line with extremely strict "bible colleges" that publish dominionist curricula (like Bob Jones University or Pensacola Christian College--the latter being the publisher of A Beka and which has rules so restrictive that the school itself could be considered a coercive religious group) than with traditional institutions of learning. From one article:
It is worth making clear from the outset that Patrick Henry College in rural Virginia is not your average American university. At Patrick Henry, the students - about 75 per cent of whom have been taught at home rather than in schools - are required to sign a statement of faith before they arrive, confirming (among other things) that they have a literal belief in the teachings of the Bible. At Patrick Henry, students must obey a curfew. They must wear their hair neatly and dress "modestly".
Students must also obey a rule stating that if they wish to hold hands with a member of the opposite sex, they must do so while walking: standing while holding hands is not permitted. And at Patrick Henry, students must sign an honor pledge that bans them from drinking alcohol unless under parental supervision.
The Statements of Faith and Christian Worldview
--which, as noted, are mandatory
for faculty, staff and students--actually go far beyond even most Bible colleges. Among other things, students are required to sign statements that only the Protestant bible is the actual "Word of God" and is infalliable and inerrant (and it meets Lorie Johnson's criteria for "bibolatry" in that it's the first thing listed); they must sign statements agreeing with young-earth creationism (as noted); that women must "submit to their husbands" as their husbands "submit to the church" because this is their "godly place in the home" (yes, this is literally in the statement
); and finally, they must sign a statement that explicitly supports Christian Reconstructionism (and even carries this down to their "property" statement, declaring men essentially "agents" of "God's dominion").
If Patrick Henry College were merely an unaccredited "Bible college" spouting this, it'd be disturbing enough. Unfortunately, Patrick Henry is extremely influential; the entire purpose of the college is in fact to train up a generation of young "God warriors" to take over the government, and many of its graduates are associated with Dubya and others in his administration. In fact, apparently Patrick Henry is a major source of interns for the present administration:
No, what makes Patrick Henry unique is the increasingly close - critics say alarmingly close - links this recently established, right-wing Christian college has with the Bush administration and the Republican establishment as a whole. This spring, of the almost 100 interns working in the White House, seven are from Patrick Henry. Another intern works for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, while another works for President George Bush's senior political adviser, Karl Rove. Yet another works for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad. Over the past four years, 22 conservative members of Congress have employed one or more Patrick Henry interns. Janet Ashcroft, the wife of Bush's Bible-thumping Attorney General, is one of the college's trustees.
The New Yorker
has also written a particularly telling article on Patrick Henry College
Patrick Henry’s president, Michael Farris, is a lawyer and minister who has worked for Christian causes for decades. He founded the school after getting requests from two constituencies: homeschooling parents and conservative congressmen. The parents would ask him where they could find a Christian college with a “courtship” atmosphere, meaning one where dating is regulated and subject to parental approval. The congressmen asked him where they could find homeschoolers as interns and staffers, “which I took to be shorthand for ‘someone who shares my values,’ ” Farris said. “And I knew they didn’t want a fourteen-year-old kid.” So he set out to build what he calls the Evangelical Ivy League, and what the students call Harvard for Homeschoolers.
Farris is fifty-three but seems younger, with thick brown hair and a slightly amused expression. He and his wife, Vickie, began to homeschool their children (they have ten) in 1982, and the next year he founded the Home School Legal Defense Association, to challenge state laws that made it difficult to homeschool children. In 1993, he ran, unsuccessfully, for lieutenant governor of Virginia. At the time, evangelicals had yet to emerge as a national political force; many preferred to keep their distance from secular culture, which is one reason that Patrick Henry parents educated their children at home. Since then, Rove has built an entire campaign around mobilizing Christian conservatives. In a speech at the American Enterprise Institute after the 2000 election, he said that the President had lost the popular vote because fewer than expected “white, evangelical Protestants” had come to the polls. One of Rove’s principal strategies for victory in 2004 was working to increase this group’s numbers, and on Election Day four million more evangelicals voted than in 2000.
Farris’s manifesto for the school, “The Joshua Generation,” embraces the Rove principle: the “Moses generation,” he wrote, had “left Egypt,” and now it was time for their children to “take the land.” Farris is the author of nine nonfiction books and three novels, all with Christian themes, and in them he warns against “MTV, Internet porn, abortion, homosexuality, greed and accomplished selfishness”; he calls public schools “godless monstrosities.” But students are not expected to avoid the secular world entirely. Farris told them at chapel recently that one day “an Academy Award winner will walk down the aisle to accept his trophy. On his way, he’ll get a cell-phone call; it will be the President, who happens to be his old Patrick Henry roommate, calling to congratulate him.”
When the Farrises began homeschooling their kids, they were one of only a few thousand American families who did so. Now about a million and a half children, as many as two-thirds of whom are thought to be evangelicals, are taught at home. Farris bought the land for the Patrick Henry campus with four hundred thousand dollars from the Home School Legal Defense Association’s reserves; he raised the rest of the money for the college, nine million dollars, from parents and donors such as Tim LaHaye, the author of the best-selling “Left Behind” series. LaHaye’s portrait hangs in the main hall.
Farris was competing against established Christian schools such as Bob Jones University, which sells textbooks and videos for homeschoolers. Some families, though, believe that a traditionalist approach to Christian education is limiting, and Patrick Henry was designed to appeal both to the protectiveness of these parents and to their ambitions, promising an “authentic Christian environment” as well as preparation for “careers of influence” in politics.
Three times a year, the White House chooses a hundred students for a three-month internship. Patrick Henry, with only three hundred students, has taken between one and five of the spots in each of the past five years—roughly the same as Georgetown. Other Patrick Henry students volunteer in the White House. Tim Goeglein, the Administration’s liaison to the evangelical community, said that the numbers reflect the abilities of the Patrick Henry students, who “have learned a way to integrate faith and action.” For the White House, it is also a way to reach out to its base while building a network of young political operatives.
Of the school’s sixty-one graduates through the class of 2004, two have jobs in the White House; six are on the staffs of conservative members of Congress; eight are in federal agencies; and one helps Senator Rick Santorum, of Pennsylvania, and his wife, Karen, homeschool their six children. Two are at the F.B.I., and another worked for the Coalition Provisional Authority, in Iraq. Last year, the college began offering a major in strategic intelligence; the students learn the history of covert operations and take internships that allow them to graduate with a security clearance.
All seniors do a directed research project that is designed, Farris told me, to mimic the work that an entry-level staffer would be assigned. “A whole lot of elected members of Congress started off as Hill staffers,” Farris said. “If you want to train a new generation of leaders, you have to get in on the ground floor.”
Frightening enough as is. Disturbingly, though, it's not dominionist enough for some parents--including the parent whose complaint began the purge (as noted below) or a group fo dominionist homeschoolers who wanted them to ban women entirely:
A faction of homeschooling parents lobbied Farris not to admit girls to the college, but he told me that he considered that an “extreme” position. “All women, moms included, benefit from a great education,” he said.
So the news from JewsOnFirst that a minor purge is taking place at Patrick Henry is both surprising and disturbing:
In 2006 more than half the faculty at Patrick Henry College quit because of the institution's severe restrictions on academic freedom. News recently emerged of five professors leaving.
(This should give you an idea on how influential Patrick Henry College is for its size. According to at least one post sourced in the JewsOnFirst article, there are only sixteen faculty positions at Patrick Henry.)
Religion News Service has reported:
[Departing professor David] Noe and J. Kevin Culberson, a departing assistant professor of history and literature, wrote a March article published in a Patrick Henry publication, the Source, in which they declared: "While it is true that the Bible contains all we need to know for reconciliation with God, it does not include all the information we need to live happy and productive lives."
College chaplain Raymond Bouchoc, in a response endorsed by college President Michael Farris, said their article left the reader with "some harmful implications."
Arguing that Scripture is sufficient for providing "universal guiding principles for all of life," Bouchoc said: "It may not provide the particulars of how to repair the door jamb, but it does provide universal principles applicable to fixing it."
Erik Root, a departing instructor of government, said the issues at the school centered on "the ability for not only students to ask questions but professors to ask questions of the class."
He cited an example of his class discussion about philosopher Thomas Hobbes' state of nature, in which he asked his class about a situation in which two people were out on the ocean with a lifeboat that would hold only one. When Root asked the class what they would do, one student responded with the biblical verse about laying your life down for another.
"I said, 'Great. That's simplistic. But why is that the case? ... What is God saying here about that?"' Root recalled.
Root said a parent sitting in on the class objected to his teaching approach, and he was later questioned by Farris.
"If you're going to convince somebody of your position, you can't just walk around shouting Bible verses," said Root, who is looking for a new job.
"You have to give them a reason for what you believe."
The Washington Post
also reports that this has been going on for some time:
(from archived article)
The departure of five of the school's 16 full-time professors follows the forced resignation last year of Jeremy Hunley, a library clerk who promoted the idea that baptism is essential for salvation, a violation of the 10-point statement of faith that all faculty members and students are required to sign when they come to Patrick Henry. According to the statement, and to many evangelical Christians, salvation is found only through faith in Jesus Christ.
The rebellion reflects the recurring tension at many Christian colleges between adherence to articles of faith and the free-ranging spirit of academic inquiry. Some departing faculty, alumni and students say it calls into question the future of a college that was established as an "evangelical Ivy League" that would prepare conservative Christian students for influential positions in government.
College President Michael P. Farris, a lawyer and home-schooling advocate who founded the Purcellville school, said Patrick Henry is a place that encourages "a free flow of ideas" beyond some core principles on which everyone must agree -- principles such as the existence of God and Satan and the infallibility of the Bible.
"The only problem I have when there are two schools of thought is that there are too few," he said.
But Noe and government instructor Erik S. Root, who is also leaving, said that they have encountered additional "arbitrary limitations" set by the president when they raised issues that do not contradict the belief statement.
Root said his contract was temporarily withdrawn this spring in part because of an article he wrote for a school publication about a Christian saint that prompted the president to question his loyalty to a biblical worldview. In a letter to Root, Farris questioned whether Root shared the views of a Darwinist he had quoted. Root called Farris's concerns "guilt by association."
Noe co-authored an article in March arguing that the Bible is not the only source of truth and that students can learn valuable lessons from non-Christian writings. The 900-word story led to a 2,600-word response by the chaplain -- endorsed by the administration -- detailing its "harmful implications" and saying it "diminished the importance of" Scripture.
Noe, who has been ordained by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, said that the article was not meant to challenge the Bible but to defend liberal arts.
An article from Christianity Today
has further info, including that one of the stickling points involved a lecture on St. Augustine:
"We were brought here on false pretenses," said David Noe, assistant professor of classics who has taught at Patrick Henry since its founding. "We are leaving due to a long train of abuses by Farris in violating both academic freedom and due process, as well as many other issues relating to Farris's running of the college."
Departing professors also cite Farris's treatment of government instructor Erik Root and his March firing of Robert Stacey, the chairman of the college's department of government, as additional reasons that confirmed their decisions to leave the 350-student college.
Noe, Root, and rhetoric and theology professor Todd Bates agreed to go public with Christianity Today earlier this month, they said, after Farris repeatedly denied their requests to respond to accusations that beliefs they had expressed were biblically unsound. "Farris said that we threatened the college's fidelity to its mission and vision," said Noe. "He spoke to the press, but told us we couldn't."
Farris did not respond to multiple requests by CT for an interview, but told The Chronicle of Higher Education that he wonders why the professors are still leaving now that he is no longer president. "If I'm the problem—well, I'm going to be gone," he said.
. . .
The debate reached a head when Root published an article entitled "Of St. Augustine, the Teacher, and Politics" in the campus publication The Source. The piece argued that St. Augustine "deserves to be called a Saint because he was instrumental in making political philosophy palpable to Christians and vice versa. … [He] taught Christians how to engage the culture around them."
Soon after its publication, Root learned his contract was being "temporarily withdrawn" based on the article as well as a complaint from a student's parent over his use of the "lifeboat example" in class. Root said the illustration was used to explain Thomas Hobbes's state of nature argument. "Acting academic dean [Marian Sanders] told me I couldn't use that any more," said Root. "She said that there are some questions we can't ask in class or entertain."
In a February 28 e-mail message, Farris asked Root to respond to seven "questions."
"The overall question is the fidelity to the biblical worldview in your role at PHC," stated Farris. The letter claimed "the well-known 'lifeboat' game" was "a recognized tool of those who wish to contend that there are no absolute values." It further asked for an "explanation about this episode and the underlying philosophy that this represents."
"I thought it was an academic freedom issue," said Root, adding that he did not respond to Farris's questions as his contract had already been pulled.
In March, five professors resolved not to sign their contracts for the following year based largely on Root's suspended contract. The decision stemmed from a previous agreement nine professors made last fall, said Noe. "Many of us, including the five of us who left, made an informal agreement to do everything to defend anyone who was wrongly terminated, including leaving."
. . .
On March 8 another Source article, this one by Noe and Culberson entitled "The Role of General Revelation in Education," again prompted the administration's response.
"A common misconception among American evangelicals, and one that cannot be supported by the Scriptures themselves, is that the Bible is the only source of truth," the article began. "We argue that this misconception amounts to a blasphemous denial of Christ's words in Matthew 5 that 'he sends rain on the just and the unjust.'"
The 900-word article argued that "a Christian must refuse to view special and general revelation as hostile to one another. Nor should he hesitate to learn from a pagan. There is much wisdom to be gained from Parmenides and Plato, as well Machiavelli and Marx."
The article prompted a 2,600-word response by college chaplain Raymond Bouchoc, sent to students, faculty, and staff. The response, endorsed by Farris and Sanders, discussed seven "harmful implications" that could be drawn from the professors' article and claimed the piece "diminishes the import of Scripture."
(Yes, you're reading that right. For simply advocating that St. Augustine's view of incorporating the Bible with observations of the world, and for daring to suggest people could get useful insights from non-dominionists, the professors were censured. This is not surprising--no less than ordained minister and paleontologist Robert Bakker has specifically cited St. Augustine's search for truth
in why he finds Christianity and evolution compatible. Of note, Bakker happens to be an evangelical pastor to boot, according to multiple sources.)
Eventually, per the Christianity Today report, one professor was fired for standing up to the charges and the rest were placed under gag orders.
Interestingly, Patrick Henry College has promoted the idea that one of the persons most responsible for shaping Christianity in its modern forms is burning in hell:
[Former president and now chancellor] Farris, a Baptist minister, has publicly expressed views that have shocked some professors and students.
"He said St. Augustine was in hell," said Root. "I heard it with my own ears." Other professors and students said Farris has repeatedly disparaged Calvinist theology.
"There is a sense that you face antagonism as someone who is theologically Reformed," said Bates, who sparred with Farris over a speech he was planning to deliver at the college's annual Faith and Reason Lecture, and again over the use of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology textbook. According to Bates, Farris considered it "too Reformed."
"We are put in a hard position," said Bates. "We're told this is an open dialogue, but if you engage in open dialogue, you're in trouble. It's infuriating because you're an academic and want to engage in ideas."
Bates said that at a meeting with Farris, "He told me that a person of the Reformed position to which I hold cannot in good conscience sign the statement of faith. When I responded that I failed to see the discrepancy between the two, he replied, 'I define the statement of faith.'"
(Again, the "the Saints are burning in hell" line is distressingly common among dominionists.)
The Christian Post writes about the practical problems with Patrick Henry's approach:
"If you draw a giraffe, you must draw him with a long neck. If in your bold creative way you hold yourself free to draw a giraffe with a short neck you will really find that you are not free to draw a giraffe." (That's G. K. Chesterton, of course.) If you want to form a Bible college, you are free to draw it as such, and it can be checked out. Fine. You can also form a liberal arts college in a recognizable way. Fine. Patrick Henry College, a rural Virginia school that commands big funds for its (so far) tiny enrollment (300) and faculty (sixteen), lost five of those sixteen professors this month, and others speak of leaving. They are having trouble with the school president's image of what a giraffe looks like. That is, he disciplines them when they "do" liberal arts, while he insists that his pact with them demands that everything they teach must be congruent with "the biblical world view."
Thinkers at a true liberal arts college with Christian church and culture ties, influences, reminiscences, or Catholic and Evangelical expression, would ask about "the biblical world view." Is it that of the Song of Songs, or Lamentations, pro-polygamy Pentateuch writings, or what? No matter: At Patrick Henry College, it is Michael P. Farris, founder and president, who determines what the biblical world view is. In his vision, for instance, St. Augustine is to be ruled off the campus and in hell as a pagan, not a saint. And Professor M. Todd Bates, who quoted Augustine in a formal campus lecture and did not repent for doing so, was threatened and then fired from the non-tenuring faculty.
Already, a support group
has been formed for the purged professors.
This will be interesting to watch at any rate.