Bob Jones University and the Real Roots of the Religious Right
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Wed Jul 09, 2014 at 12:25:35 PM EST
Historian Randall Balmer notes writing in Christian Ethics Today, that the real beginnings of the Religious Right lies not in 1973 Roe v. Wade, but in Green v. Kennedy.  In 1969 a group of Blacks from Holmes County, Mississippi, sued the state for allowing tax exempt status to segregated schools.  This court ruling was to prove to be the unseating of Jimmy Carter and the solidifying of a political movement.
     Southern Baptists were pro-choice in their resolutions in 1974.  W.A. Criswell was the president of the Convention at the time and went along with these abortion views.  Incest, saving the life of a mother, protecting a woman's mental health as well as rape were acceptable cases for abortion.   In a few months Criswell would turn on Carter and later back Reagan.  Reagan signed into law in California the most liberal abortion law of the period.
     Writing in Christian Ethics Today, Balmer noted.  "Although abortion had emerged as a rallying cry by 1980, the real roots of the religious right lie not in the defense of a fetus but in the defense of racial segregation."1    Balmer noted that segregated schools in the South were being challenged in this tax code issue.  I still recall living in Mississippi and a local White Citizens Council school was taken over by a Baptist church in Jackson.  This was done to protect the school from forced integration.  It was viewed as a First Amendment issue since this church held to religious convictions about integration.  Bob Jones University became the lightning rod for this issue. Bob Jones was the premiere segregated university holding to strong racist views.  Its leadership for years had taught that blacks were cursed in the Bible to be servants to whites.
     Nixon pushed for loss of the tax exempt status of Bob Jones.  Many in the South still think it was Carter's fault.  After Bob Jones lost the court battle and was forced to admit blacks, Ronald Reagan tried to reverse the ruling, but backed off.  It was an earlier version of the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling about an institution's right to religious convictions versus the rights of others.  In this case the institution was forced to give up its long held religious views.  I have read about their views and they held to strong convictions founded in strange Biblical interpretations.  The school and leaders claimed to respect Blacks, just thought it was a doctrinal position in the Bible that the races should be segregated. The university lost its case and the anger it generated spread across the South.  Religious Right leaders like Paul Weyrich claim this was the issue that provided the glue to bind together the troops in the Religious Right.  Later on, because of obvious public relations issues, changing the reason for the activism made abortion a more socially acceptable agenda.
      The racist torch once held by Gerald Smith, Billy Hargis, Carl McIntire, and J. Frank Norris was passed on to the likes of Charles Stanley, Jerry Falwell and W.A. Criswell.  None of the ladder would admit to such a baton exchange.  Stanley was chummy with segregationist Jesse Helms and helped in election campaigns for Jesse.  Falwell claimed school integration rulings by the Supreme Court were demonic.  Criswell taught the curse of Ham theory that believed Blacks were to be servants to Whites by  Biblical mandates.  None in the movement were David Duke-style racists.  The latest pastors in our list accommodated themselves to the times and would deny any such connections.
     Bob Jones U. stuck to their guns.  They fought segregation and tried to find ways to get around the court rulings.  Eventually they reluctantly relented.  It was only recently that they allowed the concept of whites dating non-whites.    
     The school was headed by presidents who were Klan members.  They often handed out honorary degrees to notorious segregationists.  People like Helms and Lester Maddox, the man who boasted he used ax handles to drive Blacks away from his diner, made the cut.  Some of the more notorious graduates of the school are the late Fred Phelps of Godhatesfags fame.  Tim LaHaye also matriculated at the South Carolina school.
     Senator Ted Cruz's favorite "civil rights" issue is getting tax money for private Christian academies.  Roots for this sort of thing go back to Weyrich and crowd.  School vouchers, or tax money for private segregated academies was the original intent of the movement according to Balmer.
     GOP candidates for decades have dropped by Bob Jones U. as a launching pad for national offices.  George W. Bush started there but had to apologize.  He found out the school's segregated dating policy would have ruled out his brother Jeb for office since Jeb is married to a woman from Latin descent.   The school has had a long history of its faculty endorsing candidates.  President Bob Jones Sr. gave his blessing to Reagan and later turned on him for choosing George Bush as his Vice President.  Jones called Bush a devil.2  Bob Jones Jr. once called Betty Ford a slut and said Jerry Falwell is the most dangerous man in America.  3
     One of the first times I heard of the school was about its long running battle with Billy Graham.   Because Graham shared a platform with Methodists and Catholics BJU's presidents considered Billy a false prophet.  Once Graham held a crusade in Greenville, South Carolina, the home town of the school.    The administration of the school forbade any students from attending the meetings.  Some might recall it was a Bob Jones professor who spread the rumor in South Carolina that John McCain fathered an illegitimate child.  Some historians believe this rumor helped propel George W. Bush into office.
     Bob Jones once said that America is so wicked he could not be loyal to the country anymore.4  Dr. Bob Jones Sr. once said, "I would rather see a saloon on every corner than a Catholic in the White House.  I would rather see a nigger as president." Jones called M.L king an apostate and noted Blacks don't like discipline.  Students at BJU once were held to codes on campus that stated anyone who dated outside of their race would be expelled.  Senator Robert Torricelli said BJU often made openly racist statements regarding African Americans and Asian Americans.5
     Bob Jones University is deeply entrenched in the homeschool movement.  They provide the ideology and textbooks for home school work as well as many Christian private schools.   The school is also a leading advocate for getting parents to take their children out of public schools.  This movement to abandon public education is called the Exodus Movement.  Many graduates of the school are now professors at Falwell's Liberty University and Southern Baptist Seminaries.
     In 1960 Bob Jones Sr. preached an Easter Sunday Sermon on segregation.  He used for his text Acts 17, which says God created of one blood many nations.  Jones believed this meant God created the nations with the intent they stay to themselves.  Chinese must marry Chinese and kind must stick with their own kind.  Several times in the sermon Jones referred to Blacks as "colored people."  He warned us that God does not want one race.  Integration is not of God and against God's will.  He noted, "Colored people in the South were better off than anywhere else in the world."  He advised that Africans should have been left in Africa to live and reproduce among themselves.  It made the preacher sick for a man to preach that we rub out lines of distinction on the races.  The message lamented religious liberals who are the worst infidels.  Integration comes from Communists who are agitators.
      In the sermon Jones stated that he had wanted to build a great school so that "colored" folks could get all the culture they had at Bob Jones!  I doubt he would have found a great many people of color who took him up on that offer.  6

1.     Randall Balmer, "The Real Origins of the Religious Right, Christian Ethics Today, Spring 2014, pg. 15.
2.    Wikipedia, Bob Jones University.
3.    Walter Capps, The New Religious Right, Univ. of South Carolina Press, Columbia, S.C., 1990, pgs. 98-99.
4.    John George, Nazis, Communists, Klansmen, Others on the Fringe, Prometheus, Buffalo, N.Y., pg. 246.
5.  2006.
Bob Jo

Randall Balmer has just published a book named Redeemer.  It is the biography of Jimmy Carter.  What happened to Carter helps explain the modern Religious Right.

by wilkyjr on Wed Jul 09, 2014 at 12:28:25 PM EST

I did not know, but it certainly makes sense in relation to all the other things I knew about our history and especially Dixie Christianity and its long lasting racist component. (Though by no means are the the only ones in our country.)

by Nightgaunt on Sun Jul 20, 2014 at 08:15:50 PM EST

after writing some long essays you need to proof read that. Institution known as proofreading has all the experts who have command on English. They are professional and very reliable, they meet the deadline every time.

by LayneMarvin on Tue Feb 18, 2020 at 09:33:58 AM EST

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