Category: Secularism


Gordon College, a Christian liberal arts institution in Massachusetts–ironically, the original American colony founded to preserve and protect religious freedom, has been threatened with loss of its regional accreditation for not allowing “sexual relations outside of marriage” and “homosexual practice.” Its regional accreditation body, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, is no longer hiding its role as an agent of secularism and its hostility toward any higher education institution that actually takes Christian ethics and beliefs seriously.

According to the blog, Stands to Reason,

“Gordon College has been given 18 months to recant. If they do not change the standards for sexual behavior in their “life and conduct statement” (which prohibit “sexual relations outside of marriage” and “homosexual practice”), they will lose their accreditation*:

The higher education commission of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges met last week and “considered whether Gordon College’s traditional inclusion of ‘homosexual practice’ as a forbidden activity” runs afoul of the commission’s standards for accreditation, according to a joint statement from NEASC and Gordon College.

The commission asked Gordon College to submit a report next September. The report should describe the process by which the college has approached its review of the policy “to ensure that the College’s policies and procedures are non-discriminatory,” the statement said….

In its joint statement, NEASC and Gordon College called the review process a “period of discernment” that will take place over the next 12 to 18 months…. [The president of NEASC’s higher education commission] said the long time frame that Gordon College has been allowed for the review is appropriate considering that Gordon College’s policy is “deeply embedded in the culture of the college” and such things “don’t change overnight.”

How reasonable of the commission to give Gordon College 18 months to come to terms with overturning the thousands-of-years-old Christian view of acceptable sexual behavior.

This 18-month reprieve is nothing but theater, of course. Gordon College will not convince the commission their standards are “non-discriminatory.” Gordon College will explain the difference between behavior and identity, between a person with same-sex attractions who agrees with the biblical standards and one who doesn’t, and the difference between banning a person because of his sexual orientation and banning particular behaviors among all students that go against the biblical view. And then the commission will reject it.

How do I know this? Because this is what happened earlier this year when Gordon College publicly argued for the “right of faith-based institutions to set and adhere to standards which derive from our shared framework of faith.” That controversy ended with the termination of their city contract to maintain Salem’s historical Old Town Hall and their student teachers being removed from public schools.

This assault on Christian higher education was launched earlier this year by Peter Conn in the Chronicle for Higher Education.  So this latest action from NEASC is the logical extension of this kind of liberal hegemony against all things Christian. First Amendment–and multiculturalism–be damned.

Luke Sheahan, a professor at the Catholic University of America, has written an article (Humanitas, Vol. XXV, Nos. 1 & 2, 2012, pp. 44-65) outlining two different approaches to academic freedom, one articulated by Russell Kirk, author of The Conservative Mind (1953) and the other following William F. Buckley, one of conservatism’s more articulate firebrands and author of God and Man at Yale (1951). The comparison is instructive on how conservatives remains divided: one side embraces power (just like liberals), only for use in opposition to its arch political antagonist; the other embraces the idealism inherent in rationalism (just like liberalism), without recognizing that deeply engrained cultural practices often/usually trump the most noble ideas (and ideals). Sheahan sums up the differences between their positions this way:

“The primary difference between Kirk and Buckley is that Buckley sees in academic freedom only a dissembling mechanism used effectively by the left and the irreligious to conceal the true power struggles in academia. Hence he argues that conservatives must tear the mask off that struggle and assert their own power.  Kirk defends the pursuit of what is higher in human life than base material existence, including temporal power in the academy. It is possible for an institution to protect the search for thruth for its porfessors as Guardians of the Word.  Kirk does not deny that many professors use academic freedom to cover their own indoctrination efforts just as Buckley decries. But all that is not naked power is not necessarily dissembling rhetoric.  There can be a place where the mind and the higher imagination are cultivated in a spirit of prescriptive freedom, where a community of scholars pursues truth in its particular manifestation without hindrance. This is the dignity of the academy that is inherited from humanity’s long search for truth, and it still enlivens the philosophers in its midst. This is Russell Kirk’s conservative vision for academic freedom.”

For Sheahan’s full article, click here.

Thx:  Micah Matix/Prufrock

According to Inside Higher Ed, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a surprise ruling last Thursday, barred the government from requiring Wheaton College to fill out a form in order to be exempt from the new federal requirement that employers provide health insurance coverage that includes contraceptive coverage.

The Supreme Court order says that Wheaton needs only to inform the government that it has religious objections to parts of the health care law. Wheaton argued that requiring the College to fill out the form clashed with their religious freedom and the heath coverage in question violated its religious beliefs. The Obama administration tried to offer  a compromise on the health care law, but a number of religiously based colleges and organizations rejected the idea that they need not pay for contraception directly, but cover it indirectly under their insurance plans.

Read more at Supreme Court orders government not to require Wheaton College to fill out form on health insurance coverage.

Updated Sunday, July 6
Professor Peter Conn, an English professor at the University of Pennsylvania, provides a frightening example of how tyrannical secularism has become in the contemporary academy. He wants accreditors to stop accrediting religiously affiliated colleges. Conn makes a compelling case for importance of Christian accreditation of Christian colleges. If Conn and his allies have their way, Christian colleges will soon either be denied accreditation or be secularized; they can’t sustain their doctrinal distinctives under Conn’s vision of a “legitimate” university. Only secularism is worthy of accreditation under his doctrine. He states,

“By awarding accreditation to religious colleges, the process confers legitimacy on institutions that systematically undermine the most fundamental purposes of higher education. Skeptical and unfettered inquiry is the hallmark of American teaching and research. However, such inquiry cannot flourish—in many cases, cannot even survive—inside institutions that erect religious tests for truth.”

Secular hegemony raging  like this within regionally accredited institutions puts pressure on regional accreditors to disallow religiously diverse  institutions within their orbit.

I suspect Peter Conn wants to be the Secular Academy’s Pope. So much for “unfettered” inquiry.

Check out these two other excellent responses to Conn by Rod Dreher and Alan Jacobs.

Jacobs says, “Peter Conn is right about one thing: college accreditation is a mess. But his comments about religious colleges are thoughtless, uninformed, and bigoted.”

See Conn’s whole rant in The Chronicle of Higher Education here: The Great Accreditation Farce.

Thanks to Keith Saare for the heads up on Conn’s editorial.

The leaders of a good number of Christian colleges, universities, denominations, and other faith-based organizations have called on U.S. President Barack Obama to protect religious freedom in any executive orders (EO) he issues regarding homosexuality in America. The president has indicated in recent weeks that he is prepared to issue an EO to give protective status to homosexuals in employment and services, akin to the the protections dealing with race and gender.

Thanks to Stanley Carlson-Thies for taking the lead on this important appeal to the President.

The letter and its signers can be seen here.

 

The American Center for School Choice and the Commission on Faith-based Schools has released a disturbing report, Religious Schools in America: A Proud History and Perilous Future that notes faith-based schools are disappearing due to increased internal financial pressures and the external drains “free” (tax-funded) government alternatives, such as charter schools, are causing on school enrollments.

Funding continues to be the thorniest issue. For faith-based schools, however, the solution will not be found in direct financial support from state or federal government sources (other people’s tax dollars). That will only develop further dependency of faith-based institutions on government, which inevitably has unwanted and anti-faith strings attached.

What is needed, instead, is a new model of education funding, wherein the states do not privilege secular education with full funding from a state-based coercive tax system (which drains families of faith and others who prefer alternatives to the statist education system), but allows all families full educational choice to send their children to any schools they wish and can afford. The statist education system is threatened by that approach, but undoing the hegemony of state-based education is the only way to stop the continued decline in K-12 education in the U.S.

Allowing people the full freedom to vote with their feet and their pocketbooks (and not be forced to support the current statist system through coercive taxation) will result in a stronger, healthier and higher quality primary and secondary (and post-secondary) education system for all in the long run.

Sadly, this story is no longer news. What is shocking is how many evangelical Christians, who profess belief in biblical creation, send their kids to nominally evangelical and Reformed colleges that long ago sold their scriptural birthright for a mess of secular scientific respectability (and research funding) and still  expect their kids to remain evangelical or Reformed. Once faculty members lose their faith in the authority of Scripture and the biblical account of creation, the devolution of their institutions and students into formerly Christian colleges and students is only a matter of time and chance and random encounters of the secular kind. That devolutionary shift is certain because the words of Jesus are still true:  “A student when mature will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).

Read more on this sad trajectory in this World magazine article.

The president and board of Eastern Mennonite University approved Monday, Nov. 19, what they have euphemistically called a “listening period” for same-sex couples on campus. Current institutional rules against such sexual sins are being suspended at the historically Christian university for six months.  It was unclear what the administration and board are hoping to “hear” while homosexuals on campus freely engage in behaviors previously banned by policy.

During this “listening period,” faculty, staff and students in same-sex relationships will not be penalized for violating the university’s current policies. Because professors in such relationships can keep their jobs and practicing homosexuals can be hired during this period, the institution seems highly unlikely to maintain previous policies against homosexual relations on campus, since it would potentially mean firing some long-serving professors and others just hired.

According to a report in Inside Higher Ed, the university’s president told the faculty and staff, “As a Christian university it is our responsibility to engage in community discussion and discernment over issues that Mennonite congregations – indeed almost all denominations in the United States today – are wrestling with.” The university’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved the six-month policy review period beginning in January.

Thomas Nagel’s provocative little book, Mind & Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False, challenges reductionistic materialsts who claim to offer the only scientific explanation to the origins of life.

Below are some quotes from Nagel’s introduction to whet your appetite for his arguments against “the consensus of scientific opinion.” (Curiously, this common phrase, “consensus of scientific opinion, “so often invoked by reductionistic materialists themselves, is self-contradictory. A consensus of opinion is typically invoked as an argument from authority [in this case claiming validity because it is held by a supposed majority or mob], but it is most certainly not a scientifically derived conclusion itself–it is, rather, just another opinion, another belief that may or may not be warranted. It has no privileged status or authority in matters of science, theorizing, or factual claims because even majority opinions can be very, very wrong and even delusional–but I digress).

Nagel writes,

“My target is a comprehensive, speculative world picture that is reached by extrapolation from some of the discoveries of biology, chemistry, and physics–a particular naturalistic Weltanschauung that postulates a hierarchical relation among the subjects of those sciences, and the completeness in principle of an explanation of everything in the universe through their unification. Such a world view is not a necessary condition of the practice of any of those sciences, and its acceptance or nonacceptance would have no effect on most scientific research. Continue reading

Thomas Nagel’s newish book, Mind and Cosmos, challenges some long-worshiped idols of the  scientific priesthood of naturalistic materialism.

A brief summary of the book, “The Core of Mind and Cosmos,” by Nagel himself can be found  here in the New York Times.

The key takeaway from Nagel’s argument is that the reductionistic science based on naturalistic materialism simply cannot account for the world as actually lived and experienced.He argues that “the wide popularity among philosophers and scientists of (a), the outlook of psychophysical reductionism, is due not only to the great prestige of the physical sciences but to the feeling that this is the best defense against the dreaded (d), the theistic interventionist outlook” [emphasis added]. However, as someone who finds psychophysical accounts of the universe self-evidently false and others completely implausible, he still doesn’t want to Continue reading