Academic freedom, religious right style

Monday, May 22, 2006 at 04:13 PM

The religious right--hell, the right, period--is extremely fond of working up a froth over the supposed liberal censorship of competing ideas on America's college campuses.  The implication being, of course, that they would never, ever censor ideas, not them, not the keepers of the "founding father flame of liberty."

You've probably already guessed what comes next.

Excerpts from a recent Wash. Post piece on the academic turmoil at Patrick Henry College:

5 Professors Quit Religious School; Some Complain of Academic Constraints at Loudoun Institution

By Michael Alison Chandler, Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 19, 2006; Page B05

Nearly a third of the faculty members at Patrick Henry College in Loudoun County are leaving the school because of what they described as limitations on their academic freedom, causing unusual introspection at the politically connected Christian liberal arts college.

They claim that Patrick Henry College, established in 2000 to attract academically gifted home-schoolers with the hope of send them on to work on Capitol Hill or at the White House, does not value equally both parts of its mission: to offer students a strong biblical perspective while educating them according to a classical liberal arts curriculum. In one case, the professors said, faculty members were reprimanded for writing that the Bible "is not the only source of truth."

"I'm leaving the college because I want freedom," said David C. Noe, assistant professor of classics. He said he came to Patrick Henry in its first year expecting to find "a liberal arts college that will be the new Ivy League" -- as the school bills itself -- but instead found a place where classical works by non-Christian authors are sometimes considered suspect and where there is an increasingly narrow view of Christianity.

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.

[government instructor Erik S.] 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.
The college has ambitions to place conservative Christian graduates in positions of influence, where they will help reshape American culture. Since the school opened six years ago, its student body has grown from 88 students to 300, and it has sent students to prized internships at the White House and on Capitol Hill.

" has sent students to prized internships at the White House and on Capitol Hill."  Hmmmm.  You know, that just might explain a few things up "on the hill."  Except that you probably couldn't tell the difference between these Patric Henry kids and the fringe-sanity flock of Republicans that got blown in by the wind in 1994.  Oh yeah, in 2000 and 2004, also.

I am curious about one thing, if the Bible is the only source of truth in the world, can we then assume that the corporate loon who wrote "Everything I need to Know I Learned in  Kindergarten" either never needed to know anything true, or actually read the entire Bible by kindergarten?

And also, didn't George Bush admit in an interview a year or two ago that he didn't read the bible itself, just books "about the bible?"  Does that mean he's never read the truth.

In fact, it's almost like the old Chinese logic puzzle.  If the bible is the only source of truth, then is a book about the bible true or false?

Academic exercise: Compare and contrast the following quotes, giving some consideration to the irony that the author of the second bears the name of the author of the first:

Patrick Henry: I regret that I have only one life to give for my country.

Patrick Henry College: We regret that you have more than one source for your truth.