Religious Universities: The Coming Reckoning

 

David Wheeler resents his conservative Evangelical education, and believes that it’s scandalous that students can use federal student loan aid to “attend a college that not only discriminates against legally married gay students, but also forbids students from dancing.”

Source: False Neutrality & the Left | The American Conservative

Dreher again.

This is a fascinating article for a lot of reasons, but it caught my eye because it is another signal that some on the Left wish to turn the crusade for gay marriage into a crusade against those who oppose it.

I don’t buy “slippery slope” arguments, so I am reluctant to believe that a rejection of, say, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, is necessarily the beginning of a liberal/Left/Progressive jihad against those who believe homosexuality or gay marriage to be morally wrong.

But when a professor of journalism suggests in The Chronicle of Higher Education that a college must abandon its religious-based convictions about sex, gender, and human nature in order for its students to receive federal aid, the ground ‘neath one’s feed suddenly develops a sharp downward slope and greasy ice forms afore one’s eyes.

This amounts to a morals test. If you believe that some behaviors allowed under the law are immoral, and wish to attend a university that holds those same convictions, that you are disqualified from receiving federal student aid. No problem, you say: they can go to a state school. That’s a great idea, except that in many states, California among them, state schools (including community colleges) are packed, leaving private, mostly parochial institutions as the primary choice for a number of students. You are, in effect, restricting the neediest students to institutions least able to accept or serve them. And, by the way, over fifty historically black colleges and universities in the US are private, religious universities.

We can – and will – argue about whether so many students in the US should be going to college, but we are not going to have that discussion until we come up with a better alternative. In the meantime, our goal should be to enable an education as far as a student can take it.

Absent assurances to the contrary, it is reasonable to assume that next on the docket would be removing federal research grants to professors at schools who have a moral stance on matters of sex and gender. Remember, when we’re talking about de-funding research, this is not just about Oklahoma Wesleyan or Liberty Baptist. We’re also talking about Notre Dame, Loyola, St. Johns, Georgetown, Villanova, Holy Cross, Yeshiva University, Gonzaga, Fordham, Trinity, Brigham Young, and hundreds of other respected centers of academic endeavor.

If we proceed down this path, there will come a point at which the government is essentially demanding the complete secularization of these institutions, or, unless the institution can suddenly find other sources of funding, their closure. At what point does all of this begin to transgress upon the Free Exercise clause, especially when many of these schools train and ordain both theologians and clergy? Further, at what point does this begin to have a depressive effect on both the quality and the availability of university educations?

One of the unique and remarkable aspects of American higher education is the sheer diversity of institutions available to prospective students. Historically religious colleges and universities make up an important part of that diversity. Men and women of faith who are also scholars have an opportunity to teach in an environment that accommodates their lifestyles. Students of faith have an opportunity to learn in an environment where the focus is both academics and the development of moral character. Both of those situations are unavailable in secular state institutions, and the full scope of fields of endeavor and all of America would be the worse off without them. Leaving aside the questionable legality of secularization, this would be a national self-inflicted wound.

 

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Author: David Wolf

An adviser to corporations and organizations on strategy, communications, and public affairs, David Wolf has been working and living in Beijing since 1995, and now divides his time between China and California. He also serves as a policy and industry analyst focused on innovative and creative industries, a futurist, and an amateur historian.

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