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Faculty leave Patrick Henry College because of severe limits on academic freedom

by, May 25, 2006

Links to reports and documents cited in the summary immediately follows it.

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. The school trains right-wing Christians, most of them home-schooled, for high-level government posts; it has reportedly placed a number of its students in the Bush administration and Congress. The departing faculty members' accounts of their experiences illustrate the doctrinal rigidity of those who aspire to Christianize our government.

News reports give a sense of the tension that led to the faculty departures -- and a sense of the doctrinal rigidity of the college. That rigidity is also apparent in the college's own statements, quoted below.

Religion News Service:

[Departing professor of classics 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."
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."

Washington Post:

[David] 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.

Christianity Today:

"[Patrick Henry College President Michael Farris] said St. Augustine was in hell," said [Erik] Root. "I heard it with my own ears." Other professors and students said Farris has repeatedly disparaged Calvinist theology.

Los Angeles Times:

There's a failure for the school to live up to its stated purposes to lead the nation and shape the culture," said professor David Noe, one of those who resigned from the college in Purcellville, Va. "If there is a de-emphasis on the liberal arts here, it will profoundly affect the college's ability to place people in high office."
The "Statement of Faith" Patrick Henry College requires faculty to sign

The introduction to the statement reads: "The College is, and shall always remain, a Christian institution dedicated to bringing honor and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ in all of its activities. Each Trustee, officer, faculty member and student of the College, as well as such other employees and agents of the College as may be specified by resolution of the Board of Trustees, shall fully and enthusiastically subscribe to the following Statement of Faith:"

There is one God, eternally existent in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth.
Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, is God come in the flesh.
The Bible in its entirety (all 66 books of the Old and New Testaments) is the inspired word of God, inerrant in its original autographs, and the only infallible and sufficient authority for faith and Christian living.
Man is by nature sinful and is inherently in need of salvation, which is exclusively found by faith alone in Jesus Christ and His shed blood.
Christ's death provides substitutionary atonement for our sins.
Personal salvation comes to mankind by grace through faith.
Jesus Christ literally rose bodily from the dead.
Jesus Christ literally will come to earth again in the Second Advent.
Satan exists as a personal, malevolent being who acts as tempter and accuser, for whom Hell, the place of eternal punishment, was prepared, where all who die outside of Christ shall be confined in conscious torment for eternity.

You can see the statement on the college's website by clicking here.

Statement equates government "legitimacy" with religious criteria
Additionally, Patrick Henry College has numerous pages of "foundational" statements about its "vision" and "biblical worldview." (Click here) The following statements are from the latter, which can be seen in full by clicking here.

Civil Government. God himself has ordained government and commands that everyone must submit to government; moreover, there is no authority except that which God has established. (Romans 13: 1-5) Consequently, he who rebels against lawful authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment upon themselves. It is necessary to submit to government, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. We are to pray for all who hold public office, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (Proverbs 14: 34-35; I Timothy 2: 1-2)
Some governments are not legitimate; some authorities are not lawful. (Hosea 8:1-4) These are governments that do not recognize or that choose to ignore that human beings are created in God's image and therefore are entitled to the enjoyment of certain rights and responsibilities that inhere in their nature. Such societies and such governments are under God's judgment. (Jeremiah 18: 7-10) Nevertheless, there is a proper way to rectify this situation.
In keeping with scriptural principles and the American Declaration of Independence, we recognize that "Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind is more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed." But when such a government 1) commands disobedience to God, 2) enjoins the right and duty of human beings to worship God, 3) denies other God-ordained rights by extreme oppression and tyranny, or 4) "when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object (tyranny), evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism" it is the right and duty of godly men and women "to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security." Importantly, this action must be taken in accordance with God's laws and in submission to other legitimate authorities, anarchy being as illegitimate as tyranny. (Jeremiah 32: 32-35; Acts 5: 29)
Patrick Henry students look to future

By Shannon Sollinger, Loudoun Times-Mirror (Loudoun, Virginia), June 6, 2006

Most of Adrienne Cumbus' classes at Patrick Henry College next fall will be taught by TBD - To Be Determined.

The Purcellville college has filled two of the positions left vacant by the abrupt resignations of five professors in March, and has applicants for the others, said Patrick Henry spokesman David Halbrook. Continue

Conservative College Confronts Staff Exodus

By Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service via BeliefNet , May 23, 2006

WASHINGTON -- A Christian college focused on shaping home-schooled students for careers in public service will lose about one-third of its faculty after several professors at the young school charged their academic freedoms were violated. Continue

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

By Michael Alison Chandler, The Washington Post, May 19, 2006

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." Continue

Shakeup at Patrick Henry College
New president and academic dean announced after 5 of school's 16 faculty quit in protest.

by Sheryl Henderson Blunt in Purcellville, Va., Christianity Today, May 15, 2006

A contentious debate at Patrick Henry College that began over theological differences, the interpretation of Scripture, and academic freedom has prompted 5 of the school's 16 full-time faculty members to announce they will not be returning to the conservative, Christian college next year. The announcements bring the total number of departing professors to nine in the past year, not including two adjuncts, as well as four senior executives who left in the past 18 months, departing professors say. Continue

A Clash of Ideas at Evangelical College
Five of Patrick Henry's 16 faculty members leave over its mission and curriculum.

By Molly Nennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times, May 13, 2006

WASHINGTON - Patrick Henry College, the small evangelical Christian school founded six years ago to train students for careers in public life, gained national prominence for placing many students in White House internships and other government positions. Now five of the school's 16 faculty members have left, saying the school's approach is too doctrinaire to prepare students for the realities of American politics.

One faculty member was fired and four others resigned in protest, saying the administration prohibited free-ranging discussions at what has been called the "Evangelical Ivy League." Continue

The Trouble with Patrick Henry College

Opinion Article, Martin E. Marty, Christian Post, May. 23, 2006

"The rest of us might not care about Patrick Henry, were it not so well poised to take its place as shaper of the shakers and movers who move this nation. Farris and company take them from home schooling (for the most part) to the halls of power. Some have interned for Karl Rove, Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, and the like, a fact that does not have to be condemning but does raise questions about the single-minded and even obsessive character of this training school for tomorrow's right-wing leadership. It might be nice to think that even Augustine and also the suspect Reformed Protestant tradition could have their place among the Bible-believing power people there. These five professors learned: not." Click here for the op-ed article.

Irreconcilable differences?

Lynn Vincent, World Magazine, July 15, 2006

Education: Five professors say that Patrick Henry College encroached on their academic freedom, but the administration says it is preventing the slide to secularism that has characterized many once-Christian colleges. Continue


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