We've all heard of church versus state, but the latest twist is church versus college. The New York Times reports that more and more Baptist colleges are disentangling themselves from their state Baptist conventions in reaction to pressure from religious leaders and church-appointed board members to cloud educational freedom. Even such prominent Southern Baptist universities as Wake Forest and Furman have severed the umbilical cord to the church, often sacrificing financial support and institutional history on the altar of educational liberty. The paper reports:
The issues vary from state to state. But many Southern Baptist colleges and their state conventions have been battling over money, control of boards of trustees, whether the Bible must be interpreted literally, how evolution is taught, the propriety of some books for college courses and of some plays for campus performances, and whether cultural and religious diversity should be encouraged.
What? Even cultural diversity's in question? Everybody's into diversity these days. To oppose it is so last millennium. Not for the Southern Baptists. Their fights with some half-dozen affiliated colleges and universities during the past four years have led to severed ties over issues such as whether to hire professors who teach literal biblical interpretation.
And I was thinking that in the church-versus-state war, the church was winning in President Bush's evangelical America. Apparently not on all fronts. It's wonderful to see college leaders show that they, too, have spines.