Thursday, October 18, 2012

Exposing the IFB: Bob Jones University.

(Authors note: This post is part of a continuing series on the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) movement, which many of it's critics and former members consider a cult. For previous posts on this group, and resources containing more information on the IFB movement, check out my page, Exposing the IFB.)

Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina is one of the flagship institutions of the IFB movement, as it is one of the headquarters group for a major branch of the movement. I talk more about the structure of the IFB in part one of my post on First Baptist Hammond and Jack Hyles.

The complex has enough influence within IFB circles to have it's own press company which makes home school materials for one million students worldwide, and has enough influence in politics to have received a visit from George W. Bush when he was campaigning for President in 2000. Those of you who have read my previous posts on the IFB are probably shivering at the thought that a man who would become a US President visited an IFB institution. As the old American saying goes, politics makes strange bedfellows.....

Just like other IFB institutions, Bob Jones University is no stranger to scandals involving rape and pedophilia. In my post, Fundamentally Toxic Christianity, a response to a John Shore article of the same name, I briefly mention the case of New Hampshire teen, Tina Anderson, who was forced to apologize by her IFB minister for being raped by a church member. This same pastor also contrived a plan for her to go away from her home to Colorado to live with a family there, and quietly have the baby who was the product of that rape (she put the baby up for adoption, which may or may not have been her choice, that is unknown). Her pastor, Chuck Phelps, who forced her to make an apology for being raped, was hired onto the board of Bob Jones University. Chuck Phelps did resign from the board, after his acts were made known by a protest movement called Do Right BJU, made up of disgusted students and alumni brought this to light (BJU had been trying to keep this quiet), but not without some severe retribution waged against students who participated, including expelling a student organizer named Chris Peterman.

Some of the extremes they went through to try to justify his expulsion (denying that it had anything to do with his protest activities) included zeroing in on "wrongdoing" that included watching Glee and posting lyrics to a Matthew West song on facebook. BJU, like any other IFB institution, does in fact rabidly opposes both homosexuality  (the show Glee has a gay character), and any form of contemporary music, (Matthew West is a Christian contemporary singer.), but with the timing of the expulsion coming mere days before his scheduled graduation, it led many to believe that it was to make an example out of him to other students because he challenged the board over the Chuck Phelps appointment.

Also, like other IFB institutions, they continually bash other religions, and Christian groups that they see as not being true Christianity, or to use their favorite term, as personally was told by an IFB pastor when he found out as a teen that I was part of a Southern Baptist church, not "Bible believing ".
In 2000, their then president, Bob Jones III, publicly stated on their website that both the Catholic church and Mormonism were "cults that call themselves Christian". He then later stated that the university is not anti-Catholic or Mormon, but said "Our shame would be in telling people a lie, and thereby letting them go to hell without Christ because we loved their goodwill more than we loved them and their souls".  So he believes that they are not anti-Catholic or Mormon, but that Catholics and Mormons are indeed going to hell because since they don't agree with him, they are "without Christ" and going to hell. Got it....

Although they share the common bond of rejection and hatred of other religions, and other Christian groups, as well as pedophilia within their ranks and/or indifference to it, one bad habit  that BJU had that isn't shared by their IFB cousins is the continuation of blatantly racist policies well into the modern era .BJU didn't not admit black students until 1971, and until the year 2000, BJU did not allow students of different races to date or marry. This policy was in place until the aforementioned visit of George W. Bush to the campus that same year caused a firestorm of controversy after their policy become well known in the media. Bush's staff had to have known about this policy at the time of his visit, and maybe even the former President himself, but the visit went on anyway. An actual picture of the student handbook containing this policy can be found in this article by the blogger The Friendly Atheist. Contrary to what some might think, their interracial dating ban is not the norm in the IFB movement, in fact when my sister was a part of a Hyles-Anderson college, interracial dating and marriage were actually more common than what I have seen outside the IFB movement in the general US population.

Bob Jones University has apparently become a bit more open minded on race, and is becoming less political under it's new president, Stephen Jones. Under Stephen Jones' leadership, according to Wikipedia, the university made an apology for it's interracial dating ban, and Jones himself said that some statements were made by his predecessors that he would not say today (he didn't go into specifics, however). The college also refused to endorse a candidate in the 2008 election, with Stephen Jones saying "he didn't have a political bone in his body". It's really hard to tell, though if these kind of changes are just cosmetic changes done begrudgingly to try to improve their public image, or if it comes from a true change of heart. I would opt for the latter, seeing as though the Chuck Phelps debacle, and the retribution for protesting against his appointment happened only this year.

Bob Jones University, until it truly proves itself otherwise for a long time, still appears to be a dedicate IFB institution, and even though a few minor changes (mostly in the way they conduct themselves publicly) have been made, their core beliefs still haven't changed, and the Chuck Phelps board appointment and their response to criticism of it shows that they have just as horrible as many in the Independent Fundamental Baptist when it comes to protecting children, and standing up to pedophiles. They may try to look a good appearance for the outside wold, but they're still a part of the same corrupt, isolationist, controlling organization that the rest of the IFB movement is known to be to it's former members.


  1. "Her pastor, Chuck Phelps, who committed these horrible acts...." Please reword this paragraph so as not to give the impression that Phelps committed the rape. It was another member that did that. He used poor judgment in his handling of the situation, which he admits. But your choice of phrase all but definitively calls him the rapist. I can't tell if this is intentional or not. If you edit it, I'll know.

    1. I re read that line, the "horrible acts" was a reference to what he had done in trying to cover up the rape, and forcing her to apologize as though it were her fault.

      It will be re worded.


No spam, proselytizing, or personal attacks, such comments will never see the light of day around here.

Disagreeing with me is fine (I encourage it), but have some decency when writing your comment