As the end of summer draws near, it occurs to me that I have spent most of it working on four college cases dealing either with freedom of speech or with freedom of association. One case involves unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination in the dissemination of student fees at a public university in California. Another involves unconstitutional interference with the belief requirements of a religious organization at a public university in Colorado. But the other two cases deal with administrators at private schools that claim to be Christian while simultaneously destroying the careers and lives of people who hold dissenting but entirely reasonable views. Intellectual honestly dictates that I use my platform to deal with these “Christian” dictators rather than focusing exclusively on secular tyrants.
No one should be surprised that Duke Divinity School (DDS) is one of the institutions claiming to be dedicated to uplifting Christ while organizing lynch mobs to destroy the lives of those with dissenting views. After all, Duke is the university where 88 professors tried and convicted a group of innocent athletes in the court of public opinion for a rape that never actually occurred. Even after the athletes were found innocent, the unrepentant 88 continued the witch-hunt figuring the students deserved to be destroyed anyway – simply for inheriting their “white privilege.” As disturbing as that kind of radical identity politics is, it is even more disturbing when it becomes ingrained in a school of “divinity.”
Enter DDS Professor Paul Griffiths. When he received an invitation to attend a radical indoctrination program put on by the left-wing Racial Equity Institute (REI) he decided to decline the invitation while offering his criticisms of the program. He even had the audacity to suggest that the DDS faculty should be focused on Christ instead of radical leftist political causes. Fellow DDS Professor Thea Portier-Young, who had extended the invitation, was not amused. The leftist Caucasian accused fellow Caucasian Griffiths of racial harassment. She added a charge of sexual harassment for good measure.
When a divinity professor claims to be harassed by a single email expressing a divergent viewpoint - and files formal charges with the goal of destroying another divinity professor’s career - she ceases to be a Christian, if she ever was one. In point of fact, she is either a) an emotional basket case who is really easily offended, which would render her mentally unfit to teach, or b) a lying narcissist who is pretending to be offended, which would render her morally unfit to teach.
Of course, Professor Portier-Young was not fired for making the defamatory accusations of harassment against Griffiths. Instead, DDS Dean Elaine Heath who said of Griffiths’ response, “The use of mass emails to express racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry is offensive and unacceptable, especially in a Christian institution,” supported her. This fine Christian Dean then joined the witch-hunt by stripping Griffiths of due process rights in advance of the “harassment” hearings against him. Griffiths resigned knowing full well that a campus wide lynching reminiscent of the Duke lacrosse fiasco awaited him.
So the lesson so far is that you can avoid these troubles by simply avoiding secular progressive schools and progressive Christian schools altogether, right? If you agree with that assessment, I am afraid you had better think again.
Enter Bryan College Professor Phil Lestmann. When the beloved math professor of 40 years committed the unforgivable sin of criticizing Bryan President Stephen Livesay, he was promptly terminated. His charge was for “gossiping” and for being a part of an “opposition group” that criticized Livesay’s administration. Never mind the fact that his “gossip” about Livesay’s financially crooked administration was true and was expressed in private.
And never mind the fact that Lestmann was tenured. One has to wonder what tenure means if you can be fired for mere “opposition” to the administration. At Bryan, tenure is obviously predicated upon rejecting the school motto of “Christ Above All” and accepting the doctrine of “Livesay Above All.”
Regrettably, Livesay’s firing of Lestmann is not an isolated incident. It is a part of a larger purge of dissidents that has swept the school since the administration unlawfully changed the statement of faith in violation of the school charter in 2014 - and then fired people who refused to sign it. Indeed, around 100 university personnel have resigned in protest or have been dismissed by an administration that uses tactics more likely to have pleased Joseph Stalin than Jesus Christ.
But comparing these Bryan administrators to Stalinists is unfair in the sense that the comparison is incomplete. The Bryan administration also borrows from the Maoists who have purged communist China of its unpleasant history. After Bryan College was sued and settled over the firing of two professors the administration had the student newspaper archives purged of accounts of the firings. Long before that, they had ceased to be Christian. But that was the day Bryan College ceased to be an institution of higher learning.
So what is the solution for young Christians who wish to make a difference in college? I say it is to go to a secular school – as long as they are sufficiently grounded in their faith before going. It sure beats going to a school that is Christian in name only and battling narcissistic hypocrites who show no willingness to acknowledge their transgressions.
This column has been updated.