Expelled Indeed: No Evolution Allowed

Some conflicts fester for a long time but I can’t ethically share them with the general public until the headlines appear. And here it is:

As I’ve said so many times:
Where’s Ben Stein whenever another one of my evolution-affirming colleagues actually gets “expelled”?

I checked them. Not one of Ben Stein’s alleged examples of expelled academics panned out.  I wish I could say the same for yet another report of an intolerant Christian school discovering that one of its professors dares to think evolution-affirming thoughts! The Nazarene school obviously has a vested interested in hiring only those who believe in God as the Creator. But for school administrators to speak of “godless evolution” is to misunderstand the very nature of science. Professor Oord does not believe in godless evolution, just evolution.  After examining the evidence, he simply chooses to believe that God created evolutionary processes in order to diversify life on earth.

I’ve never tried to catalogue the many ostracized and/or terminated evolution-accepting professors from the half century since The Genesis Flood (1962) launched the “creation science” movement.  But if I did, I would entitle my tome:  “Expelled Indeed: No Evolution Allowed”  and add the subtitle: “Christian Schools Continue Their Anti-Evolution McCarthyism, Purging All Darwinian Defectors from Young Earth Creationism.”

One might think that Professor Thomas Oord would be protected by tenure. Not really. An overwhelming majority of professors at fundamentalist schools and nearly as many at evangelical schools have no tenure. Most have no hopes of tenure. And even at the Christian institutions which make some provision for a type of tenure, employment security remains limited.

1) Even at Christian schools where tenure does apply, the employment contract requires the employee agreeing to remain fully in compliance with the doctrinal statement (often called “Our Statement of Faith” or something similar) and must be annually reaffirm it by signature.   The doctrinal statement of many schools explicitly declares the school’s position on creation and sometimes even the age of the earth so, for legal purposes, there is little “legal wiggle room” for the professor to accuse the school of unlawful termination.

2) Many Christians schools are considered affiliate, extensions, or even legally-owned entities of the church or Christian denomination/movement/fellowship which founded, operate, and/or govern the institution. Accordingly, they may require all faculty to be ordained by and/or otherwise subject to the governance of that church or denomination.

3) While the word “tenured” is frequently used in relation to the “most secure faculty” on such campuses, in my experience the word “tenure” rarely appears in writing, whether in faculty handbooks, employment contracts, or even in the conversations of any administrators of the institution.  The word simply designates the Christian school quasi-equivalent considered analogous to faculty tenure at secular universities.

4) Even where this is not explicitly stated in an employment contract, most ordained professors at nearly all Christian schools take advantage of Parsonage Allowance tax exemptions available to Christian ministers. Each time they take advantage of such provisions and file a federal tax return, they are legally acknowledging their accountability to church leaders, both inside and outside the classroom. As a result, even their unexpressed personal beliefs may be considered subject to the dictates of their religion and therefore be fully relevant to their employment and accountability to the school administrators designated by church leaders. After all, for professors especially, they are considered to be teachers of the religion, and religions are not confined to classrooms.  Thus, their employment status is very similar to that of a pastor of a church.

The Bottom Line

1) In this type of context, a terminated professor at Christian institutions may have few legal options, regardless of the financial health of the institution and even if the word “tenure” appeared in his employment documents.  U.S. Courts are reluctant to ignore the Constitutional implications of attempting to overrule the decisions of a religion’s leaders maintaining the “purity” of their members.  And unless it can be legitimately argued that the professor had no way to know that his statements defied or conflicted with “church authority”, he probably has little hope of successful litigation.

2) Even if a terminated professor somehow succeeds in litigation, simply by “rocking the boat” he may have very little hope of finding similar employment at some other Christian institution, even at those schools which are very tolerant of his views on evolution and the age of the earth.  Submission to authority and willingness to sacrifice as a servant of Jesus Christ and Kingdom is not valued but expected. So one’s employment chances depend entirely on how badly another school wants the dissenting professor.  Very highly esteemed and well-known Biblical scholar, Dr. Bruce Waltke, found employment at another seminary within hours of his termination.  Most Christian college and seminary professors have little hope of such offer, especially when so many qualified academics vy for every faculty position.  (Keep in mind that many schools hire only those from within their own denominations and/or doctrinal positions.)

There’s much I could say about the hypocrisy of Ben Stein’s EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed.  Yet, after complaining about it for years, I see no need to repeat the obvious.   Of course, despite my frustration and disappointment, I do agree that a privately-funded institution should continue to be protected by the religious freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States.  I also must agree that employment contracts issued by religious institutions should be at liberty to enforce the maintenance of their religious beliefs and objectives.  Even so, the ignorance and dishonesty which festers, and seems to be growing exponentially, within a so-thoroughly discredited “creation science” movement harms everyone–and only serves to undermine the proclamation of Jesus Christ’s teachings over topics which are not at all central to the Great Commission.

Far too many Christian institutions remain mired in the cherished but relatively recent “creation science” traditions of Young Earth Creationism.  Both the scriptural evidence and the scientific evidence so clearly tell the story of evolutionary processes diversifying life on earth over billions of years.  The Theory of Evolution neither affirms nor denies the existence of God because the scientific method has no tools or procedures for investigating outside of natural processes. Science is not theology. Modern science, by definition, cannot make theological statements because it has no means to do so.

Any Christian who truly believes that God authored both the Bible and the universe should be willing to accept all of the evidence provided by both.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Expelled Indeed: No Evolution Allowed

  1. Only skimmed but Georgia Purdom referred to this case on Facebook:
    https://www.facebook.com/GeorgiaPurdom
    (She links to the Christianity Today article and then makes insensitive – or highly clumsy – comments about hoping her Nazarene friends get ‘fired up’.)

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