Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bob Jones University issues apology about ‘racially hurtful’ policies of the past

Left: Bob Jones III announces an end to the unpopular ban on interracial dating on CNN's The Larry King Show, March 2000.

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The local news this morning is all about Pope Bubba issuing an official apology, just like the "big churches" have. Not to be outdone, he is issuing his own Papal bull, as well!

Although from the looks of it, this is not the doing of BJ3 or son Stephen Jones, current president of BJU. (As stated in my previous piece, Bob Jones VI was not considered morally fit to be University president and the gig therefore went to little brother.) This comes directly from the students and alumni! DEMOCRACY at BJU? I admit, I'm impressed. (Could be a dangerous precedent, letting people express themselves!)

Maybe someday, the apology for arresting gay people who dare to step foot on school property (see link above), will also be issued.


Bob Jones University issues apology about ‘racially hurtful’ policies of the past

By Ron Barnett • STAFF WRITER • November 22, 2008
Greenville News

Bob Jones University has posted a statement on its Web site apologizing for its "racially hurtful" policies of the past, after hundreds of alumni and students signed a petition calling for an apology.

The fundamentalist Christian school on Wade Hampton Boulevard didn’t admit black students before 1971 and didn’t allow interracial dating until 2000.

"In so doing, we failed to accurately represent the Lord and to fulfill the commandment to love others as ourselves," the statement says. "For these failures we are profoundly sorry."

The statement traces the 81-year-old institution’s policies to the segregationist culture of the past rather than any theological reasons.

"Though no known antagonism toward minorities or expressions of racism on a personal level have ever been tolerated on our campus, we allowed institutional policies to remain in place that were racially hurtful," the statement says.

The university, which is not affiliated with any denomination, has students from all 50 states and nearly 50 countries, and solicits financial support for two scholarships for minority applicants, the statement says.

BJU President Stephen Jones, great-grandson of the school’s founder, is out of the country, and his father, Bob Jones III, the chancellor and past president, could not be reached for comment.

A university vice president would not comment, saying the statement speaks for the institution’s position. He did not mention the petition when asked what precipitated the apology.

The school fought a long court battle with the federal government when the IRS revoked its tax-exempt status because of its racially discriminatory policies.

A 1983 Supreme Court decision upholding the revocation notes that, "The sponsors of the university genuinely believe that the Bible forbids interracial dating and marriage." But the apology makes no mention of a biblical basis for the policies.

Instead, it says: "For almost two centuries American Christianity, including BJU in its early stages, was characterized by the segregationist ethos of American culture. Consequently, for far too long, we allowed institutional policies regarding race to be shaped more directly by that ethos than by the principals and precepts of the Scriptures.

"We conformed to the culture rather than provide a clear Christian counterpoint to it."

More than 500 students and alumni signed an online letter that was delivered to BJU’s president, board of trustees and administration on Wednesday, according to a Web site set up by the group.

"The school is widely known as segregationist, bigoted, and racist. Some of us were not aware of this reputation while we attended the university and were baffled when we encountered negative perceptions from others after we graduated," the letter, posted on the Web site www.please-reconcile.org, says.

"We see it in people’s faces and hear it in their comments and reactions upon learning where we went to school. Sometimes we encounter it in job interviews — troubling times to be confronted about racial prejudice. For some of us, employees suspect our motives as employers.

"Those of us who are ministers and spiritual leaders must explain our association with the university to minority congregants."

The apology met with skepticism from Greenville County Councilwoman Lottie Gibson, who recalls a "frightening experience" on campus in the early 1950s when she had gone to deliver food to a student and was told that "Negroes were not welcome here."

"Where I am with the Lord I want to forgive them," she said, when told of the apology. "It is just very difficult for me to give a clear forgiveness. I’m going to have to watch and see how this comes out."

County Auditor Scott Case, a white BJU graduate, said the interracial dating ban was "a non-issue" during his years at the school, 1983-87.

"I do not remember as a student ever having heard it discussed or talked about," he said.
Let me tell you, former (Republican) Councilman Scott Case couldn't find his butt with both hands, so this fact isn't surprising.

I share Councilwoman Gibson's skepticism. We'll see.

It's interesting that BJU always seems to be a generation behind. They are finally getting with the program about race, but still offer no apologies for their open homophobia, and are in fact proud of it. As they were once quite proud of their racial policies.

Reading the statement, it sounds like an association with Bob Jones University has cost graduates a few jobs, hasn't it? On the Please Reconcile website, above, is this quote:
Dr. Bob Jones Jr. once wrote, “I try to avoid any statement for which I might have to apologize. If my enemies try to use against me something I have said, I reply, ‘I said it, I meant it, and I will now reemphasize it’” (Cornbread and Caviar, 84). He said it, he meant it, and he spends a number of pages in that chapter of Cornbread and Caviar illustrating his devotion to this dictum.

What is truly unfortunate is that this statement applied not only to actual enemies, but also to Christian brothers. Friends who advised against certain statements and positions unwittingly became enemies. It was supposed that they were resisting the authority of the administrative family, even if the rebuke was carried out in private and with the intent of brotherly correction. Few issues brought as much contention as the issue of race, and exhortations to change positions met with a thunderous defense.
And the same is happening right now, with the issue of homophobia. Bob Jones University does not allow openly GLBT students to attend, period.

Back in August, I got in an argument with one of their employees about this. They obviously don't want to be called what they are: BIGOTS.

When they renounce ALL hate, I might pay attention to them and take them seriously. As it is now, they finally renounce their racism, only when a black man is about to be sworn in as President of the USA.

Better late than never, I suppose.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is a good hear BJU come out to apologies at this time in history. What we now need to see is for the University to put this into action in their admission process and also to educate the members of staff as to how to handle African-America as students and not to be classified as second "class" students. Its easy to come out and apologies, but as a "christian institution" if the University Authorities can organize some seminars for staff to "DEPROGRAM" them of the negative sentiments that will go a long way to show the sincerity of your apology but not just for the news. Remember faith without works is dead. Ray-RayN

bryce said...

this is all political PR to avoid being overlooked and dissed by the new Dem admin. as for what anonymous said? they need to deprogram the whole school. after that- an exorcism. they've done a huge amount of damage around here. thnx 4 staying on their asses, D.

Renee said...

Of course it has caused their graduates jobs. In an era where people can sue for discrimination why would you want to hire someone who has been educated at a bigoted institution? With all of the universities to choose from in the US it is not as though they didn't have options.
It will probably take them another 100 years to decide that gay students are acceptable. The hate people project in the name of religion is just ridiculous. They often don't realize that the same bible that they wave around with conviction would also find them guilty of many sins. The era of moral superiority is over. This is not Ozzie and Harriet land, real people lead real lives.

CrackerLilo said...

Well, this is about as sweet as...a lemon wedge. I guess this is better than nothing, and it will be good if they can go forward into a better direction.

"Pope Bubba"--I love that!

MoneyBonanza said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
sheila said...

Great post. They've come a long way, which usually means they still have a long way to go.

YogaforCynics said...

Interestingly, I have a cousin--one of a dozen homeschooled kids in a hardcore fundamentalist family who started at Bob Jones this Fall. My younger brother (himself gay) talked to him at a wedding this summer and quickly came to the conclusion that he is, in fact, one of BJU's newest closeted gay students (recently graduated from some kind of Christian boot camp program apparently meant to make a proper man out of him)....

Anonymous said...

Bob Jones recently has decided to support divorce. One of their faculty/staff has divorced their spouse. Their official response...we don't get involved in what our staff does. Where are their "christian" morals?

Axis of Logic said...

I am a BJU graduate. Visit our website at http://axisoflogic.com