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Another fundie-in-government training mill – Patrick Henry College

We’ve heard quite a bit about Pat Robertson’s law school, Regent University, lately. The Gonzales debacle revealed the large number of fundie graduates that populate the Bush Administration and the government. More than 150 Regent alums have been hired into government positions since Dear Leader sat his tush in the Oval Office, including Monica Goodling, the 33-year-old Gonzo aide who has been given immunity by Congress to testify against her former boss.

But Regent isn’t the only school funneling bible-beating social conservative true believers into government. How about taking a look at Patrick Henry College, launched in 2000 by Michael Farris, founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association.

Patrick Henry College was featured in the BBC documentary “God’s Next Army,” (I saw it on the Times Channel). It is billed as “the first college in America founded specifically for Christian home-schooled students.”  The whole purpose of the school, not unlike Regent, is to train homeschooled students to be lobbyists, office holders and fundie attorneys. In 2004, out of the almost 100 student interns working in the White House, seven were from Patrick Henry College.

The students are highly trained in political debating techniques for which they win national trophies. The college is extremely well-connected in Washington, and students are propelled towards internships working for top politicians.

God’s Next Army shows students taking their first step towards power, canvassing for a key Republican candidate. They visit a conservative lobbying company which is opposing the payment of compensation to people affected by asbestos, and is trying to repeal estate tax because ‘the earth is the Lord’s’.

Helped by the institution’s friends-in-high-places, PHC has already provided the current White House administration with more interns than any other college in the USA, and more are in the pipeline – on the way to becoming ‘key players in a Christian republic’.

After being repeatedly refused full accreditation by various organizations, including the American Academy for Liberal Education — Patrick Henry requires that faculty sign agreements to teach only creationist belief-based courses (including science!) — the Virginia school has received accreditation by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TACCS). Farris was ecstatic:

“I expect our students to be leaders in government, law, journalism, in literature and education and other fields and [in] really turning this country around for Christ,” Farris says, “because I’ve never viewed education as a goal in and of itself, but as a means to an end. And that end is a nation transformed by godly leadership.”

Over the last couple of years there has been quite a roller coaster ride at PHC, see after the jump.Back in 2005, a PHC employee, Jeremy Hunley was forced to resign because of the “crime” of countering the school doctrine’s edict that baptism is necessary for salvation and salvation will be achieved by faith in Christ alone. Baptist evangelist Voddie Baucham, Jr., praised Patrick Henry for its worldview:

[A]s a home-schooling dad who will soon be sending his children off to college, PHC’s action in the Hunley case only moves the school up, not down on his list. He says when parents begin searching for a college with a “first-rate commitment to academic excellence and an uncompromising stance on the essentials of the historic Christian faith throughout their departments and throughout the school,” there are not many from which to choose.

“I’m not talking about just a few people in your religion department who happen to be solid,” he continues. “I mean from top to bottom. When you start looking for places like that, it is a very short list.” According to Baucham, officials at Patrick Henry College not only did the right thing, they did the only thing they could do to maintain their integrity and continue to be the institution they were founded to be. And the fact that people would criticize PHC for holding to its statement of faith, he says, is indicative of the fact that today’s culture no longer values integrity.

There was an implosion of sorts at the evangelical student mill. Nine professors departed in 2005, five full-time faculty left in 2006; and four senior executives departed over the same time period, many over alleged squelching of academic freedom on campus by Chancellor Farris. The turmoil was big news in Christianity Today.

According to the school’s statement of doctrinal neutrality, Patrick Henry College “welcomes all people who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ” and “does not take sides on certain doctrinal matters that often separate ? believers.” The statement reads: “The College itself is neutral on the doctrinal distinctives which go beyond the points covered in our Statement of Faith and are outside the mission of the College.”

Farris, a Baptist minister, has publicly expressed views that have shocked some professors and students.

“He said St. Augustine was in hell,” said Root. “I heard it with my own ears.” Other professors and students said Farris has repeatedly disparaged Calvinist theology.

“There is a sense that you face antagonism as someone who is theologically Reformed,” said Bates, who sparred with Farris over a speech he was planning to deliver at the college’s annual Faith and Reason Lecture, and again over the use of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology textbook. According to Bates, Farris considered it “too Reformed.”

“We are put in a hard position,” said Bates. “We’re told this is an open dialogue, but if you engage in open dialogue, you’re in trouble. It’s infuriating because you’re an academic and want to engage in ideas.”

Bates said that at a meeting with Farris, “He told me that a person of the Reformed position to which I hold cannot in good conscience sign the statement of faith. When I responded that I failed to see the discrepancy between the two, he replied, ‘I define the statement of faith.'”

Fun fact: Patrick Henry was one of the stops on the Soulforce Equality Ride. Patrick Henry administration  refused to allow the riders to meet on campus with students.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding