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Creationism among issues in Patrick Henry accreditation

WASHINGTON (BP)–A Virginia religious college has been denied accreditation by the institution that effectively controls all programs authorized under the federal Higher Education Act, including Stafford student loans and research money.

The decision by the American Academy for Liberal Education was made on the basis of the school’s view on creation and its overall “biblical worldview,” according to Michael Farris, president of Patrick Henry College, the school affected by the decision, CNSNews.com reported May 13.

“AALE has engaged in blatant viewpoint discrimination,” Farris said.

The academy’s April 30 rejection letter to the school explained that the decision to deny accreditation was based on a determination that the school didn’t meet the definition of liberal education, which includes standards on “liberty of thought and freedom of speech,” along with other general education and curriculum standards.

Jeffrey Wallin, the academy’s president, said the denial was not based on the fact that the school teaches creationism.

“We have religious schools that are members of our organization that teach creationism, but they teach it in the theology department; they don’t teach it in the science department,” Wallin said.

Also, Wallin said, the school’s statement of principles was inconsistent with openness in intellectual inquiry because it says, as Wallin described it, “you can teach anything you want in biology, as long as you agree that, as the Bible says, the world was created in six 24-hour days.”

Another of the school’s statements of belief, that only federalist, bicameral constitutions are acceptable to God, “would mean that parliamentary systems aren’t,” Wallin said. That “seemed a little narrow.”

“If you set out ahead of time and say, ‘By the way, here are all the answers and none of the others are acceptable,’ that’s a problem,” Wallin explained.

But Farris said he believes the academy is not living up to its own standards.

“They claim we violate their standards on freedom of thought, yet that is the essence of their own decision. They are denying PHC its freedom to think, believe and speak differently from the norm of academia,” Farris said.

Moreover, “They are wrong in their conclusion that we do not teach about evolution,” Farris said. “We do, but honest science shows that it is simply an untenable theory.

“They were also wrong when they assert that believing and teaching creationism inhibits the acquisition of basic knowledge,” Farris added. “The problem is not what our students know [but] what our faculty and students believe.”

Farris said the school would go through the academy’s appeals process to try to have the denial reversed.

The academy was given the authority to judge and accredit liberal arts colleges in 1995 by the federal Department of Education. The academy’s founders set out to turn the liberal arts curriculum away from education fads and remedial classes and instead back to a traditional curriculum that emphasizes literature, history and philosophy.

The list of founders includes established academics like Edwin O. Wilson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Harvard University science professor; Jacques Barzun, a Columbia University philosopher and historian; and Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, an Emory University historian.
Hall is a staff writer with CNSNews.com. Used by permission.

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  • Christine Hall