Discrimination against Christians in higher ed?

Insider Higher Ed has an interesting piece today on discrimination against Christians in higher education. Timothy Larsen offers two examples in support of the idea that there might be some such discrimination. In one, a student received a failing grade for a paper on marriage in which he used the Bible in support of a traditional view of marriage. Although, Larsen agrees that the paper was “academically weak” he contends that it certainly wasn’t worthy of a failing grade.  And, in an example from Larsen’s own life, he shares about a time when one of his book proposals was rejected. From the surprisingly frank comments of the editorial committee, it sounds like many of them rejected it purely because they objected to its explicitly Christian outlook.

Larsen is fully aware that you can’t make a case based on anecdotal evidence like this and that it’s entirely possible that such claims of discrimination are actually just a cover for shoddy academic work. But, he argues that these stories are common enough that we should at least be looking into them:

Nevertheless, scholars ought to be concerned that Christians often report that the academy is a hostile environment. Are academics generally glad that such a perception exists? If not, how might it be dispelled? If it is based on genuine experiences, what can be done about a climate that tolerates religious discrimination? If the two stories presented here are merely assailable, anecdotal evidence, then why not gather information on this issue more systematically? Do academic institutions ever try to discover if their Christian students or scholars experience discrimination?

This seems like a fair point. If a university received even a couple of complaints about racial or gender discrimination, they’d be all over it. Even if they didn’t think that the claims were true, they’d still investigate carefully. Shouldn’t claims of religious discrimination (yes, even discrimination against Christians) be handled in the same way?

I’m curious if any of you have attended secular higher ed institutions and what you thought about it. Did you experience any apparent discrimination? I have attended a few secular schools over the years (for admittedly short periods of time) and often turned in papers that were explicitly Christian. And, I can’t say that I ever experienced any problems as a result. What about you?

About Marc Cortez

Theology Prof and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general.

Posted on July 30, 2010, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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