Anti-Christian bias in Academics

11Feb11

It’s real.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) has been in controversy for a while over what the Canadian National Post calls a “witch hunt.” Essentially, there are four small Christian schools that they’ve been investigating because the CAUT believes that these small schools, whose student bodies together total about 6,000, are not academically free because they require standards of Christian conduct as well as faculty statements of faith. You can find their statement of faith on academic freedom here. They believe that while individuals may be able to hold whatever biases they want, institutions must grant the absolute freedom “without restriction by prescribed doctrine” and without institutional censorship.

While I respect their beliefs, I’d ask them not to force it on me. Given that we live in a world with people of diverging faiths, it’s fair to have non-confessional institutions. However: is access to their definition of academic freedom threatened? Is the existence of academic freedom at stake in blacklisting four very small, private Christian universities?

It is not. One can very easily find it by going to one of the numerous non-confessional institutions situated throughout Canada and the U.S.

For more specific details in the case of one of the four schools, OnCampus has an article explaining some of the complications. That particular case seems like a gray area, and there were actual faculty complaints involved. In the other three schools, however, it does not seem that any complaints were involved.

The CAUT’s academic freedom statement of faith is clarified by their model clause on academic freedom, a template for universities to adopt. Their statement’s sixth bullet point says this:

Academic freedom must not be confused with institutional autonomy. Post-secondary institutions are autonomous to the extent that they can set policies independent of outside influence. That very autonomy can protect academic freedom from a hostile external environment, but it can also facilitate an internal assault on academic freedom. To undermine or suppress academic freedom is a serious abuse of institutional autonomy.

However, the counterpart in their model clause says

Academic freedom as a right belongs to individuals and not to the institution. Institutional autonomy shall not take precedence over academic freedom. Any claim by the employer that institutional autonomy takes priority over the academic freedom of individuals is a form of institutional censorship.

I believe this is the root of the problem: institutions themselves do not have academic freedom. This means that while individuals may commit to Christianity, it is unacceptable (they say) to have a Christian institution. If that were true, then institutions could be only nominally Christian in the same way Notre Dame is nominally Irish. Whereas genuine racial segregation in schooling is unacceptable, how is religious segregation of this sort also unacceptable?

To be part of a religion is not to have a strong tendency towards a particular worldview. No; it is to lay all the chips down and hold nothing back. 100% commitment is just part and parcel of what it means to be Christian. If the institution cannot demand this, then essentially it is unlawful to form a Christian institution.

For info on hiring bias in the other direction (secular school refusing to hire an evangelical), see also: the Inside Higher Ed piece “New Stars Shine on Christian Researcher” (HT: John Hobbins)

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One Response to “Anti-Christian bias in Academics”

  1. In the USA we’re rapidly moving toward the criminalization of godliness. Canada has gone further along that road than we have.


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