Jeremy Hunley thought he had a job in a great place, lots of religious people committed to Christ who were focused on teaching home schooled kids. He found out otherwise when he was fired by President Michael P. Farris of Patrick Henry College for inviting these religious people to the church he attends. You see the catch is, Hunley and other members at the Purcellville Church of Christ believe that baptism is essential for salvation. President Farris was unwilling to agree to disagree:
College administrators told Hunley, a member of the Church of Christ, that the belief put him at odds with the school's statement of faith, which he was required to sign before taking the job. According to the 10-point document, salvation is found only through faith in Jesus Christ.
Patrick Henry was founded in 2000 to be an Ivy League-type college aimed at attracting academically gifted home-schoolers. The school's president talks unabashedly of birthing a new generation of conservative leaders who will reclaim the country from years of liberal sway. It is a bold mission that has attracted national attention....
The college's president and founder, Michael P. Farris -- a lawyer, home-schooling advocate and Baptist minister -- insisted that the opposite is true. He said Hunley's forced resignation is proof that the school will not compromise on the fundamental religious beliefs that drive its mission and ultimately will determine its success.
"One of the most common questions I'm asked as I promote the college to people is, 'How are you going to prevent Patrick Henry from becoming like Harvard, which started off as a strong Christian school and look at it today?' " he said. "I think for better or for worse, the battle with Jeremy Hunley was one of our first tests of whether we're going to stick to what we believe or not."
Of course, I'm one of those crazies who attends a church of Christ as well--and while there's no exact wording in the article--but I think could agree to a statement that "salvation is found only through faith in Jesus Christ" (hey, I'll sign up for John 3:16 if Mr. Farris will go along with Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16, 1 Peter 3:21, oh, and James 2:24). Apparently Mr. Hunley felt he could sign such a statement as well:
Hunley said the wording of the school's statement could be interpreted to encompass his views. Administrators disagreed.
So, apparently we have Patrick Henry Baptist College. That's fine, but it also seems that while Patrick Henry isn't really interested in employing Mr. Hunley, they are quite willing to take the money of those who attend churches of Christ. You see, Mr. Farris not only fired Mr. Hunley, but he took him to court as well:
At Hunley's court hearing, Farris read letters from members of the [I assume, Mr. Hunley's-nac] church, who wrote to say they were withholding support from the college based on the librarian's allegations.
You see, Mr. Hunley was forced to sign a confidentiality agreement in order to receive needed severance pay. Farris contended that Hunley broke the agreement, and used the letters from members of churches of Christ withholding support to prove it! You wouldn't think he would want their tainted money. Next thing they might be just like Harvard, you know.
So what does Farris (I hate to associate an honorable man like the actual Patrick Henry with these actions) get out of this other than stroking his ego? Possibly not what he wants, which is mainstream acceptance:
Farris's school needs acceptance from the mainstream halls of power if it is to fulfill its ambitious agenda, said Mark J. Rozell, a political science professor at George Mason University. That is what the school risks when it engages in a public doctrinal dispute with a former employee, said Rozell, who wrote a book on the religious right in Virginia, devoting a chapter to Farris's unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor in 1993.
"He's been very open about his goal to make this institution politically powerful," Rozell said of Farris. "If he wants the place to be a more powerful player, it has to be a little more open. It's hard to broaden the reach and the political impact by taking a very narrow line theologically."
Some years ago I spoke with my friend and home schooling guru Martin Cothran about the need for higher education for home schooled kids, something that understood their goals and priorities. One would hope that Patrick Henry College might have been such a place, but I know of at least three homeschooled kids whose father will see to it that they don't go to Farris U.
[Some Wilder Thoughts on the issue.]