Tuesday, August 09, 2005


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.]


Jordana said...

Most traditional colleges take homeschooled kids as long as they can show what they've done and have taken the appropriate tests. I went to college with several kids who had been homeschooled. So I'm not sure I understand the need for a college for homeschooled kids in the first place.

JeffB said...

Blogspot doesn't allow trackbacks? Hrm.

Anyway, I linked and added my thoughts at http://www.truth-in-love.com/blog/index.php?mode=viewid&post_id=48 (Short version: I'm somewhat less sympathetic to Hunley).

Farris seems about as skuzzy as the rest of the Falwell/Robertson buunch, though.

Anonymous said...

It certainly is Patrick Henry Baptist College. That is for sure.

Also, although there is no Biblical authority for churches of Christ to contribute to college funding, I agree that it's not right for Farris to desire or expect continued monetary support from these churches.


Alan said...

It was my understanding that Farris was reading letters from members of churches of Christ who had personally contributed, not from churches themselves.

I have no problem with Farris asking Hunley not to stick material in people's mailboxes. And likely Hunley shouldn't have gotten involved in the doctrinal argument that the WaPo story alludes to. Remember that Hunley was a pretty low level library employee, not a faculty member.

Jordana, I think the idea is mainly to appeal to homeschooled kids who would have a Christian based worldview, to continue that type of orientation.

JeffB said...

The problem, of course, is that Hunley entered into two agreements.

The first, he didn't really agree with the intent of the college. The second, he seems to have willfully broken.

Farris didn't behave with maximum responsibility, either, of course. Hunley probably would have had a legal case against the college had he chosen that route. But he didn't.

Don't enter into agreements you don't plan on honoring.

My 2 cents.

Wild Bill said...

The severance agreement between Hunley and "Farris U" (what a riot!) was described by the Post reporter as "nondisparagement." Since the facts here are not in dispute, the agreement was more likely a confidentiality agreement in which Hunley was not to discuss his termination from the school. He obviously told his fellow church members in Purcellville and that's what led to PHC suing him for breach. Apart from the statement on a "Christian's" character that Farris would want to hide his deeds supposedly taken in a stand for "the truth", I think enforcement of the agreement may well be unconstitutional in violation of the 1st Amendment's free exercise clause since it restricts Hunley's ability to discuss with other church members a matter entangled in theological doctrine. That is the state regulating doctrinal discussions within a church and violates the First Amendment. That's a theory anyway, since I haven't seen either the agreement or the court order.

As for Hunley's breach of the agreement, the article provides little information except the conclusion that he told other church members. I'm not familiar enough with his situation to know why he entered the settlement agreement except what's stated in the article that he needed the money to cover rent. I'm not sure the question is whether Hunley made mistakes at certain points in his relationship with Farris U. (undoubtedly he did), as much as it is the duplicitous conduct of Farris and the school toward donors who are members of the "churches of Christ."

Lover of Truth said...

The reason Patrick Henry College sued Hunley was because he took addresses he had access to while he worked at the school and proceeded to send letters to the parents of the students complaining about his treatment. This violated his agreement with the school and went beyond civil. While they used a letter from the pastor of Hunley's church as proof that his letter was disparaging, the school was more concerned about the people on their mailing lists. I think it was well within the school's right to sue him for this!


Annie Pyper said...

It seems Mr. Hunley did sign an agreement...if so, he should have honored it. A similar situation occured in the Overland Park, Ks church some 10 years ago. A member who was part of the armed forces refused to answer a call for duty. He showed up at his station out of uniform, and he was arrested. But he signed on the dotted line... & chose not to pursue a status of "conscientious objector" in the correct manner. God calls on us to honor our agreements, does he not? If there was something Mr. Hunley found disagreeable in the initial papers, in all good conscience, perhaps he ought not to have signed on. "Simply let your yes be yes and your no be no." "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's..." Once signed on, the rules apply.