Tag Archive: Pensacola Christian College

Visiting Bob Jones University in the Late 1980s

bob jones university

Cartoon by David Hayward

Guest post by ObstacleChick

During fifth through twelfth grades, I attended a fundamentalist Christian school. Our school had been fairly popular in the 1970s and early 1980s, but by the year I graduated (1988) it was clear that such a strict type of Christian school was on the decline, at least in our area. Other less-strict Christian schools had cropped up and were thriving. Our school was started in 1969 by a Bob Jones University graduate and his wife. Many of the teachers had graduated from Bob Jones, Pensacola Christian College, or some other fundamentalist Christian college. A handful of the other teachers had graduated from secular universities (our high school math teacher, Mrs. C, had graduated from Northwestern University in Chicago). While a large number of teachers had taught there for many years, we experienced an influx of younger teachers who would stay a few months or even just a few years. The pay was very low (most teachers had to work a summer job or occasionally a part-time job to make ends meet), yet each middle school or high school teacher had to teach a minimum of four different classes. Grades kindergarten through five were taught by a single teacher in a classroom (with music classes conducted by the music teacher) as usual. All students were required to take Bible class. Middle school and high school students took Bible class which met three days a week with chapel services on the other two days. Chapel services were like a regular church service, and only male teachers or guests were allowed to preach the sermons.

Students and teachers alike were held to strict rules surrounding gender-based dress codes and conduct codes. While there were no official restrictions on students attending movies, teachers were not allowed to attend movies in a movie theater as it may “damage their witness.” Most of the teachers rented movies at the video store and would freely discuss movies with the students. This hypocrisy was not lost on me. Students could be expelled for being caught smoking, doing drugs, drinking, or having sex, even if any of these activities took place off campus. During my sophomore year, two of my classmates and a senior were expelled because another student overheard them talking about a party they had attended on the weekend that had drinking. Two girls after I graduated were expelled for pregnancy. Students could be suspended for disrespect to teachers. My own brother was expelled in third grade for mouthing off to his teacher and not showing proper remorse during his punishment.

Our school was a member of the Tennessee Association of Christian Schools (TACS) and the American Association of Christian Schools (AACS). Here is the purpose of TACS as appears on its website, and I don’t believe the purpose has changed since the organization’s inception:

The Tennessee Association of Christian Schools (TACS) was formed to provide an organization whereby Christian schools in Tennessee could obtain Christian guidance and educational services which would enhance the academic and spiritual credibility of member schools. A further purpose was to provide an opportunity for Christian schools, who subscribe to TACS’s Statement of Faith, to maintain high standards of spiritual and academic excellence.

Since the primary purpose of a Christian school is academic excellence and conforming young lives to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ, TACS was organized accordingly and is committed to complementing the educational and spiritual goals ordained by each school through professional services.

* To establish educational integrity and excellence.
* To establish guidelines and services which are truly Biblical and creationist in philosophy and methodology.
* To maintain and improve the quality of Christian schools through professional services and programs.
* To provide counsel and onsite assistance in establishing and developing Christian schools.
* To promote the development of guidelines for all courses, curriculum, and other educational programs from a Biblical framework and perspective.
* To promote high standards of behavior consistent with the moral and spiritual standards of Biblical Christianity as set forth in the Scripture.
* To provide quality curriculum materials.
* To provide staff development and school improvement opportunities.
* To promote and assist schools in maintaining financial integrity.
* To preserve the freedom of Christian schools to exist as an alternative to public and private schools.
* To monitor state legislation.
* To establish and maintain a nonintrusive relationship with the State Department of Education.

Each year the TACS would put on competitions among member schools at the regional and state levels for academics, music, art, and specific Bible categories such as preaching, verse memorization, and quizzes. Competing age groups were Grades K-6, Grades 7-9, and Grades 10-12. Typically, students competing in academics were at the highest level of the age category, but for other categories ages varied based on interest and ability. Each school was allowed to send two submissions for each category if they wished (for example, a school could send 2 students for Grades 10-12 math, two students for Grades 7-9 classical piano, etc.). Our teachers typically selected the students who would compete. As my grade’s top student through middle school and high school, I would compete in almost every academic category when I was in grades 9 through 12. And as a musical student, I would typically compete in choir, sometimes small group vocals, and in piano. The first day of competition was for test-taking, so I would end up taking a test in each academic area – I was there all day long! The second day of competition was for music and preaching competitions, so I may have competed in choir, maybe a smaller singing group, and piano if I was one of the students selected. The best pianist at our high school was in my grade, my friend Tom* — we had the same piano teacher. So in junior year he competed in classical piano and I competed in sacred piano. But in grade 12, our mutual piano teacher suggested that I switch to classical as well to give Tom some much-needed competition as he was becoming insufferably arrogant about his piano skills. The competitor in me was happy to fulfill my teacher’s request.

In the TACS competition, the top two winners in each category in the regional competition would go to the state competition to compete. For Grades 10-12, the winner of the TACS state competition was eligible to compete at the AACS national competition held at Bob Jones University. When I was a junior in high school, I competed at AACS National competition in sacred keyboard, and as a senior in high school I competed in classical keyboard and in history at BJU. I have no idea how, but the judges gave me higher scores than Tom and I won the state classical piano title. Tom actually came in third place.

As a teenager, I didn’t know much about BJU except that it was a conservative Christian unaccredited university in South Carolina. Many of my teachers had attended, and they made a big deal about Harvard supposedly being unaccredited as well (so BJU must be great academically like Harvard, am I right?). Hearing their stories, it didn’t sound like any type of school I would ever want to attend, with all its rules concerning nearly every aspect of life. Besides, I was determined to attend Vanderbilt University one day. I lived with my grandparents, and my grandfather was obsessed with Vanderbilt (he never was able to attend), and I guess his influence rubbed off on me. As a teenager, I worked at the university during the summer and fell in love with the campus. Despite the fact that my grandfather was a deacon at a fundamentalist Baptist church, he drilled into my head that my education came first, that I needed to have a career, and that I should NEVER be dependent on a man for my support. He lived to see me graduate from his beloved Vanderbilt University, but he never knew that I grew up to become the primary salary earner in my family. I believe he would have been pleased. (And my daughter will be attending Vanderbilt next fall.)

I had the opportunity to visit BJU twice during high school for the AACS competitions (1987 and 1988). I believe that the competitions were legitimate competitions, but they were also recruitment tools for BJU. After we checked into our assigned dorms (all competitors were required to stay in the dorms with current students), we went to a chapel service and then were divided into groups for tours. My first year I stayed in a dorm with Sarah* (a student to whom I was assigned) and another girl whose name I do not remember. Sarah was a senior majoring in elementary education, and she was engaged to Ben* who was preparing to be a pastor. They would be getting married in June as soon as they both graduated. Sarah was looking forward to getting married, teaching in Christian school, and becoming a pastor’s wife. My second year there I stayed in the dorm with Jane* who was the older sister of the aforementioned Tom. Jane was 2 years older and had spent her freshman year in college at Belmont University – she transferred to BJU because Belmont was “too liberal” and she didn’t like it. Also attending BJU were Josh* and Christy* who had graduated from my high school and were both freshmen. It was interesting to meet with Jane, Josh, and Christy to find out more about their college life at BJU.

There were a lot of rules at BJU, and I don’t think I even scratched the surface of the breadth and depth of rules that a student must know. First of course was the dress code. Girls had to wear dresses or skirts of appropriate length at all times. Their neckline must be no more than 4 finger widths from the collarbone. Girls also had a dress code for gym classes, but I believe girls weren’t allowed to wear pants while traveling from dorm to gym (though I could be mistaken). Boys were supposed to wear pants with shirts tucked in and a belt, and I believe their hair had to be cut to a certain length. I don’t recall seeing any boys with facial hair. Jane said that girls had to wear dress hats to attend Sunday church services on BJU campus, but hats were not required for weekday chapel services.

Boys and girls, of course, were not allowed in each other’s residence halls. Every evening, there was “mail delivery” – boys could send hand-written notes to girls which were delivered in the evenings. (I wonder if they send emails these days – but then again, their emails are probably closely monitored). My second year there, Josh wrote a note to Jane and me inviting us to meet Josh and Christy at the grill for lunch, an on-campus casual restaurant. Underclass boys and girls were not allowed to date at BJU, but a mixed group of four of us meeting for burgers was somehow okay.

My first year there I made a faux pas at the dining hall. We were told to go to the dining hall at set times for our meals, so I went through the cafeteria line, got my tray of food, and sat down at a table to eat. I was promptly informed that protocol dictated that everyone was to remain standing behind their chair until the last person had gone through the line and found a spot at the table. At that point someone was to say a prayer of thanks for the food. After the prayer, everyone was allowed to sit down to eat. By the time I was able to commence with eating my food, it was cold.

Another thing that I found odd was that there was a curfew for the time students must be inside their dorms and also a literal lights-out time. A hall monitor would come by to check each room to make sure all lights were off and no one was up past bedtime reading. I thought, what is this, summer camp? It really felt like 1950s. My mom attended a secular college in 1961-1963, and even then, things were more open than what was happening at BJU.

As far as I could tell, the entire campus was fenced. Students were only allowed to leave campus for certain reasons, such as to attend an approved off-campus church. Any time a student needed to leave campus, he or she must receive permission, and my friends told me that they were not allowed to leave campus alone.

Bear in mind that the vast majority of the students were age 18 or older. Age 18 is considered a legal adult in the USA. However, these students were NOT treated like legal adults. Practically every action was monitored, from the times they were allowed to eat in the dining hall to what they should wear to when they should go to bed to whether they could come and go from the campus. There was a cumulative demerit system tallied for infractions. I suppose if one received too many demerits, one would be disciplined, possibly expelled.

I couldn’t believe that students who were legal adults would willingly follow these rules. As a student who was counting the days until the end of my restrictive education, there is no way that I would have chosen to attend BJU. You could not have paid me to go there. Contrast that environment to Vanderbilt University where I worked each summer. Students were free to come and go as they pleased. Some lived in co-ed dormitories. Students dressed as they pleased. There was no curfew, either for dormitories themselves or for bedtime. Students were treated as adults – for they were adults, able to make their own decisions (even dumb decisions).

When my grandparents picked me up at the end of my first visit, I told them everything I had learned about the school. Honestly, I think they wouldn’t have minded if I had attended there as I would have been completely sheltered and “safe,” but since my grandfather was obsessed with Vanderbilt, they didn’t suggest that.

I wondered how it was possible for BJU students who were so completely sheltered to be able to function in the real world. Truthfully, many BJU graduates go on to become pastors and Christian school teachers. Many stay in the fundamentalist Christian world where everything is about maintaining one’s testimony and evangelizing for Jesus. Josh transferred to Clemson University and went on to become headmaster of the school we had attended until it closed (his parents had both been teachers there when I was a student); I am not sure what he is doing now. Apparently our school’s rules were relaxed a lot under his tutelage, but for some reason – probably too much competition – the school did not survive. I haven’t kept in contact with Christy – on social media I see that she is a divorced mom but most of her posts are about Jesus. Jane graduated from BJU and is an art teacher at a Christian school. Jane’s younger brother Tom graduated from BJU, went to medical school, and now markets himself as a Christian pediatrician (not sure how that differs from a regular pediatrician). Many of my former teachers have retired, some still teach in public or private schools, and many moved on to other careers including nursing, human resources, and medical insurance. Many former students and teachers are still entrenched in the fundamentalist  world. Many others switched over to a more progressive form of Christianity. A handful of us are “apostates.” A few male students came out as gay after graduation. I suppose if one is really dedicated to staying within the fundamentalist  “bubble” without exposure to “the flesh” or “the world,” then BJU is the place to be.

*names have been changed

The Anatomy of an Unaccredited Christian School

pace cartoon

clip from PACE used by many Christian schools and homeschoolers

Originally written in 2014

In this post, I want to take a look at State Line Christian School, an unaccredited fundamentalist Christian school that is operated under the auspices of the Lewis Ave Baptist Church in Temperance, Michigan. I know nothing about this school or church, and everything I write in this post has been gleaned from the church’s or school’s website.

Lewis Avenue Baptist Church, is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church pastored by Steve Hobbins. Pastor Hobbins has been the pastor of the church since 2008. Prior to that, his father was the pastor for 37 years. Like many IFB churches, Lewis Avenue is a franchise operation, handed down from father to son.

In 2001, the church built a 1,300 seat auditorium. I found nothing on the church’s website that states their actual attendance.  Interestingly, I found nothing on their website that stated what they believed. There is one page (link no longer active) that details how a person can go to heaven when they die. Here is the prayer they suggest a sinner pray:

Dear Jesus,

I know I’m a sinner, I know I cannot save myself. I know you died on the cross for my sin. I ask you to come into my heart and forgive my sins, and take me to heaven when I die. AMEN

Lewis Avenue operates a bus ministry, along with a seniors ministry, singles ministry, mentally handicapped ministry, children’s ministry, music ministry, a teen ministry that focuses on soulwinning, and a Spanish ministry. The church also has a Reformers Unanimous chapter.

The centerpiece of Lewis Avenue Baptist Church’s plan to train future IFB leaders is the State Line Christian School. The school’s about page states (link no longer active):

When State Line Christian School opened in 1973, Pastor Hobbins’s vision was to open not just a private school, but a Christian school, one that held the beliefs of Lewis Avenue Baptist Church and the other churches in the Greater Toledo area. The school is Baptist-based with a strong emphasis on evangelism.

State Line started with just a K-4 and K-5, but added grades every year, until they graduated their first class in 1980. It is considered a preparatory school for college – a student’s core classes are chosen for him, and each student gets four years of English, math, and science. The school uses A Beka Book curriculum. State Line has been successful in preparing its students in that better than 90% of graduates go on to pursue college…

State Line is an unaccredited Christian school that uses A Beka Books, the publishing arm of Pensacola Christian College, for their curriculum.  For one child in grade 1 through 12, the tuition cost is $4,000 plus an enrollment fee and an additional costs fee. Total cost for one child? Around $4,100.  For families with two children enrolled the tuition cost is $6,250. Four children? $8,250. The State Line website does not mention if there is an additional tuition cost for more than four children. If a family is delinquent (link no longer active) in making their tuition payments for more than 45 days, their children will not be permitted to attend the school. If payment arrangements are not made, the school will “pursue any and all action to
collect past due money.”
If this step is taken, a 20% fee is added to the amount owed.

Pastor Steve Hobbins is the superintendent and Joshua Newbold is the principal. Both Hobbins and Newbold attended an unnamed, and I assume unaccredited, Bible college. According to the hard to find listing of school staff (no link on school website), the school has 21 teachers:

Out of 21 teachers, only one is certified by the state of Michigan.

State Line Christian School operates under the laws of the Michigan for non-public schools:

  • They are not required to use any particular textbook
  • Their school/church  properties and buildings are exempt from personal and real estate tax
  • They are required to do criminal background checks on all employees
  • They are not required to keep school records
  • They are not required to be accredited by any recognized accrediting body
  • They are not required to use certified or college educated teachers

At one time, Michigan law stated:

  • Teacher certification is optional. A teacher may qualify to work in a nonpublic school in one of the following three ways: obtain a Michigan Teaching Certificate; obtain a substitute, full year, or emergency teaching permit; obtain a bachelor‘s degree.
  • Persons without valid teaching certificates who have the requisite college credit may apply to the Michigan Department of Education for a teaching permit for employment in a nonpublic school under Mich. Admin. Code R 390.1142 (full-year permit); R 390.1143 (substitute permit); and R 390.1144 (emergency permit).
  • Teachers in the regular or elementary grade studies in a private, denominational or parochial school, i.e., a school other than a public school giving instruction to children below the age of 16 years, in the first eight grades, must hold a teaching certificate that would qualify them to teach in like grades of the public schools. Mich.Comp. Laws §§388.552; 388.553.

In 1993, The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the above provision was unconstitutional when applied to families whose religious convictions prohibit the use of certified instructors. In  People v. DeJonge, a lawsuit filed by the fundamentalist Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), the Michigan Supreme Court ruled 4-3 for DeJonge and invalidated the requirements mentioned above. Thus, State Line is under no statutory requirement as far as their teachers are concerned, and this is why most them have degrees from unaccredited fundamentalist Christian colleges.

Like all fundamentalist Christian schools, State Line has a strict code of conduct. While I was unable to find a copy of their student manual online, which is not uncommon for fundamentalist schools that want to hide their rules from prying eyes, I did find a 7th-12th grade student conduct agreement form (link no longer active) which must be signed by the student, the school administrator, and the student’s parent. The student must answer in the affirmative or negative to the following questions/statements:

  • Do you attend church regularly? Where?
  • Do you have any objections to saluting the United States Flag, the Christian Flag, or the Bible?
  • Do you understand that the goals and standards of State Line Christian School are based on principles found in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament?
  • Have you read our Student Handbook carefully?
  • Is there any standard you do not understand? If answered yes, Which one?
  • Will you dress according to the standards of State Line Christian School?
  • Will you establish and have a daily time for devotions?
  • Will you honestly agree to keep all the school’s rules and respect authority without being critical and find fault?
  • Do you want to attend State Line Christian School?

After answering these questions, the student must READ ALOUD:

“As a student of State Line Christian School, I WILL NOT cheat, swear, smoke, gamble, dance, drink alcoholic beverages, use indecent language, use drugs, or behave in a disorderly or disrespectful manner. I WILL maintain Christian standards in courtesy, kindness, morality and honesty. I WILL strive to be of unquestionable character in dress, conduct and other areas of my life. I WILL attend all weekly services of my church unless providentially hindered. I am willing by the enabling of God to refrain from anything good or bad which might cause others to stumble, to bring reproach to the cause of Christ, to cause disrespect to the glory of God, or to be a negative influence in the character development of myself or others. I will at all times seek to maintain a careful discipline and diligence in the pursuit of my academic opportunities. I will cooperate with those in authority over me and will personally maintain respect for properly placed authority.

I realize that keeping the standards depends upon my attitude and spirit towards the goals of Christian Education. My spirit depends upon my heart commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and the goals He wants for me during my stay at State Line Christian School.

There is much evidence from Pastors, Christian Educators, and Christian Counselors across our nation that bad music, Hollywood movies,television, and bad companionship affects the character, spirit and performance of students. Any evidence that a student is under the influence or control of such will result in disciplinary measures.

While these standards will be strictly enforced, it needs to be understood that we are far more interested in a student’s spirit and attitude than outward conformity to the standards with a rebellious spirit. The student should know that attitudes show just like actions and will be approved or disapproved.

There are tens of thousands of churches like Lewis Ave Baptist Church and thousands of these churches have schools that are just like State Line Christian School. Thousands of American children are being educated in unaccredited schools, taught by non-certified teachers. These schools use fundamentalist Christian textbooks that teach evolution is a myth and promote American exceptionalism and Christian nationalism. Some of these schools don’t even use textbooks, using instead a self-guided curriculum published by Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) or Bill Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute (ATI).

Secularists and humanists think educating children is vitally important. Having an educated populace is for our common good, and it is to everyone’s benefit to make sure every child is adequately, properly, and comprehensively educated. We expect the goverment to regulate schools in such a way that they provide a quality education for every child.

Fundamentalist Christian churches and schools have lobbied legislators and have used lawsuits to demand exemption from state laws that regulate what they can and can not do. In many states, they have been quite successful and this is why there are schools like State Line Christian School. Here in Ohio, any church can start a non-charted, unaccredited religious school. There are no regulations for such schools, and for families who choose to home school, the regulations are few. In others words, many states and local jurisdictions have abdicated their responsibility to regulate and investigate many of the schools that educate their children. (see How to Start a Non-Chartered Christian School in Ohio)

Even worse, right-wing politicians are working hard to pass voucher laws that enable private Christian schools to receive state funding with little or no oversight.  Thousands of American children have their private, religious education paid for by taxpayers. These voucher programs have caused a huge census and financial drain for many public school systems.

I put this post together so readers could see how a typical fundamentalist Christian school operates. I do not know anyone at State Line Christian School or Lewis Ave Baptist Church. They came up in a web search I was doing and I decided that they would be a good example of a non-accredited, private, fundamentalist Christian school.

Should these schools (and home schools) be permitted to operate outside the purview of federal, state, and local authorities? Should they be exempt from the laws that public schools must follow? Should we “trust” these schools to properly educate children without making sure they do so? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

My opinion? ALL schools should be strictly regulated by federal, state, and local government. They should receive NO public funding unless they are. I have no objection to religiously motivated private schools or homeschooling as long as they are properly regulated. We ALL have a vested interest in making sure that American children are adequately, properly, and comprehensively educated.

A Former Pensacola Christian College Student Shares Her Story

pensacola christian college

On Monday, Cracked, posted an article titled 5 Insane Realities At My Fundamentalist Christian College. In this story an ananymous former student details their experience attending Pensacola Christian College in Pensacola, Florida. What follows is an excerpt from the article:

Religious schools are as old as religion itself, and there’s nothing wrong with keeping the “God” in education(g). But when college students are sent to live at a Christian school where their every move is monitored, well, there is a certain potential for things to get weird. Pensacola Christian College, for instance, has come under fire for what has been described as a cult-like atmosphere, along with the little matter of not having any accreditation at all.

We spoke to one former student who we’ll call “Lilith.” She attended PCC and told us…

…The most traumatic event in Lilith’s tenure at Pensacola Christian College occurred in the spring of her freshman year. She and her boyfriend had sneaked away to enjoy a rare moment of nuzzles, because no physical touching was allowed between genders at all. Well, someone must have seen them in this obscene act of awkward adolescent pecking, because shortly thereafter …

“I received a call slip in my mailbox ordering me to the dean’s office,” she says. “I remember that it was really weird, because it came on a Sunday.” When she got there, she found a waiting room full of other fallen women. “When I was called into the office,” she says, “the dean and one of her assistants were waiting. ‘How are you?’ they asked. ‘How are you feeling?'” She told them she felt fine, and they cut right to the chase. “We’re concerned about your health. We’re concerned you might be pregnant.”

That seemed unlikely to Lilith, a currently menstruating virgin. “They told me ‘People said you’ve been feeling sick and vomiting in trash cans,'” which was only slightly less confusing, because she had never been that sick the whole time she had been at school. When she explained all of these things, they asked “Would you be OK with taking a pregnancy test to prove your innocence?” That’s verbatim what they said, as if pregnancy was a crime.

Lilith had a feeling that not being OK with it wouldn’t be OK, so after five hours of being called in and out and asked all kinds of questions presumably with a flashlight in her face, she was marched down to a bathroom to take the (obviously negative) test. This was during a busy time of day, when there were tons of students in the halls, all watching her being trotted out to take her pee of shame…

…Let’s go back to the school’s spontaneous pregnancy check for a moment. “What makes me the most upset is that no one ever talked to my boyfriend,” she says. “He was completely blameless not just in their eyes, but in the eyes of the whole school. It was the entire culture.” Women were blamed for everything, even for (as Lilith later found out) being raped. That link is to an account by former student Samantha Field, who was sexually assaulted and then told later that she needed to repent.

But the double standard for men and women wasn’t just an unspoken part of the culture — it was overtly stated in the rules. For instance, women were flat-out not allowed to work certain jobs on campus. This wasn’t some abstract wage gap situation, involving invisible forces like social pressure and hiring managers who quietly shuffled her application to the bottom of the pile. They took female applications for landscaping or security jobs and politely handed it right back to them. (A woman? Using hedge clippers? Just as in the final days of Sodom!)

And please note that if she wasn’t happy with her on-campus job prospects, she couldn’t just go out and apply to be waitress. Only men were allowed to work off-campus, which sucked because the pay and hours were usually a lot better. Women could only work approved (usually unpaid) internships, which didn’t do much for their pantyhose fund, so they were forced to choose from the slim on-campus offerings.

Even in the seemingly gender-neutral field of broadcasting, which is what Lilith majored in, male genitalia was required just to announce the college basketball games. “I asked and asked and asked, ‘Why can’t a girl do this?’ and they just said, ‘They just won’t let you.'”…

I encourage you to read the entire article.

More than a few of the readers of this blog are former Pensacola Christian College (PCC) students.  Polly and I have family members who attended PCC and some of them are still closely connected to the College. I have no doubt that the aforementioned story is factual. I’ve had numerous private discussions with former PCC students. Their stories bear witness to the truthfulness of  “Lilith’s” story.

HT: Richard Marlowe for making me aware of this article