The BJU Interracial Dating Ban… In Print

I knew about the interracial-dating ban that Bob Jones University used to have — they ended it in 2000 — but I’d never seen the actual rule in the handbook until yesterday:

Darrell at Stuff Fundies Like points out the significance of the picture:

Sometimes it takes actually seeing things written down to make them “real” to those of us who weren’t actually at the school when this policy was in effect. I know that’s the case for me. I read this handbook from 1995-96 and literally felt like I needed to throw up.

Me too…

It’s amazing how many decades after our country passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 it took for BJU to come around to racial equality.

I know they hate when we draw parallels, but Christian schools across the country say the same thing about homosexual relationships now.

How long will it be before most Christians are as ashamed of their current stance on gay rights as they are looking at that handbook with the interracial ban?

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Marguerite

    “How long will it be before most Christians are as ashamed of their current stance on gay rights as they are looking at that handbook with the interracial ban?”
    Are you certain that most Christians (of the type that would go to BJU) are really ashamed when they look at that handbook?  I would tend to suspect they changed it more in response to outside pressures than due to any real sense of shame or inappropriateness.  But perhaps I’m being excessively cynical *shrugs*.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dj-Nash/100000103380335 D.j. Nash

    I agree with Marguerite. The only shame they feel there is over having lost the civil war.

  • Adviser Moppet

    I’m guessing it’ll be about 30-40 years before gay marriage gets pretty much completely accepted in America. I’ve also accepted the fact that as soon as gays get acceptance in this country the same churches and religious groups that fought so hard against them will try to claim credit for it. 

  • Conspirator

    Back in ’90 or ’91 I worked with a few girls that were from some real conservative Christian church, the kind where women have to always wear dresses and look nice and dancing is not allowed, and they were planning to attend BJU.  BJ U, hehehe.  Anyways, they told me freshmen girls were not allowed off campus without an older student accompanying them.  They knew it was bizarre, but they just accepted it.

    If you look at that off-campus dating rule that’s there, it’s just mind blowing.  “It is the business of Bob Jones University to know where its students go and with whom they associate.”    These students are adults for FSM’s sake!  I just can’t understand how people are willing to submit themselves to such over-reaching authority.  It’s just so dangerous to teach children that they should always obey authority figures and never question them, that leads to so much harm.  

  • Nankay

    Does anyone know if non-whites attended BJU pre-2000? I would like to know what they thought of it.  What was the official reasoning behind this stipulation?

  • http://cory.albrecht.name/ Cory Albrecht

    Not only that, but the part “It is the business of Bob Jones University to know where it’s students go and with whom they associate. Therefore dormitory [resi?stu?]dents must have written permission to date off campus.”

    Excuse me? Permission? I’m sorry, but to quote The Pursuit of Happiness “I’m an adult now” and you don’t get to know my personal life outside the academics.

    The racist bit of not allowing interracial dating is just another aspect of the overall authoritarianism/patriarchalism of conservative and fundamentalist Christianity.

  • NewEnglandBob

    There are many people who still support the interracial ban. The dogmatic right wing nuts, the tea party, fundagelicals and many Republicans are very racist, misogynistic and xenophobic.

  • Anonymous

    Clearly if people date or marry outside their race then they will ..um.. what exactly?   The same bigotry exists today but they’ve got a different focus for it.  When gay marriage is socially accepted across the world, which it will be one day, then they’ll just choose another group to hurl bigoted abuse at.  Probably at atheists.

  • Annie

    You can read their current “Statement about Race at BJU” here:

    http://www.bju.edu/welcome/who-we-are/race-statement.php

    Here’s an interesting morsel:

    “BJU’s history has been chiefly characterized by striving to achieve
    those goals; but like any human institution, we have failures as well.
    For almost two centuries American Christianity, including BJU in its
    early stages, was characterized by the segregationist ethos of American
    culture. Consequently, for far too long, we allowed institutional
    policies regarding race to be shaped more directly by that ethos than by
    the principles and precepts of the Scriptures. We conformed to the
    culture rather than providing a clear Christian counterpoint to it.”

    Appears they are attempting to use their shady past to their advantage. 

    Oh, and while you’re at their site, take a minute to peruse some of the science degrees they offer (and be sure to check the first two learning objectives for each one). 

  • Anonymous

    In someways I see churches like a night club with a bouncer at the door, only letting in certain people that meet their requirements. It makes it nice and exclusive and the people that are let in don’t have a problem paying high cover charges or sky high drink prices. If you let everyone in then you would lose that I am special and you are not quality, so if Xians were accepting of everyone what would be sense of tithing or even going to church since it’s no longer special? Why not just sleep in and use your money the way you want to? Maybe atheists need to build sunday morning clubs with lots of cool things to do and cool people to meet. Of course they would need a bouncer at the door to keep all the Xian and Islam riffraff out. 

  • Marguerite

    “For almost two centuries American Christianity, including BJU in its early stages, was characterized by the segregationist ethos of American culture. Consequently, for far too long, we allowed institutional policies regarding race to be shaped more directly by that ethos than by the principles and precepts of the Scriptures. We conformed to the culture rather than providing a clear Christian counterpoint to it.”

    They CONFORMED TO THE CULTURE by having an interracial ban on the books through 2000?  Seriously?  What a load of bunk *shakes head*.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    In the south there was never a ‘civil war’,  there is only the continuing war of northern aggression.

  • Annie

    What a load of bunk indeed.  The big red flag is really what university would have a “statement about race” in the first place?  But once again, they were victimized … by segregationist ethos… 46 years after Brown vs. the Board of Education.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alewis2 Adam Lewis

    As part of the research for a thesis, I read the book “Romancing the Difference: Kenneth Burke, Bob Jones University, and the Rhetoric of Religious Fundamentalism” by Camille Lewis. 

    Sounded interesting by the title, but then when I got it in the mail to read, I turned to the back flap and read “about the author.”  The author was (is?) chair of public address AT Bob Jones U.

    Needless to say, it was one of the most ridiculous books I’ve ever read in my life.  It was one long apologia for the intellectual inbred-ness of the school and conservative evangelical/ fundamentalist culture in general.  What made it even more insufferable was the fact the author tried to sound somewhat objective and then mixed in some po-mo bafflegab just to add a dry heave to the vomit.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    Here’s a link to the current BJU handbook.  And it’s freaky, and completely batshit crazy.  

    They have a real big problem with woman wearing hiking boots.  But the strangest part is when they talk about commuter students:

    “Note: Students may live with a single aunt or uncle provided the student and the aunt/uncle are of the same gender or if another sibling also lives there or if both are graduate students.”

    Are they afraid that a student is going to shack-up with an aunt or uncle?  

    Although there is one line I agree with “Fauxhawks are not appropriate.” 

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    It is a load of bunk.  In the early eighties, BJU was about to lose the tax exempt status because of their racial views.   They fought tooth and nail against changing their by-laws.  They fought all the way up to the supreme court and lost.   But instead of changing the rule, they gave up their tax exempt status.  It cost the university millions of dollars in taxes and in lost donations due to the bad press.   So it wasn’t as if the ban was a little noticed and never enforced foot note.

    http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bin/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=461&invol=574

  • Guest

    Not to pick a nit here, but is it also the business of Bob Jones University to know the proper use of an apostrophe for a gender-neutral pronoun?  No?  Too much to ask?  [shrug]

  • Anonymous

    That’s sick!

  • Anonymous

    On and off campus, physical contact between men and women students is
    not allowed.

    Groups need to include an odd ratio of genders and at least one
    student with advanced privileges or every fve students in the group.

    And this is a disturbing one…

    With dean’s approval, resident male students may date a commuter
    student or non-student in town, including the daughter of a faculty/
    staff member living at home.

    To date a non-student in town, women students are to be
    chaperoned by either a faculty/staff member or her parents/
    grandparents or those o her date.

  • Conspirator

    Thanks for providing that, it’s rather enlightening.  

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    In looking through the handbook, they do a pretty good job of developing school policy to minimize or eliminate any hanky-panky between boys and girls.  But I fear they haven’t done enough to prevent hanky-panky between same-sex students within the same-sex dorms.  Hopefully for the concerned Christian parents, they have security cameras installed in all dormitory rooms (including bathrooms)  so that all student activities can be monitored 24/7 by authorized University officials.   

  • George

    If they wanted to secede again I wouldn’t be against it.

  • Anonymous

    Brilliant.

  • Bob

    no idiot. atheist let everybody in. even if you don’t believe in god. after you hang out with us you would see why the god you believe in is stupid. 
    it’s cool to be inclusive you missed the point. 

  • the captain

    What on earth is an “amphitorium”?  It’s like they mixed “amphitheater” and “auditorium” and took out the parts that actually gave it a meaning.  Instead of being “a place for hearing”, it’s a “double-thingy”.  STUPID.  Have some respect for the English language!

    Also, what everyone else said.

  • Ladystrakke

    OMG, Bob.  newavocation was not seriously dissing athiests.  Pretty sure he was being sarcastic… get with the program.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephan-Goodwin/676660806 Stephan Goodwin

    I’m sure multi-racial people generally avoided the BJU, but I wonder what would happen if someone like my wife who is black, maybe white, and Native American attended.  Would they just not be allowed to date?  How did they enforce it?  The 1/4 rule or the 1 drop rule or what?  What if you are a black latino and want to date a Caucasian latina?  Is that multi-racial enough,  how about a black latino and a black woman from England?

    I dunno, I like to just stop and look at the sheer insanity of trying to enforce such a policy.  Wonder if anyone got booted for being German and dating an Irishman…

  • BrentSTL

    I lived in Clemson/Seneca, SC, not too far from Greenville, from 1994-96. Went by the BJU campus a few times. I can tell you, it’s more like a prison. You know, gotta keep the good, pure “Christians” away from the real world.

    I wouldn’t be surprised, even today, to think that quite a bit of folks in the Upstate think BJU’s a major-league thorn in their side, not to mention pretty embarassing.

  • Guest

    Actually, socializing between Germans and Irish would have been a big no-no in the U.S. during the 1850s.

  • Samuel Johnson

    This same prejudice exists today in much of mid-western Evangelicalism. I went to Moody Bible Institute and graduated with a degree in theology. I met my wife there and her parents almost pulled her out of college when they found out she was dating a “negro.” They actually said “negro,” they didn’t even know what to call me. Now I’m an atheist, studying medicine, and all of that world of monumentous bullshit is behind me… and my wife is now an atheist (and her parents are beside themselves in grief).

  • Karen

    I have a friend who attended Bob Jones in the 1970s.

    Her dad was a good ole boy from West Virginia who married a Japanese woman he met while stationed there. She is a Hapa – half-Asian, half-Caucasian.

    We always laugh now that my friend could not have dated anyone there because she was mixed race herself!

    At the time the whole thing didn’t bother her because she was a deluded fundie like all of them. Now, she’s a fairly secular person, though probably wouldn’t call herself an atheist. And she never admits to going there because she’s totally embarrassed about it.

  • Deltabob

    I just read through the current handbook, and I can’t understand (even as the ‘believer’ I was when entering university) why an adult would agree to those rules. I would understand why a parent might want rules that strict for a minor child going away to school, but even young adults need the freedom to start expressing their own identity.

  • http://twitter.com/jackalopekid Adam Smith

    wow, that’s stupid stuff

  • Joy

    Just stumbled across this site, that’s why this is a “delayed reaction” :).  I attended BJU for 5 semesters in the early 90s, before transferring to an accredited school.  (For the record, I was from a crazy-controlling abusive family and my parents said BJU was my only choice if I wanted to be “allowed” to attend college–though I paid for it entirely on my own, and forfeited scholarships to other colleges.  Transferring was a cardinal sin.)  One of my roommates was white and deeply loved an Asian American guy (student) from SoCal.  His family had been in the US for 5 generations–he was more “american” than she was.  Due to the rule, they had to sneak to talk on the phone, had to NEVER greet in public, couldn’t meet for dates, etc.  Someone ratted them out to the Dean of Women and she was pulled in and grilled, given many demerits, and threatened with expulsion…for talking to him on the phone.  They said she was guilty of the “appearance of evil”.  The next year, my roommate was a foreign student from South America.  She was latina, with beautifully dark skin, and barely spoke English.  She openly dated white boys with no questions asked or problems raised by the Dean of Women. I had a dear friend there who happened to be black, but he would get nervous whenever someone came up and we were talking–we’d get dirty looks, etc.  It was CRAZY.  I am one of the aforementioned who are embarrassed/ashamed for having ever attended this cult-like, racist, sexist institution…I wish it would never have opened. 

  • Joy

    Just stumbled across this site, that’s why this is a “delayed reaction” :).  I attended BJU for 5 semesters in the early 90s, before transferring to an accredited school.  (For the record, I was from a crazy-controlling abusive family and my parents said BJU was my only choice if I wanted to be “allowed” to attend college–though I paid for it entirely on my own, and forfeited scholarships to other colleges.  Transferring was a cardinal sin.)  One of my roommates was white and deeply loved an Asian American guy (student) from SoCal.  His family had been in the US for 5 generations–he was more “american” than she was.  Due to the rule, they had to sneak to talk on the phone, had to NEVER greet in public, couldn’t meet for dates, etc.  Someone ratted them out to the Dean of Women and she was pulled in and grilled, given many demerits, and threatened with expulsion…for talking to him on the phone.  They said she was guilty of the “appearance of evil”.  The next year, my roommate was a foreign student from South America.  She was latina, with beautifully dark skin, and barely spoke English.  She openly dated white boys with no questions asked or problems raised by the Dean of Women. I had a dear friend there who happened to be black, but he would get nervous whenever someone came up and we were talking–we’d get dirty looks, etc.  It was CRAZY.  I am one of the aforementioned who are embarrassed/ashamed for having ever attended this cult-like, racist, sexist institution…I wish it would never have opened. 

  • Sue Blue

    One of my son’s high-school friends was sent to a southern christian university by his parents. He promptly got expelled for being seen walking near a Pensacola beach, where he might have been able to glimpse some exposed female skin.  He told my son he was not at all upset about being expelled – and in fact went on to graduate with honors from the University of Washington.  I wonder how disappointed his parents are about his worldly degree.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BYET73EDWVTJFCFGGZ7XSAPR7Q ChellG

    Bob Jones University…white skin worshipping pagans masquerading as Christians…exactly the anti-Christ of the end times the Bible talks about!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BYET73EDWVTJFCFGGZ7XSAPR7Q ChellG

    You mean they gotta keep and preserve the good pure “inbred white bloodline”.

  • Erik Johnson

    Hello friendly atheists. 

    I was a student at BJU in the 80′s, and the interracial dating ban was controversial among the students on campus. Many of us couldn’t find Biblical principles which would serve as a legitimate foundation for this. However, we gritted our teeth and dealt with it because the benefits of the school outweighed the problems this caused. Some of those who were negatively impacted by this left, and we didn’t blame them.

    Awhile ago BJU finally did what they should have done decades ago and eliminated this rule. The then-president of the school was pretty contrite about it and said it was a mistake that they had this on the books for so long. Isn’t it a good thing when people admit their mistakes, apologize for the mistakes of their predecessors, make a change and move on? I think we have all been in that situation. Of course, there will always be those around to constantly remind you of your failing and try to do everything in their power to help you fail.

    It’s interesting to me that people who preach tolerance and acceptance find it difficult to display those character traits when dealing with a group of people who willingly submit to authority and who believe that they answer to a higher power than themselves. I’m speaking about the people posting in this thread that have such a hard time understanding that there are folks who legitimately believe that places like BJU do try hard to create a safe, loving atmosphere for young people to get an education and make important life decisions that they’ll live with forever. I often wonder what one of the anonymous Internet posters on this thread would say to me if we met face-to-face and I explained to them that I went to BJU willingly, got a great education, am very financially successful, have a great life, and that I encourage like-minded young people to attend BJU? I wonder if they would really try to tell me I was brainwashed, if I’m a right-wing nutso freak, can’t think for myself and a detriment to society. 

    Or, perhaps they would understand that different people are, well, different, we have a different world view, and agree to live and let live without mudslinging and disparagement?


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