Little mention of religion appears in the coverage by The New York Times of a lawsuit filed by three former Oral Roberts University professors. According to the article, the professors are alleging “financial, political and personal irregularities” by Richard Roberts, the president of the Christian liberal arts university in Tulsa, Okla.
The ex-professors, citing a secret internal report by an official of the Oral Roberts Ministries, linked to the university in Tulsa, Okla., sued on Oct. 2. They also contended that the Roberts house on the campus had been remodeled 11 times in 14 years, that the university jet took family members on trips and that the family’s university-paid cellphones sent text messages to “under-age males — often between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m.”
The plaintiffs said “some of the more salacious entries” were omitted from the suit “to preserve, as much as possible, the remaining positive image of the university.”
A plaintiff, John Swails, a 14-year tenured professor and the chairman of the department of history, humanities and government, said by phone he had been fired after providing a copy of the report to the university provost, Ralph Fagin, and the university’s Board of Regents in July. “It was the first they saw of it,” Mr. Swails said.
First off, reporters should not include unspecified allegations as a basic rule of thumb. Essentially what that second paragraph says is that Richard Roberts did something really really bad, but we’re not saying since it would hurt the reputation of the institution we so love. Right. Or maybe you can’t substantiate it with any evidence?
Much of the reporting plays off an interview Richard Roberts and his wife, Lindsay, did for CNN’s Larry King Live Tuesday night. A lot of people that you’d think would have interesting things to say were either unavailable or had no comment.
Overall, though, this was a difficult story for the NYT to report, and more details are certainly to emerge in the coming weeks. The big thing missing in this story about a Christian university led by the son of a Christian television evangelist is, well, religious issues. Little is said of the university’s charismatic perspective and even less is said about its connection with the Word of Faith doctrine, which is a close cousin of the doctrine of prosperity.
Could that explain the corporate jet Richard Roberts is standing next to in the NYT photo and the allegation that his home has been remodeled more times than most people deep clean their homes? And why does this story seem so familiar?