Tyndale Seminary v. Texas

Discussion in 'Baptist Colleges / Seminaries' started by rlvaughn, Jan 25, 2005.

  1. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    Is anyone following dispute between the Tyndale Seminary and the state of Texas (HEB Ministries vs. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board)?
    If so, what is your opinion?

    http://www.christianpost.com/article/education/596/section/supreme.court.
    to.review.religious.freedom.case/1.htm

    http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=13758340&BRD=1426&PAG=461&dept_id=528208&rfi=6

    http://www.religionjournal.com/showarticle.asp?id=1817

    Liberty Legal seems to be basing their case on the fact that a state government is not able to determine what is good religious education, making it a religious freedom/separation of church & state type issue.

    [ January 25, 2005, 08:18 PM: Message edited by: Dr. Bob ]
     
  2. rsr

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    Hmm. On the face of it, I would say that Liberty Legal has made an insufficient case; the state government is not trying to determine "good religious education," but rather to insist that certain objective criteria are met for awarding of degrees.

    (I have some problems with that aside from grounds of separation; we all know that a degree — except advanced degrees in some specific fields — do not necessarily denote competency, and two identical degrees from different colleges — or the same college — carry different levels of expertise.)

    If the state can demonstrate that it is simply enforcing a reasonable standard to which all institutions are held accountable, then I don't think it's a church-state issue.

    Of course, that doesn't stop Texans from sending in $20 and getting a degree from a diploma mill.
     
  3. Dave G.

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    Tyndale Theological Seminary is indeed unaccredited, but it is NOT a school where one sends in $20 and receives a piece of paper. Whether their standards are as high as a typical accredited seminary is certainly open to debate, but they require a significant amount of work.

    No, I am not a student or employee.
     
  4. rsr

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    I was not implying that Tyndale is a diploma mill, just pointing out that the state may have authority to decide what in-state institutions may grant degrees, but it does not have the power to forbid Texans from buying degrees elsewhere and using them.
     
  5. gb93433

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    I think the issue needs to be addressed. Ever notice how many religious folks have doctor's degrees who ahve never earned past a bachelor's.

    How many institutions have maintained the same or higher standard than when they started? Most get liberal and dumb down their requirements.

    Personally I believe that we need minimum national requirements for degrees. We have lived in four states and have found one year difference in the level of academics just in grades one through eight. That is a huge difference.
     
  6. rlvaughn

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    Though I'm from Texas, I only recently heard about this case. I don't know very much about Tyndale Seminary. I have mixed feelings about the case, being a proponent of religious freedom, academic freedom, academic excellence, and, from a theological perspective, not a strong supporter of the seminary concept of religious education. With that mixed conflicting bag exposed, here are some of my thoughts.

    1. Employers should be able to expect some reasonable standard of academic excellence represented by a certain type of degree (bachelor, master, doctor).
    2. The state has an interest in seeing such a standard is maintained.
    3. If the Seminary is granting degrees of engineering, medicine, science, etc., I can see the state's direct interest. If it is granting only Bible/Theology degrees, I can't.
    4. What about "caveat emptor" - let the buyer (or in this case "hire-er") beware? How much responsibility does an employer have for determining that a person has achieved some kind of competency based on the degree they have earned (or whether they actually even earned the degree)?

    As Stephen posted, "a degree does not necessarily denote competency, and two identical degrees from different colleges — or the same college — carry different levels of expertise." That probably could never be corrected, though gb's idea of "minimum national requirements for degrees" (which I would oppose) might help improve it.

    Hopefully more later.
     
  7. rsr

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  8. rlvaughn

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    Thanks, for the link Stephen. Looks like quite a bit to read.
     
  9. rsr

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    From my reading, it appears that if the Texas Legislature has the power to regulate "degrees," then the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board did not violate the Free Exercise Clauses because the requirements apply to all institutions equally.

    It appears to me, a lay person to be sure, that the argument based on the Free Speech Clauses are more promising, although it is widely acknowledged that governments have the power to curtail certain speech in the interests of consumer protection (the Pure Food and Drug Act and many others are examples.)

    It also appears to me that Tyndale may have jumped the gun in filing its suit before available remedies were exhausted.

    On a general note, I am not a huge fan of criteria that place process above substance, as is true in much of accreditation and am not sure that laws such as the one invoked in Texas really do much to enhance the quality of education.
     
  10. rlvaughn

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    Thanks again for the link, Stephen. After meditating on the situation and reading the Appeals Court decision, though not claiming to understand all the legal jargon, I have modified my position somewhat, while also thinking that media attention has not clearly spelled out the exact issues in the case. I now have a few further comments.

    First, a little off topic, but it seems to me that Liberty Legal tends to take on more questionable religious liberty cases than, say, American Center for Law & Justice. Anybody else think that?

    My theological position on seminaries is in basic agreement with the Appeals Court - that Tyndale Seminary, et al., are adopting a secular model of education and therefore moving in the secular realm. They said, "'HEB Ministries' predicament is not the result of government regulation of its religious function of training individuals for ministry; rather, it is Tyndale's role in the secular practice of operating a school that grants degrees, which is not a religious activity." When religious institutions enter in to the secular realm (for example, operate a retail business) should they hide behind "religion" or be subject to the same regulations as others (in relation to their functions in that realm)?

    It also seems that there are options for Tyndale, et al., should they decide to comply with them. Lawyer Schackelford said, "The state has every right to control colleges and universities and law schools and medical schools and degrees in any secular program. The government has no right to say what is good theological training." But perhaps the other side of that is that "you can provide as much good theological training as you desire, but you cannot represent it in the same terms as secular training." The court said, "In the event Tyndale applies for and is denied accreditation, upon a showing to the Coordinating Board that it is unable to attain accreditation on the basis of its religious policies, the Coordinating Board may consider Tyndale eligible for a certificate of authority to grant degrees of a religious nature."

    I was aware that Texas law prohibited unaccredited institutions from granting "degrees". That has been in place, in some form, for about 20 years. Some originally complied by changing to, for example, Associate of English Bible diploma, instead of Associate of English Bible degree, but I'm not sure that still complies now.

    The state regulating the use of the term "seminary" is fairly recent (1997), and I was not aware of it until hearing about this case. I have questions about both the wisdom of and reasoning behind the state of Texas choosing to "own" this term. At the time that was added to the statute, there were no educational "seminaries" of a non-religious nature existing in Texas, nor are there now. I have reached the opinion that the state of Texas needs to revise some of the statutes in this area (e.g., reconsider the advisability of regulating the term "seminary", which almost all the general public would recognize as meaning a school of a religious nature). The court seems to indicate they accept a different meaning for "seminary" and "theological seminary", but still seem to say that "theological seminary" would be off-limits as well.

    Even though I'm not satisfied with all my state's statues in this area, from a Christian-Biblical perspective I believe that Tyndale should not be obstinate and comply in any thing that does not violate their ability to obey God. They have no need to use the word "seminary" nor offer "degrees" in order to be completely obedient to their Creator.

    I think it likely that the law does not really do that well in what it intends - "it was established in response to the emergence and proliferation of so-called degree mills that were conferring degrees that undermined the value and integrity of degrees conferred by legitimate institutions of higher education." I may be wrong, but it appears that Tyndale is probably a legitimate theological institution that chooses to not be accredited, but openly is what it claims to be and offers an education to those who choose to be educated under those circumstances. Here the state appears to be "making an example" of Tyndale while others are out there are still selling degrees "to the highest bidder".

    Lastly, a reminder in case someone didn't catch it. The link to Texas Judiciary Online is the Appeals Court decision, and the matter is currently before the Texas Supreme Court.
     
  11. rsr

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    I think you're right about that, given the pseudo-degree language Tyndale is using.

    I tend to agree; while seminary, as the court said, has historically meant institutions beyond those that are religious in nature, I believe the common understanding of the word today connotes religious education — advanced religious education, however, which implies the equivalent of a degree beyond the bachelor's level. It may be a Catch-22 for Tyndale.

    More and more states are cracking down on unaccredited institutions, but the regulations are usually aimed at fly-by-night operations, not the type Tyndale seems to be.


    CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION
     
  12. rlvaughn

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    Another good link. There was a time a few years ago, it seems that almost every day I received an unsolicited e-mail from some "company/university" offering to sell a degree. Seems that I've somehow gotten off their list.

    I think one problem with the degree mills - that we'd probably prefer not to admit - is that there is a market for them that has thrived in a climate that often puts more emphasis on "having a degree" than on having the competency the degree is supposed to represent. There are some pretty sad stories in that article! The attitude of both professors and universities is appalling.
     
  13. UZThD

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  14. rlvaughn

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    UZThD, I would add that someone might have both a "bought" degree and possess competency in their field, as some instances in the Chronicle of Higher Education might imply. But it is nevertheless unethical to claim or have the degree with having been through the program which the degree implies.
     
  15. preachinjesus

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    I'll go ahead and say it then...Tyndale is a diploma mill and is a sad example of a seminary. Now as for whether the state of Texas has a control in how degrees are distributed, I have no problem with the state of Texas regulating the institutions who distribute of degrees.

    Since schools like Tyndale operate willfully outside of a private sector regulation (i.e. accreditation) they come under the larger general purview of the state of Texas. We have so many diploma mills sprouting up all over the US and abroad that access to free degrees is almost unfettered.

    The faltering point is that these mills provide fake degrees based on no substantive evidence of progress into higher education. Those who "graduate" with these phony degrees from places like Tyndale are walking into our churches and presenting their degrees as if they are of the caliber of an accreditation and licensed institution. Most of these people have less knowledge of the Bible and of goodly Christian theology than those members who sit in our pews on Sundays and are certainly not qualified to serve in our pulpits and on our staffs.

    Being that I've recently left the state of Texas, greater Fort Worth proper to be more specific, I have not been awfully impressed by the "students" of Tyndale. Not to say that there haven't been good people with a definite calling and ability to serve the Kingdom that have "graduated" or attended from this place but I have yet to meet one.
     
  16. chris_price

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    this was sent to the Baptist Progress the article was sent out. I hope it explains it better.


    "The State of Texas does not approve the BMA "Seminary’s board..."
    Philip Attebery, Dean
    BMA Theological Seminary
    Jacksonville, Texas

    (Dec. 16, 2004) The BMAWeb—I would like to respond to the recent article, “Supreme Court to Hear Landmark Religious Liberties Case.”

    The State of Texas has required for several decades that institutions using the term “seminary” in their names must be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency if they intend to award academic or professional degrees.

    Approved seminaries in Texas are accredited either by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) or the Association of Biblical Higher Education (ABHE). BMA Seminary is accredited by SACS and is an associate member of ATS. These accrediting agencies are “peer associations.” This means that member institutions voluntarily regulate themselves.

    These accreditations are intended to keep seminaries honest in their business practices and to ensure a high level of quality education to protect students, financial supporters and future employers of seminary graduates. Academic requirements may be necessary for positions as pastors, missionaries, hospital and military chaplains, counselors and college professors. Requiring degree-granting seminaries to maintain recognized accreditation is appropriate and should be continued for the protection of those involved.

    The State of Texas does not approve the BMA Seminary’s board, curriculum or professors. Accreditation ensures that boards operate with integrity and with fidelity to their bylaws, that curriculum is sufficient to accomplish a seminary’s stated purposes, and that professors are appropriately credentialed. Our seminary and no other in the State of Texas is instructed by the “state” regarding matters of theology or ministerial training. A recent article makes false claims that such a practice exists in the state. It claims that “all the future religious leaders and pastors will be under the control of the government . . . the state is able to control all of our churches and religious organizations” (Agape Press, 12/08/04 by Allie Martin). All such claims are potentially false.

    The awarding of degrees is a public action that requires public accountability. Such accountability assures churches that prospective pastors and ministry staff members have actually earned the degrees they hold with the proper amount of study normally required for such a degree. It assures students that they are spending their energy and resources on a desired quality education and will earn an appropriately credentialed degree.

    Students also have the right to accurate information regarding an institution’s accreditation. Most seminaries are “accredited” by some accrediting agency. As mentioned above, there are only a few recognized accrediting agencies in Texas. If recognized accreditation is important to a prospective student, he or she should ask, “Is this seminary accredited by a recognized accrediting agency?” SACS, ATS and ABHE would be the desired answers in the State of Texas.

    Individuals should certainly have the freedom to commit themselves to learning or the support of any religious educational program they desire whether it is accredited or not. Governments should never be allowed to tell seminaries what they may or may not teach.
     
  17. Broadus

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    A bit off-topic, but does this mean that the state of Texas does not recognize TRACS or is this particular administrator simply not aware of it?

    Bill
     
  18. rsr

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    I don't know if the issue has come up; there are no TRACS-certified schools in Texas so far.
     
  19. rlvaughn

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    Despite the title I gave to this thread, for those searching for info - the actual name of the case is HEB Ministries, Inc., et al. v. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

    An interesting "blog" about Tyndale Seminary versus the state of Texas is found here:

    Reactions and Musings from an Assistant Professor at South Texas College of Law

    The Professor, who claims he is no fan of this school, believes the State's statute [Texas Educ. Code 61.302(1)], which forbids "...any title or designation, mark, abbreviation, appellation, or series of letters or words, including associate, bachelor's, master's, doctor's, and their equivalents, which signifies, purports to, or is generally taken to signify satisfactory completion of the requirements of all or part of a program of study leading to an associate, bachelor's, master's, or doctor's degree or its equivalent...", is overly broad:
    Tyndale Seminary's web site is here:

    Tyndale Theological Seminary

    and Liberty Legal:

    Liberty Legal Institute

    Two other seminaries are involved in the suit - Hispanic Bible Institute of San Antonio and Southern Bible Institute in Dallas.
     

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