Thursday, January 22, 2015

A degree of religious interference, or not?

There are Bible colleges in Illinois, and they are not happy:

The Illinois Bible Colleges Association, three Bible colleges, the nonprofit group Civil Liberties for Urban Believers, and student Leigh Pietsch sued Lindsay Anderson, chairwoman of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, on Jan. 16 in Federal Court.

There are 15 Bible colleges in Illinois, none of which are certified by the state to issue college "degrees" - they may offer only "diplomas" or "certificates."

The Bible schools claim that prohibiting granting of degrees to students who fulfill the requirements of their entirely religious curriculum violates the First Amendment.

"We don't think there can be state regulation of a religious program," the Rev. Jim Scudder Jr., president of plaintiff Dayspring Bible College and Seminary, told The Associated Press. "If there is, then the state is deciding 'which' religion and breaking the establishment clause of the First Amendment."

Is the Illinois Board of Higher Education interfering in religion? Here's what it says:

Are religious institutions required to obtain authorizations to operate and grant degrees in Illinois?

All degree-granting institutions, including religious institutions, are required to obtain authorization to operate in Illinois. If a religious institution plans to award an associate, bachelors, masters, advanced certificate, or doctoral degree in any field, it must obtain appropriate authorizations from the Board.

The rules provide a limited exemption for religious institutions that award only a “diploma” or a “certificate” and whose programs are solely devoted to religion and theology. For example, under this exemption, a religious institution could award a Certificate in Bible Studies of a Diploma in Christian Ministry without obtaining authorization.

And before one complains that the IBHE is interfering in religion, well, it's interfering in business also.

Are employers, employee groups, or professional organizations required to obtain authorization to provide training to employees?

If an employer, employee group, or professional organization plans to award degrees, they are required to obtain authorizations. However, training programs conducted by corporations or other business organizations designed only for their employees are not subject to regulation by the Board. Similarly, neither labor union apprenticeships nor education and improvement programs sponsored by businesses, trade organizations, or professional organizations only for the benefit of their members are required to receive operating authority from the Board.

But the biggest argument against the claim that the IBHE is interfering in religion is the fact that there are religious colleges in Illinois that are authorized to grant degrees. Lutheran Church Missouri Synod people are familiar with Concordia University Chicago, which is not in Chicago but is in Illinois. This university grants degrees; if it doesn't, then a lot of people that I know have been lying to me for many years. A much more famous religions institution in Illinois is Wheaton College, which also grants degrees.

But I'm not sure where the aforementioned Leigh Pietsch attends school. In fact, the only Leigh Pietsch that I could find in Illinois was not a student, but someone who has been practicing law since 1972. Perhaps this Leigh Pietsch is a relative.
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