The “Turn of the Screw”

Perhaps the following hardly seems newsworthy anymore since it was an event which occurred several months ago. Yet, because it will likely have a real and devastating effect on Christian schools and even on churches, it is worthy of continued attention. I refer to the ruling of the Supreme Court on May 24, 1983 concerning the denial of tax exemption for Bob Jones University. You have likely read of it. The Presbyterian Journal, June 8, 1983, quoted from the rules of Bob Jones University as stated in their student handbook:

There is to be no interracial dating 

1. Students who are partners in an interracial marriage will be expelled. 

2. Students who are members of or affiliated with any group or organization which holds as one of its goals or advocates interracial marriage will be expelled.

3. Students who date outside their own race will be expelled. 

4. Students who espouse, promote, or encourage others to violate the university’s dating rules and regulations will be expelled.

This same periodical explains the ruling of the Supreme Court:

In an 8-1 ruling, the Court said that to warrant exemption under the IRS code, an institution must not only fall under one of the categories listed in Section 501 (c) (3), but also “demonstrably serve and be in harmony with the public interest, and the institution’s purpose must not be so at odds with the common community conscience as to undermine any public benefit that might otherwise be conferred.” 

. . .That fear, of course, is what drives some religious and educational leaders to speculate what could lie down the road. Fred Graham, legal reporter for CBS News, said that new lawsuits are already in the works on the basis of alleged religious and sexual discrimination by churches and schools. 

Further, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has reportedly been pressuring IRS to apply Title IX regulations on sexual discrimination to all private schools. Such pressure, some observers speculated, prompted President Reagan, immediately on the heels of the Supreme Court decision, to fire three members of the Civil Rights Commission and replace them with conservatives to his own liking. 

The argument of BJU’s attorneys that the issue is ultimately one of religious freedom was rejected by the Court, which admitted that “denial of tax benefits will inevitably have a substantial impact on the operation of private schools, but will not prevent those schools from observing their religious tenets.” 

Instead, said the Court, “The governmental interest at stake here is compelling. . . .The Government has a fundamental, overriding interest in eradicating racial discrimination in education. . . . That governmental interest substantially outweighs whatever burden denial of tax benefits places on petitioners’ exercise of their religious beliefs.”

Dr. Carl McIntire wrote, as quoted in Christian News, June 6, 1983,

The United States Supreme Court decision in the Bob Jones University case,. . . denying them IRS tax exemption, concedes that it actually is a denial of religious liberty. The court said, “On occasion this Court has found certain governmental interests so compelling as to allow even regulations prohibiting religiously based conduct.” The Bob Jones case is another such occasion. There the religiously based conduct is a basis for severe tax penalties which the Court conceded will injure the school. How many other “occasions” will we now have? The door is open for many more, based on the court’s clearly stated statement for its interpreting of the Constitution. . . . 

What will now be done by the courts to sustain the civil rights of homosexuals because of rules in Christian colleges and churches against them, their dating and the like? This can not be dismissed. Tax exemption could be denied on their behalf some day. In an increasingly secular humanistic society, all religious tax-exemption could eventually go. An open-ended Constitution can be used to do this very thing in the future under such a court as exists today. 

This now opens to government penetration a new area in the whole religious world. Basically it becomes the rule of men, not the law, the supreme law.

We might respond, “So what?” Bob Jones University represents a school which hardly sets forth Calvinistic, much less Protestant Reformed, truths. We would want to set ourselves far from them. Yet the Supreme Court decision against them is extremely disturbing—alarming, in fact. 

Whatever one might say about the rules of B.J.U. concerning interracial dating and interracial marriage, the fact is that these rules were adopted by B.J.U. out of their religious convictions. It was not even a matter of discrimination. B.J.U. does admit blacks in the school. There are black students on the campus. These voluntarily enter this school in full knowledge of the rules. These students, as far as I know, have never complained about discrimination. 

And though we might convince ourselves that we have no such similar rules, and therefore are not affected by the Supreme Court ruling, let me remind you of what one can expect if this Court ruling is applied consistently. 

First, the courts of the land have also spoken of the “rights” of homosexuals. Apply, if you will, the ruling of the Court to the situation of homosexuals. Schools which forbid dating and “marriage” between those of the same sex could likewise be said to “discriminate” and therefore not be entitled to tax exemption. To forbid dating and marriage between a Christian and an atheist could also be discriminating. To refuse to have an atheist or homosexual as teacher could be regarded as basis to deny tax exemption. 

Secondly, the I.R.S. has already attempted in the past (and thus far has failed because of the tremendous outcry against their ruling) to insist that the absence of blacks in a school is per se proof of discrimination. The I.R.S. tried to insist that each school must have an active recruitment policy to bring blacks into their school-or they were discriminatory and would be denied tax exemption. This effort will likely now be renewed. It could conceivably be extended to include a demand for active recruitment of homosexuals or atheists for teachers as proof of non-discriminating positions. 

Thirdly, what is true for schools and their tax-exempt status, can as easily be applied to churches. Those that deny women officebearers, those that condemn and discipline homosexuals, those that do not have sufficient blacks—would be judged discriminating and not eligible for tax-exemption. 

Finally, there is but one short step between denial of tax-exemption because of “discrimination,” and denial of right-of-existence. The Supreme Court could well state in the future (as it did in the present instance), “The governmental interest at stake here is compelling. . . . The Government has a fundamental, overriding interest in eradicating racial (and sexual?) discrimination. . . .” The Court then could well conclude that any organization which is not in harmony with this “governmental interest,” may not continue to exist. Indeed, a tremendous blow was struck against “religious freedom.”

God our Father (?)

The “in” thing today seems to be the attempt to remove any “sexist” language from Scripture. One expects this from the wild-eyed liberal. For example, the National Council of Churches is considering the following revision of John 3:16, “God loved the world, loved it so much that the beloved Child of God was given to the world, and all who trust in this unique being will never perish but have eternal life.” 

But one is shocked to find something similar in theBanner, Aug. 29, 1983, in “Soapbox,” written by Dr. Hendrik Hart. He states in conclusion to his article:

I’m pretty well convinced that thinking of God as mother is not wrong. Just strange and different. And if that’s the case, I do not have the rig& to forbid this novel and unusual usage to those who find more comfort in it, more faith, more meaning. That would be unpastoral. Just as it would be unpastoral to force others to say “mother” to God. So I’m fairly convinced that we have to make room, also in our worship service, for those who are growing up with the wonderful message of God as their mother. I’m nearly convinced that if we don’t, we will be wrong. . . .

The writer bases this strange claim on this:

Jesus, the Bible, the Lord’s Prayer, our confessions, doctrine, tradition, songs, and the organization of our faith can be said to be circles which have “God the Father” as their center. Still, for a person whose history has made “father” a source of anguish rather than comfort, betrayal rather than trust, enmity rather than love, we have no doctrine which commands the use of that image.

This article is in line with a recent report I heard of a minister (Reformed) who spoke of the Second Person occasionally, though not consistently, as the “daughter” of the First Person. 

All the above appears blasphemy to me, all the clever argumentations notwithstanding. Does a child who hastwo horrible, cruel parents, who finds affection only in her little dog, therefore address God as, “God our Dog”? The reasoning, it seems to me, is as logical as that which Hart presents—but it is blasphemy. When the earthly type is corrupted by sin, as inevitably it is, this does not change the reality. It’s a question of maintaining the teaching of infallible Scripture. Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father. . . .” Never in Scripture is He presented as “mother.” May we ever seek to improve on the prayer Jesus taught us to pray—or use language contrary to the concept of the “Fatherhood” of God? Scripture gives to God other names—but never “Mother.” The churches ought to cut out such evil foolishness quickly and emphatically. To do otherwise is to deny the infallible Scriptures and to lose one’s Reformed heritage.