When GOP presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Ben Carson visited Bob Jones University last week in separate events, it signaled to many in the political community that the evangelical institution in Greenville once again was ready for the national political limelight.
The fundamentalist Christian school had once been an obligatory stop for GOP conservatives running for president, attracting the likes of Ronald Reagan in 1980 to George W. But BJU’s policies banning interracial dating, which ended after Bush’s visit, and its branding of Catholicism by a former BJU president as a “satanic counterfeit,” along with a political disinterest by a later BJU president, made the campus less a routine campaign destination – until this year. “We realize this is an important event in the history of our country and we want to do our part in giving our students the opportunity to be educated and make right choices.” Former Gov.
Bob Jones, in Greenville, South Carolina, is a niche school.
Indeed, you may have only heard of it if you’re from a Christian fundamentalist background or follow that subculture closely. Although its discriminatory policies preceded desegregation, historian Randall Balmer has noted that it lost its non-profit status due to President Nixon’s crackdown on so-called “segregation academies.” (Among those segregation academies: Jerry Falwell’s Lynchburg Christian School.) Bob Jones received numerous warnings from the federal government and ignored each of them, but when the IRS finally rescinded its status the religious right reacted with outrage, as Balmer recounts: As Elmer L.
BJU President Steve Pettit, who took office in 2014, said while the school is not endorsing a presidential candidate, he wants to open its doors so that students can learn about the process. David Beasley, who introduced Bush to the campus in 2000 and received an honorary degree from BJU, said the school is a “very integral and important part of the South Carolina community.” “It would be a tragedy, in my opinion, for anyone seeking to be a leader of all the people of South Carolina and the United States not to give them an audience,” he said of the school.
The candidates have come to BJU this year unsolicited, Pettit said.
I said to our administration, ' You know guys, this thing is of such insignificance to us; it's so significant to the world at large. It hurts our graduates; our concern for the cause of Christ; our concern for our graduates; our concern for our testimony; our concern for the school's broader usefulness is greater to us than a rule that we never talk about and it is meaningless to us.
Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina and John Kasich have contacted his office to come and meet.
“If you are trying to reach voters in the South Carolina primary, and also if you are trying to communicate with a certain group of voters nationally, that’s not a bad visit to make,” she said.
“Bob Jones University, in terms of its role in campaigns, is probably not as strong as it once was.
Paul Achterberg, BJU Admissions Counselor, also wrote a similar email in 1998.
Unfortunately, this particular applicant published Pait's and Achtergerg's letters on his website. In public interviews with the Greenville print and broadcast media, Bob Jones III declared his interracial dating/marriage Rules to be based upon "Bible policy." Yet, preacher Bob Jones III preached and proclaimed his interracial marriage ban publicly.