Religious Colleges and Freedom of Inquiry
Peter Wood and I ponder their relationship in “Science, Faith, and Academic Freedom: Erskine College Swats a Gadfly.” Erskine College fired a tenured professor, seemingly because he denies the inerrancy of the Bible — a belief to which Erskine expects its faculty members to adhere. It’s unclear exactly why the college fired this professor, although we know at least one reason: that he allegedly turned people away from giving to and enrolling at Erskine. This murky scenario brings up a decades-old question: Do religious colleges necessarily limit academic freedom? A number of journalists and bloggers portrayed Erskine as shutting out a dissenter: One blog’s headline is “Erskine College Professor Fired for Supporting Science.” But the college, which is part of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, is explicit in its stipulation that faculty members have “genuine Christian commitment,” and that they integrate learning with “biblical truth.”
The AAUP and others take it as a given that religious faith is incompatible with scientific inquiry. Peter and I disagree.