State Shouldn’t Subsidize Bob Jones University

Friday, February 26, 1999
Page: A8

Sen. Darrell Jackson is absolutely correct to propose that we stop spending state money to help students attend Bob Jones University.

Sen. Jackson is using the school’s rejection of admission to an interracial couple to revive the argument the Senate lost last year. Senators wanted to deny the state’s new $2,000-a-year LIFE scholarships to students who attend Bob Jones, but the House refused to go along, arguing, among other things, that Bob Jones students were already eligible for state-funded tuition grants.

There is nothing particularly newsworthy about the fact that BJU officials told a Virginia couple they could not both enroll because they are of different races. Bob Jones officials have never tried to hide the fact that they prohibit interracial dating and marriage among their students. But that long-standing policy, which is based on university officials’ own peculiar reading of Scripture, is inherently inconsistent with the values of the people of South Carolina, as demonstrated by the November referendum in which S.C. voters removed the ban on interracial marriages from the constitution.

If the school wants to promote the idea that, as officials say, interracial marriage “mixes that which God separated and intends to keep separate,” it has every right to do so. If students want to attend an academically respected university that holds those views, they have every right to do so. But the state has absolutely no business subsidizing the teaching of such views.

People often gloss over this issue by trying to make a big distinction between scholarships and direct appropriations to colleges. And they are correct in believing that the state has a stronger and more direct interest in the policies of state-owned colleges than in those of colleges that simply receive indirect state funding through student scholarships. But the state still has a legitimate interest in the latter.

More to the point, it is overlooking obvious truths to suggest that the state would somehow be denying equal benefits to its high-school graduates if it set limits on what schools they could attend using state scholarships or tuition grants. The state already does just this, by limiting LIFE scholarships and tuition grants to students attending schools within the state of South Carolina.

The in-state rule reflects a legitimate state policy of encouraging our best and brightest students to stay at home. Likewise, putting Bob Jones University off-limits to taxpayer-subsidized students would reflect a legitimate state policy of encouraging our best and brightest students to attend schools that do not endorse racism.

Bob Jones defenders will no doubt suggest it is inconsistent to pick on their school while allowing students to use state funds to attend all-female colleges such as Columbia College. But we believe that there are legitimate state interests in subsidizing students who attend private single-gender colleges.

It’s one thing to believe that men and women are significantly different (they are) and that some men and women learn better in single-gender programs. It is quite another to believe, as the Bob Jones policy implies, that there is something so different between people of different races that it is wrong for them to marry. We can’t think of any such difference.

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