BJU Mystery Solved, Shifty Evangelicals Exposed

Chatterbox concluded his last dispatch about Bob Jones University uncertain whether to believe the Associated Press or BJU. Now Chatterbox can state unequivocally that AP was right, and that BJU, while technically also right, was amazingly–Chatterbox is about to use an adjective that he knows will inflict maximum pain–Clintonian about explaining itself to the public.

The AP had reported that university president Bob Jones III (“Dr. Bob”) told students at a BJU chapel meeting March 6 that the university would require written approval from parents before any student could date outside his or her race. This occurred three days after Dr. Bob had announced on Larry King Live that he was ending the school’s ban on interracial dating. Although the written-approval policy didn’t flatly contradict Dr. Bob’s remarks on Larry King Live, it did suggest that BJU shared the same attitude toward interracial dating that society at large maintains toward abortion–it should be safe, legal, and rare.

BJU then weighed in with a press release that did not address the truthfulness or falsity of the AP story directly (that should have been Chatterbox’s tipoff that BJU was being shifty), but described BJU’s dating policy in a way that made it seem quite innocuous and very different from the way AP had described it. The BJU press release (which is not available online) said that students were merely “requested to inform their parents should they wish to enter a serious dating relationship” with someone of any race, and that the school would take “no disciplinary action” against students who failed to do so. In effect, BJU was stating that it had the same policy toward dating that is more or less followed (though not articulated) even on degenerate left-wing campuses like Hampshire College and the University of California Santa Cruz.

The contradiction between AP’s version and BJU’s version was finally resolved in an extraordinary e-mail that Chatterbox received last night from BJU communications manager Jonathan W. Pait.  Here is the text in full:

The fact is that a reporter reported information that she did not confirm–had she called to get the official position she would have never had to report what she did. The chapel she attended was not a forum open to reporters and she did not notify us she would be there. Therefore, we had no idea that she needed to receive the correct information until after the story hit the headline.

When we saw the headline we croaked! We knew that what she reported was not the OFFICIAL STATEMENT. We would have been more than happy to help her get the whole story and not just base the entire article on a statement that was NOT the final official statement.

Do you want people to release your rough drafts before you have the opportunity to bring the essay to a final form? I wouldn’t think so.  The statement made in the chapel was the “rough draft.” It was later that day that the position in its final form was put in place.

At least, I hand it to you that you put the entire information on the web. That is better than some folks :-)

No one is going to get it straight about BJU. Everyone is having too much fun bashing a little school in South Carolina. We didn’t seek this. We don’t want it.

Jonathan Pait

Chatterbox tried to talk to Pait by phoning him at BJU and at home, and couldn’t get through (though he did manage to confirm that it was Pait, and not some imposter, who had e-mailed him). But Pait’s e-mail, and a follow-up that repeated the same arguments, make clear what happened:

1.)    An AP reporter snuck in to Dr. Bob’s chapel talk, concluded quite reasonably that a university’s president was an excellent source on what that university’s policies were, and wrote an accurate story. (Had she called to “get the official position”–and Chatterbox is far from certain she didn’t–she probably would have found, as Chatterbox did, that nobody wanted to speak to her.)

2.)    BJU administrators saw the headline and “croaked”–not because it was    inaccurate, but because it made BJU’s president look like someone who failed to tell the truth and shame the devil. These BJU administrators somehow persuaded Dr. Bob to back off (possibly, anticipating trouble, they already had) and put out an official statement revising the policy yet again. (Memo to Jonathan Pait: Chatterbox is deeply flattered to learn that you think this column goes through multiple drafts.)

A few questions remain. Is Dr. Bob ever to be trusted henceforth? Is he just going to wait until the media stop paying attention and then dream up some other way to keep the bloodlines pure? Apparently he lacks the incentive of getting BJU’s tax exemption back–Dr. Bob told Larry King he doesn’t want the dang thing back–so the only force preventing him from reinstating some watered-down version of the interracial-dating ban is bad publicity. But why does Dr. Bob care about bad publicity? Surely the whole point of being a bigoted institution like BJU–indeed, the only thing to admire about such a place–is its bracing indifference to what the rest of society thinks. But apparently that indifference has its limits.

Finally: Is the unexpectedly powerful pressure the media brought to bear on BJU a good thing? Yes, to the extent that it made BJU back away from a bigoted policy. But no, to the extent that it tempted BJU to bend the truth about what its policies really are. Unless, of course, Dr. Bob was a prevaricator all along, and we just didn’t know it.