Bob Jones, Prevaricator?

Chatterbox is once again confused about what you may and may not do at Bob Jones University. As Chatterbox reported earlier, Jones made the surprise announcement March 3 that “as of today, we have dropped the rule” forbidding interracial dating. He went on to say:

It is ended, and I want it to be very clear why it has ended. 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 that is meaningless to us.

Sounds pretty definitive, no? Chatterbox thought so, too. If you read a BJU summary of Dr. Bob’s March 6 talk to students about this in the school chapel, you will learn that his decision to break with BJU’s past was fairly dramatic:

He was taken sick Monday night. While weak and kept quiet in the hospital, as he prayed and sought counsel, God made some things clear to him. People seemed ready to listen to what the University had to say as a result of all the media attention. Larry King had been fair to Dr. Bob in an interview 20 years ago. Since his program is live rather than taped and edited [apparently God doesn’t mind that it’s on cable], it gives a good opportunity to be fairly heard. Dr. Bob prayed for the Lord to have him say the right things. By God’s grace, the Gospel went out clearly.

The problem with this account is that it omits mention of a seemingly important caveat that Dr. Bob laid down in his talk, according to a subsequent dispatch by the Associated Press. The AP reported that Jones said in the chapel talk that the only students who would be permitted to date interracially were those whose parents send a letter to the dean of men or women “approving the relationship.” Here is how the AP phrased it:

Students who want to take advantage of Bob Jones University’s decision to drop its ban on interracial dating will need a note from their parents.Bob Jones III, the school’s president, announced an end to the ban Friday. On Monday, he told nearly 4,000 students at a daily chapel service that they must tell their parents if they become involved in an interracial relationship.“We will carry out the will of your parents,” he said. “They will need to have a say in this.”Parents must send a letter to the dean of men or women approving the relationship before the school will allow it, Jones said.

If the AP story is accurate, BJU would seem to put interracial dating into roughly the same category that society currently places abortion. For good measure, Dr. Bob was reported by the AP to have added in his talk that “when you date interracially or marry interracially, it cuts you off from people,” an argument that sounds considerably less theological than his previous mumbo-jumbo about how interracial dating assists the Antichrist in creating world government (which itself never squared particularly well with Dr. Bob’s claim that the interracial-dating ban was “meaningless to us”).

Is Dr. Bob prevaricating about BJU’s dating policy? It’s possible he isn’t. After the AP story appeared, BJU issued a press release that began as follows:

Bob Jones University has always worked with parents in an effort to lead their children to compliance with their parents’ wishes in dating relationships. This has been the school’s practice in non-interracial relationships.There is no longer a University rule prohibiting interracial dating. However, students are requested to inform their parents should they wish to enter a serious dating relationship. But since the student is breaking no rule in that relationship, there will be no disciplinary action taken against the student. We are handling this in exactly the same way we handle parental requests about non-interracial relationships. No discipline is taken against those students either.

The AP story says that Jones said parents “must send” a letter of approval before their kids can date interracially. The BJU press release says that Jones said that students merely are “requested to inform” their parents if they enter a “serious dating relationship” with someone of any race–a relatively undemanding task routinely performed even by atheist undergraduates at Antioch. Chatterbox’s strong suspicion is that the AP got it right and that BJU is trimming. But he doesn’t really know.