Since 1978, a short clause in guidelines for accrediting doctoral psychology programs has shielded religious schools from secular challenges to their religious standards. Today, that clause is in danger of becoming a relic.

In a draft of its recently revised guidelines for accreditation, the American Psychological Association (APA) has omitted a clause protecting religious schools from being denied accreditation. Administrators at those schools say the move may reflect antireligious bias in the psychology establishment and, worse, could sink their doctoral programs in psychology.

Under current policy, the APA will not accredit programs that make hiring and admissions decisions based on an applicant's religious beliefs - unless they meet certain other criteria, such as explicitly and publicly stating their preferences in admissions and hiring. Those criteria are spelled out in the omitted clause, footnote three.

Stanton Jones, chair of Wheaton College's Department of Psychology, says the footnote allowed programs at religious institutions to select faculty and students in a way that is compatible "with the institution's religious identity and mission."

"[It] protected religious programs from being denied accreditation solely on the basis of this one facet of their identity," he says.

FOOTNOTE'S OMISSION

The omission of the footnote has Jones and administrators at other religiously affiliated institutions concerned. Denial of accreditation "could devastate religious programs by obstructing their graduates from having equal access to practica, internships, licensure, postgraduate training, and jobs in applied and academic circles," Jones says.

Among the APA-accredited programs that could be affected are those at Baylor University, ...

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