The vocabulary of academic freedom (or at least the vocabulary of its pious champions) is a sham and a cheat," postmodern icon Stanley Fish famously claims in his 1999 book, The Trouble With Principle. This is especially true, he says, in regards to religion. "As instances of a favored category—expression—religious utterances are cherished; as something you are asked to take seriously, they are feared and condemned."

The American Academy for Liberal Education—founded in 1992 by what The New York Times called "A group of tradition-minded scholars determined to turn universities away from faddish courses"— avoided the term academic freedom in denying accreditation to Patrick Henry College (see "Christian College Denied Accreditation," p. 16). But the terms it did use, liberty of thought and freedom of speech, are at the heart of the same issue. The AALE denied the college's application because the school requires that science professors "teach creationism from the understanding of Scripture that God's creative wor … was completed in six twenty-four hour days . …Evolution, 'theistic' or otherwise, will not be treated as an acceptable theory."

Such a mandate was anathema. "You can hardly educate students if you cut off fields of inquiry," AALE president Jeffrey Wallin told Christianity Today. "You can indoctrinate them, but you can't educate them."

Unfortunately, the AALE's actions may only serve to hinder academic freedom, not help it.

Communicating Commitments

"The fact that academic freedom is not fully protected anywhere should never be used to legitimize the infringement of academic freedom in faith-based institutions," Anthony J. Diekema, former Calvin College president and author of Academic Freedom and Christian Scholarship, ...

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