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"Weblog: Texas Court Reinstates $173,000 Fine Against 'Seminary'"
Ft. Worth's Tyndale Theological Seminary ordered to pay $173,000 fine for awarding diplomas, calling itself a seminary
Concerned about diploma mills, the Texas Legislature in 1975 passed a law barring unaccredited schools from using the word "seminary" in their titles and from using "bachelor, master, and doctor" in their degree titles.
That's a problem for Ft. Worth-based Tyndale Theological Seminary (not to be confused with the Dutch school of the same name, or the similarly named Tyndale University College & Seminary in Toronto), which has between 300 and 350 students, the vast majority engaged in "distance learning." The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board fined the school $170,000 for awarding 34 diplomas, and an additional $3,000 for calling itself a seminary.
In 2001, a judge supported the diploma-related fine, but threw out the "seminary" fine. Yesterday, however, the 3rd District Texas Court of Appeals in Austin supported both fines, and ordered Tyndale to pay all $173,000.
"The legislative purpose in regulating private postsecondary educational institutions is secular—to prevent public deception and confusion resulting from the conferring of any fraudulent or substandard postsecondary degree," Judge Paul Davis wrote in his decision. "Regulating the granting of degrees under the statutory scheme does not amount to a step toward establishing an official state religion. … [The school's] predicament is not the result of government regulation of its religious function of training individuals for ministry; rather, it is Tyndale's role in the secular practice of operating a school that grants degrees, which is not a religious activity."
"This is an outrageous decision," said Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel for Liberty ...1