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 Legal Institute, which sued on Tyndale's behalf. "The state has now been given control of all seminaries across the state and can now dictate the education of the pastors and their churches. If religious training for all theological degrees has to first be approved by the government, then religious freedom is dead." (Shackelford used exactly the same quote in 2001.)

But accredited seminaries disagree. In 2001, Kenneth Hemphill, then president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, told the Associated Press, "We are a conservative, confessional institution, and we have not found that our accreditation has caused us to compromise our biblical convictions. We have found accreditation valuable in that it provides accountability for the institution and credibility for those looking for graduate theological work. It is important to have standards of quality."

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Don't expect many Christian higher education institutions, or even Christian civil rights organizations, to jump to Tyndale's defense.

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Church life:

  • Collection plates shrink | More turn to religion, but money doesn't follow (The Detroit News)

  • Should clergy endorse 'living in sin'? | Cohabitation is here to stay and on the increase, whether we like it or not. Clergy members, therefore, should move beyond the moral condemnation of cohabitation to more practical approaches. (Gerald L. Zelizer, USA Today)

  • Church fight imperils children's center | Respite proposal brings out concerns over size, traffic (The Washington Post)

  • The African Church and change | As the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, tours West Africa he will find a region where the Christian church has never been so dynamic. But is it merely self-serving or can its energies be harnessed to improve the quality of life of the people? (BBC)

  • Diverse faiths united in opposition to slots | It's not often that Methodists, Mormons, Muslims, Presbyterians and Lutherans team up, but they were united yesterday in denouncing problems they see coming from Gov. Ed Rendell's plans for expanding gambling in Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

  • Money-loving pastors under fire | General Secretary of the Christian Council of Ghana has described "money-doubling" by some pastors as unchristian (Ghanaian Chronicle, Accra)

  • Religion in the News: Pushing for another resignation | Roman Catholic parishioners in Dallas — fed up with the fallout from the clerical sex abuse crisis — have taken the rare step of starting a petition drive that urges their bishop to resign (Associated Press)

Same-sex marriage:

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Sexual ethics:

Missions and ministry:

U.S. politics and law:

  • Judge for yourself | Are Senate Democrats determined to keep believers off the bench? (Kay Daly, The Wall Street Journal)

  • Obscenity law in Ohio targeted by lawyer | A lawyer who specializes in defending the distribution of sex images, including by Larry Flynt's Hustler magazine, has moved to overturn Ohio's obscenity law on the basis of the recent Supreme Court decision legalizing homosexual sodomy (The Washington Times\)

  • Religion an issue in Head Start | Overall, much of the House bill went through without controversy (CBS)

  • Faith-based groups left open to suits | A lawsuit filed last year against the United Methodist Children's Home of North Georgia demonstrates the impediments to full implementation of the faith-based initiative (Vernadette Ramirez Broyles, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Foreign politics and law:

  • Malawi's political church leaders | The relationship between church and state is one that arouses controversy in many countries around the world—and few more so than Malawi (BBC)

  • Houston evangelist keeping close touch with Taylor | As civil conflict escalated in Liberia, Houston-based Christian evangelist K.A. Paul said he has spent the past week in near constant contact with the African country's president, urging him to step down (Houston Chronicle)

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Church and state:

  • School board may change prayer | The threat of a lawsuit may sideline the Lord's Prayer at Manatee County School Board meetings (The Bradenton Herald, Fla.)

  • ACLU aiming to de-Christianize nation | They are performing a lobotomy on the historical conscience of America by attempting to remove all references to our Christian heritage (Richard Thompson, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Divinely unadorned | Without Psalms, Grand Canyon is still grand (Editorial, The Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.)

  • Thou shalt not ruin connection to past | It would be different if officials tried to install a religious plaque today or if judges invoked the commandments in court. That's not the case. (John Grogan, The Philadelphia Inquirer)


Other religions and interfaith relations:

  • Challenging the Qur'an | A German scholar contends that the Islamic text has been mistranscribed and promises raisins, not virgins (Newsweek International)

  • Also: Pakistan bans latest issue of Newsweek | Information Minister says an article on new interpretations of the Qur' an offends Islam (Associated Press)

  • With whom you stay, with whom you pray | Why did different religions come from different parts of the world? Why isn't there one pervasive faith? (Daily Pilot, Newport Beach, Calif.)

  • Religious campaign tests faith | Jews for Jesus door-to-door blitz could lead to violence, Canadian Jewish Congress fears (The Liberal, Richmond Hill, Ontario)

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  • Fortuneteller license law called biased | S.F. defends its bid to regulate the businesses. Some see an attack on religion of the Romany (Los Angeles Times)

  • Wiccan sues for prayer inclusion The Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors is violating the U.S. Constitution by refusing to allow a self-proclaimed witch to open meetings with a prayer, the woman's lawyer told a federal magistrate Tuesday (Associated Press)

  • Christians face rising bias in Middle East | Even though the Koran teaches that Christians and Jews are ''people of the book,'' and therefore to be respected, there is no question but that Christians in Egypt today are facing increasing discrimination and rising fear since the Islamists have not explained where nonbelievers would fit into an Islamic state (H.D.S. Greenway, The Boston Globe)


  • Mel's Passion | What's liberal about judging Gibson's movie before it's out? (Editorial, The Wall Street Journal)

  • Also: Old hatred, new Passion | Mel Gibson fosters anti-Semitism by filming a version of Christ's death in which Roman occupiers were dupes of those they oppressed (Abraham Cooper and Harold Brackman, The Globe and Mail, Toronto)

  • Also: NAE defends Gibson's new film, The Passion | "It is consistent with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John," says Ted Haggard (Press release)

  • Lights, camera, Apocalypse! | As bombs explode, locusts swarm and seas turn to blood, there's a growing appetite for 'endtimes entertainment'—and two brothers running a tiny film company in St. Catharines, Ont., are feeling the Rapture (The Globe and Mail, Toronto)

  • Christian movies now seen around the world | Olive and Terry Lytle show free Christian movies every Saturday and Sunday night at the Devil's Lake Drive-In (The Toledo Blade, Oh.)

Holy Land:

Crime and violence:

  • Pastor faces menacing charges | Lutheran Pastor Ronnie McCulloch is facing charges that he wielded an ax and gun at several members of an Alcoholics Anonymous group at his church in May (The Oregonian)

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  • Minister faces attempted murder charges | He previously faced aggravated battery in attack on wife. (The Ledger, Lakeland, Fla.)

  • Artist convicted of blasphemy | A Polish artist who exhibited an image of a man's penis attached to a cross broke the Roman Catholic country's law on blasphemy, a court has ruled, according to Poland's top-selling daily (Reuters)

  • Church hope on Solomon hostages | Church leaders in the Solomon Islands say they are hopeful that six Anglican brothers held hostage by a notorious warlord will soon be released (BBC)


  • David T. Moore sues ex-church's leadership | KESQ files own lawsuit in response to ex-Southwest minister's earlier legal move (The Desert Sun, Palm Springs, Calif.)

  • Couple sue over message on brick | Parks reject their 'Jesus' inscription (Chicago Tribune\)

  • 'War-tax' protest prompts U.S. suit | Phila.'s Quaker organization faces a stiff penalty for not sending garnisheed wages of an employee to the IRS (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

  • Minister files suit against IUP officers | Already having been cleared of criminal charges in the case, evangelist James Gilles now has filed a federal lawsuit accusing two police officers and the student-life director of malicious prosecution and suppression of his First-Amendment rights (The Indiana Gazette, Penn.)

Faith and spirituality:

Children and teenagers:

  • Mum, what's God? | Every parent dreads those awkward questions. Few are more awkward than those relating to faith (The Herald, Glasgow, Scotland)

  • The dangers of being 12 going on 20 | Knowing and naïve 'tweens', bred on brands and the net, are being lured into danger (The Times, London)

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Money and business:

Religion in the workplace:

Other stories of interest:

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