Less than twelve months after students named Andrew Paquin faculty member of the year, the administration of Colorado Christian University dismissed the popular professor. Paquin believes his concerns about free enterprise led to the administration's May decision.

The school, which does not offer tenure, declined to discuss Paquin's dismissal, but Paquin said CCU president William Armstrong wrote him a letter several months before his release, warning that Armstrong found it "deeply troubling to hear you say that capitalism is inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus." Armstrong has said that supporting free markets is part of the school's mission.

A former U.S. senator, Armstrong joined the suburban Denver college in 2006. Shortly thereafter, he unveiled a new set of "strategic objectives," stating that the college promotes free markets, limited government, compassion for the poor, Western civilization, and the "original intent of [the] Constitution."

Paquin, hired the year before Armstrong, assigned books by Jim Wallis and Peter Singer in his classes. "I wanted my right-wing students to see that the left wing has some validity," he said. But Paquin insisted he is no enemy of capitalism. His ministry, the 10/10 Project, funds microloans for Kenyans to start their own businesses.

"I think capitalism is an efficient and effective economic system," Paquin said, "but I won't deify it as an essential part of Christianity."

One of Paquin's students, Trevor Simmons, said CCU's strategic objectives "nearly incorporate a political agenda into the curriculum."

Like Colorado Christian, most evangelical colleges and universities expect professors to adhere to confessional tenets. Yet few adopt statements on political or economic systems.

"There is no connection between free markets and Christianity," Armstrong said. "But we teach other things that aren't rooted in Scripture, like that H2O is water."

Stanton Jones, provost at Wheaton College, believes prescribing a wide-ranging set of beliefs, beyond a simple doctrinal and position statement, impinges on a school's much-needed academic freedom. "[Christian colleges] should try to prevent themselves from taking a stance on political and public policy issues that the Bible does not take a clear stand on," he said.

David Dockery, president of Union University, agrees that Christian schools should avoid political stands, but, he said, there is "no such thing as unlimited academic freedom on any campus."

Academic freedom at a Christian university, he said, is "freedom for Christian scholars to explore the great ideas of history in light of the mission of the university and with respect to its denomination."

The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, of which CCU has been a member since 1985, said it offers no guidelines on tenure or academic freedom. A council spokesperson declined to comment on Paquin's firing.

Related Elsewhere:

For more commentary on the firing, see CT Liveblog and Evangelical Minds.

Paquin's article for Christianity Today, "Politically Driven Injustice," is available on our site.

Paquin and his family started the 10/10 Project to fight poverty.

CCU appealed a federal district court decision that denies state financial aid to its students because of the school's religious affiliation.

More articles on Christian colleges are available on our Education page.

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