Hidden in the shadows, the elusive and borderline mystical “Justice Collective” weaves in and out of comment sections of Julie Roys, The Wartburg Watch, Righting America, and even here at the Cedarville Interpreter. In their own words, “We are an organization composed of Cedarville University alumni, professors, staff members, and former employees who insist that Dr. Thomas White be immediately terminated as President of the University.” Their concerns with Cedarville, however pointed at Dr. White they may be, are not exclusive to White’s mishandling of Dr. Moore’s hiring and Megan Lively’s rape cover-up at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The Justice Collective is an anonymous coalition of individuals with a vested interest in the wellbeing of Cedarville University. Granted, we do not know how many members of this group exist but we can assume they are telling the truth and that there are at least some employees, staff members, faculty members, and alumni. We do not know to what extent they interact with each other, but we do know that they plan to (or already have) lodge(d) a complaint against Cedarville University with the Higher Learning Commission. This could mean serious legal concerns for Cedarville and could mean de-accreditation by the HLC, rendering degrees from CU null and void (not a great outlook for a junior or senior student who can’t transfer without delaying graduation). This article will take us on a journey to explore the Justice Collective’s qualms with Cedarville University, provide our input on these accusations, and look forward to the best future for Cedarville. Along the way, hopefully we can come closer to understanding who the JC is, as well as provide some commentary on their ideas (since goodness knows, CU won’t say anything about it for fear of publicity).
Censorship of Faculty
In 2017, VP and Lt. Gen Loren Reno enacted “The Biblically Consistent Curriculum Policy,” which we discussed in our article on censorship. According to the JC, who has an inside look at the workings of the University, wrote in a report, “[F]aculty across campus—in professional programs, the sciences, and the liberal arts—voiced opposition to the policy. That opposition was ignored…Some other faculty either skipped the forums [created to “discuss” the policy] or stayed silent during them for fear of reprisal.”
No vote was taken on whether or not to adopt the policy. Reno liked it. It became policy.
Bible professors argued against taking Philippians 4:8 (the backing for the policy) out of context, but their voices were ignored. Cedarville must not become a liberal institution, after all. We must remain conservative even if we have to force the professors into it! Disturbingly, Cedarville enacted this policy right after they were granted ten more years of accreditation by the HLC. Coincidence? We think not…
Since the enactment of the policy, student writing in the Cedarville Review and allegedly even Cedars, whose articles are approved by a faculty advisor, has been censored by the administration, as well as books, pictures, and articles previously available to students that the administration found offensive. In their original report, the JC outline a vast list of known instances of censorship. In conclusion to that section of the report, the JC wrote,
“Although as a private, religious institution CU has great freedom to enact policies that public schools could never enact, and it has the religious freedom to require agreement to its community life standards, it now has violated HLC accreditation mandates in many ways. These violations are completely unethical; they have likewise proved to be emotionally and verbally abusive towards faculty. In short, these violations are as unprofessional as they are unChristian.”
We fully concur with the Justice Collective’s analysis of this obvious censorship policy. Of course, Biblical education should be Biblical. But if we exclude ourselves from any approach to learning that does not directly agree with or include the Bible, we limit ourselves. The Bible is not a textbook, nor is it a guideline for textbooks. Academia involves hearing, understanding, and confronting ideas we find deeply wrong or offensive. It also involves learning from a variety of perspectives. No one benefits from a homogenous education when they are set loose in the real world.
The Gay Purge
The Justice Collective commented on our post about the LGBT+ double-standard at Cedarville. They wrote,
“Immediately upon the SBC-Paige-Patterson takeover and White’s appointment as president, LGBT students received letters in the mail telling them they were no longer welcome at CU, even though there was no evidence that such students were engaging in any behavior that violated the student handbook. Yet, as you note, the same fundamentalist trustees and constituents had no problem excusing White for his abuse of power and gross misjudgment in hiring Anthony Moore whose behavior was criminal. They likewise have no problem with the fact that White hired a visiting professor to teach in the Bible department who is a celibate gay man, Sam Allberry: https://samallberry.com/new-index. So yes, the double standard exists: LGBT-identifying-but-not-practicing students? Not allowed. LGBT-identifying-but-not-practicing professors (and staff members)? Yes. Allowed.”
We are in unison with the Justice Collective when it comes to the LGBT+ community at Cedarville. We ask pleadingly, “WHAT’S THE DEAL?!” Is it ok to be gay as long as you’re friends with Dr. White? As long as you somehow sailed under the radar at seminary? At what point does it become okay to have a unique sexuality? Celibacy doesn’t matter. You can sleep on the DMC floor in sackcloth and ashes singing Gregorian chants, but if you don’t like the opposite gender, well…have fun in hell, Jamie. Do you see the confusion here?
Dr. Anthony Moore
We have mostly chosen to avoid this topic, simply based on the fact that we have very little to add to the discussion. However, the Justice Collective really found their ground during the scandal that took place during the summer of 2020. Over 2,000 of you may recognize the petition they created to have Dr. White fired in the wake of the firing of Dr. Moore (who, by the way, was only fired because people figured out what was going on). They wrote:
Dr. White’s defense of his decision to hire Moore is both naive and illogical. White had discussed Moore’s criminal behavior with leaders at The Village Church back in 2017. By their own account, they told him everything. Therefore, Dr. White knew enough information–had enough details about Moore’s criminal behavior–to likewise know he should not hire Moore, especially just six months after he’d been fired. Yet, he did.
They bring up some important points: Dr. White knew. He knew everything…he knew that voyeurism had occurred with another man involved but still placed Moore in teaching positions and in the men’s locker room. What parent or student, knowing this information, would have approved his hiring? Dr. White did not have the interests of parents or students in mind when he hired Moore. He and his mentor Paige Patterson had only the glory days with the bros at SWBTS in mind. Dr. White argued that he acted out of a spirit of grace and forgiveness, but in doing so he placed students at risk. The Justice Collective put it this way:
We, too, believe in grace and forgiveness. We, too, believe in restoring the one lost sheep who’s wandered away from the ninety-nine. However, such restoration can never happen WHILE the other ninety-nine (or 4000+) sheep are unknowingly and thus, unethically used and put at risk in the process.
“I filed Title IX and Dr. White helped cover it up,” Kiara Lyford wrote in the comment section of the petition to fire Dr. White, “The person it was against was given a Title IX position. I was the bad Christian “for not showing grace” I ended up dropping out. They blamed me for what happened.”
Ah don’t worry, though. Cedarville fired their Title IX coordinator again, which will fix everything (mainly because they don’t have to answer questions about any misconduct they may have been involved in). Dole out the NDAs (JC: “Anyone purged is forced to sign an NDA in order to get severance pay, an unethical practice akin to blackmail. They are threatened with legal action if they break the NDA”). Fire professors who speak up. Randomly “gift” the police department with thousands of dollars during chapel (this bizarre sequence did in fact take place). Between the silencing of allegations and the shady dealings of the University both with its staff and the surrounding community, I have no doubt that far more lies in the shadows than we could imagine. Cedarville must be held accountable for these shortcomings and abuses.
The Justice Collective listed four statements “from students who went through traumatic events and were shamed by leaders on campus and/or given inadequate professional help.” These stories have been discussed in our previous articles and include figureheads such as Dr. White, Dr. Wood, and Dr. May among others. These individuals must be held accountable, even if that means they are removed from their positions. Parents have no reason to entrust their children to (and, more importantly, students have no reason to trust in) leaders who have propagated such abuse at Cedarville.
The Justice Collective documented eight statements of, “Faculty and student reports of mismanagement by top administrators and how those administrators created and encouraged a workplace of fear, intimidation and unfairness.”
I have personally spoken to professors who have not-so-subtly hinted at the culture of fear that exists for faculty. They must walk on eggshells in order to be teaching the exact right thing for fear of reprisal from the University. This is academic slavery: holding faculty to an impossible standard while ignoring Biblical standards in a plethora of other areas. Cedarville ignores its student body, it ignores its professors, and far too often it ignores fundamental Biblical principles. It has confused “campus culture” with “mandatory community” as well as a plethora of other legalistic requirements.
I cannot emphasize enough that Cedarville University is too strict: too strict in its dress code (especially toward women), too strict in its theological stances on women, the LGBT community (although equally as confused as strict), creationism, and many other questionable doctrines, and it is too strict in its conservative (never EVER leaning toward liberal EVER) ideology. Cedarville cannot and must not ignore these problems forever. It’s time to make a change.
Cedarville ought to create an anonymous way for students to offer suggestions for change of the Cedarville student handbook, whether it be written suggestion forms or an amnesty forum where students can suggest changes in person. The Cedarville University handbook is due for an overhaul, and who better to help shape its future than its own students?