TAXPAYER MONIES SHOULD BE WITHHELD FROM BJU
Sunday, March 7, 1999
By DARRELL JACKSON, Special to The State
In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court sounded a pronounced end to state-sponsored prohibitions on marriages between persons of different races in the landmark case Loving vs. Virginia.
In 1998, 31 years after the historic Loving decision, the people of this state finally voted to remove the provision of the S.C. Constitution that stated that marriages between the races are prohibited. Although the vote was symbolic because of the decision of the high court, it was still important that we cleaned up our constitution. Yet in 1999, unfortunately, we still have one last symbol of state recognition of limits on the marriage rights of our citizens.
Last year, the General Assembly established LIFE scholarships and state tuition tax credits, two programs providing substantial public benefits to students attending colleges and universities in this state. After some protest, the Legislature made the interesting policy decision to include, among the institutions covered, Bob Jones University in Greenville.
BJU prohibits dating and marriage among students of different races. This policy choice by BJU caused the Internal Revenue Service to revoke the school's tax-exempt status and caused the Veteran's Administration to deny education benefits to students attending the school.
Because of this policy, BJU does not seek accreditation for its academic programs. This lack of accreditation means that its students are not able to participate in myriad federal education assistance programs, such as the Pell Grant program.
So BJU is the only four-year school with students eligible for state assistance programs that does not have to meet rigorous accreditation requirements.
The school is very vigorous in enforcing its discriminatory policy. I recently discovered a letter from the school to a young male applicant who, in response to a question on the application, noted that he was married to a person of a different race. The young man received an e-mail letter from an admissions counselor at the school who informed the applicant that "Bob Jones University does not endorse this. It would be no problem for you to be a student here as long as your wife was not (or vice versa)."
In another letter to the same young man, the school's community relations coordinator further explained the school's policy: "God has separated people for his own purpose. . . . Bob Jones University is opposed to intermarriage of the races because it breaks down the barriers God has established. . . . Although there is no verse in the Bible that dogmatically says that races should not intermarry, the whole plan of God as He has dealt with the races down through the ages indicates that interracial marriage is not best for man."
I recently filed legislation that would delete BJU from the list of institutions eligible for state taxpayer-funded scholarship and tax credit programs. After I filed the legislation, a BJU spokesman said the state knew about the school's policy when the state decided to include the school within the legislation.
While I personally abhor the school's policy on dating and marriage between persons of different races, I do recognize that the school, as a private institution, has the right to implement and observe this policy.
However, the taxpayers of South Carolina should not be required by law to provide public education assistance to a college or university that discriminates. The federal government has consistently rejected the school's attempts to benefit from taxpayer assistance on the federal level. We on the state level should follow that example and withhold benefits from students who attend Bob Jones University while this policy is in place.
Sen. Jackson, a Richland County Democrat, is a minister and business owner.
Copyright 1999 The State