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They're religious, but these historians say they've never felt the sting of discrimination

Historians in the News




... Randall Balmer, a professor of American religious history at Barnard College, is an ordained Episcopal minister and a self-described evangelical. He is also a liberal. He published an article in The Chronicle Review last year titled "Jesus Is Not a Republican."

He has certainly heard people say that Christian professors are discriminated against. But he has never, in his 22 years of teaching at several universities, seen evidence of that. "The picture that has been painted on the right is that the academy is hostile to faith and is a bastion of secularism," Mr. Balmer says. "I simply haven't encountered that hostility."

He does believe there is a liberal bias in academe. "And thank God for that," he says. "I'm glad there is a bunker against the tide of conservatism that has overtaken every other corner of our country."

It can be tougher for younger Christian faculty members, according to C. John Sommerville, an emeritus professor of English history at the University of Florida. "When people meet resistance, they begin putting off identification of themselves as Christians until they feel more secure," he says.

Mr. Sommerville is the author of The Decline of the Secular University (Oxford University Press, 2006), in which he argues that academe tends to trivialize religion. As a Christian, though, he says, he has never felt discriminated against, and he doesn't know of any Christian colleagues who have, either. "I think it would be rare to feel overt hostility," he says.

George Marsden largely agrees — which is, honestly, something of a surprise. Mr. Marsden, a professor of history at the University of Notre Dame, is the author of The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief (Oxford University Press, 1994), in which he contends that religious viewpoints have been crowded out by feminism and multiculturalism. One might expect him to argue that academe is rife with anti-Christian bias.

But, as a rule, Mr. Marsden believes that colleges are fair to Christian professors. "It's certainly not the case that there's a prejudice that eliminates people with strong religious perspectives from the academy," he says.

That's not to say there aren't exceptions. He has heard of discrimination against professors because of their religion — usually, ironically enough, in religion departments. But, like Mr. Balmer, Mr. Marsden sees politics as the primary factor. "Conservative religious views can be a strike against you if you're early in your academic career," he says, "but it can depend on how those views are presented."

A professor intent on proselytizing may run into trouble. "People who are evangelical Christians can come in with an aggressive attitude that can cause a backlash, and then they do feel discriminated against," he says....
Read entire article at Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE)

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