The North American Division has announced that the appeal in the LSU-3 lawsuit has been dismissed, thus finally ending the litigation. ADvindicate readers will recall that this case began with an inadvertent recording of a conversation among three La Sierra professors Jeffrey Kaatz, James Beach, and Gary Bradley and La Sierra board member Lenny Darnell at the home of James Beach April 20, 2011.Read More
Last Saturday while attending my local church, I read a flyer in the bulletin that invited me to attend a soup and salad study by La Sierra University professors Kendra and Gil Valentine. The flyer said they would be considering "ways of reading the Bible that allow texts to live anew in our contemporary world and in our particular stories. Implications of this approach will be explored for the Theology of Ordination Committee, Ellen White, and the Fourth Gospel."Read More
The lesson is clear: systematically attacking foundational Adventist beliefs will yield zero discipline—a gaping yawn—but personal slights to church officers or minor behavioral deviations will get you fired so quick your head will spin.Read More
Last week, the board of AAA, chaired by Lisa Beardsley-Hardy, voted to certify that La Sierra University is uniquely Adventist in its identity, and is adequately fulfilling its religious mission. This certification lasts for three years, through 2016. This is an appalling failure on the part of AAA.Read More
A special visiting team from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) has commended La Sierra University for the considerable work the school has completed addressing concerns regarding university governance expressed by the regional accrediting association.Read More
La Sierra University, a Seventh-day Adventist-owned educational institution in Riverside, California, received a three-year accreditation through 2016, following a vote by the Adventist Accrediting Association (AAA) board, meeting Wednesday, October 9, in Silver Spring, Maryland.Read More
Constituency delegates approved a series of changes to La Sierra University’s bylaws during a special meeting held on the campus on May 23. The revised bylaws document passed by a vote of 69-10, or 87 percent, well beyond the two-thirds vote required for passage. The bylaws revisions provide refinement to La Sierra University’s governance, while addressing some concerns about the university’s bylaws expressed since 1996 by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, La Sierra’s regional accrediting agency. This follows an information session held on February 21 in which constituents offered feedback and suggestions on the proposed bylaws revisions.
“We all need to appreciate the difficult task that our Articles and Bylaws Committee members have had to complete,” said Ricardo Graham, Pacific Union president and current La Sierra University board chair. “During their nearly two years of study and review, committee members have listened to constituency delegate feedback, and have used care to ensure the revised bylaws meet current governance needs while reinforcing La Sierra University’s clear and unequivocal connection to the Seventh-day Adventist Church and its mission and philosophy.”
The significant bylaws changes fall into two main areas:
- Changing the way in which the board chair is selected.
- Making clear the specific roles of the Board of Trustees and the university President.
Delegates approved bylaws changes that require, in consultation with Pacific Union Conference officers, La Sierra University’s Board chair to be elected by the board itself from one of the four ex officio member Union officers, rather than automatically being the Union president. This change allows the trustees to select their own chair, while simultaneously ensuring that the chair will always be an officer of the Pacific Union. An additional key limitation would be that neither the chair or vice chair of La Sierra’s board can serve concurrently as chair or vice chair of another university or college board. This resolves Pacific Union Conference’s unique issue in its operation of two institutions. La Sierra University and Pacific Union College both faced questions from the accrediting agency on this issue that are not faced by institutions in the rest of the North American Division.
Since 1990, La Sierra’s board membership has included nine ex officio members (the Pacific Union Conference president, secretary, treasurer, vice president; the Pacific Union Conference education director; the presidents of the Arizona, Southeastern California, and Southern California Conferences; and the university president); and 14 members elected by the constituency. No change in that composition was considered during this process. Additionally, the revised bylaws require all 14 elected trustees be members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Previously one elected trustee could be from outside the Church.
The approved bylaws charge the Board of Trustees with ensuring that the mission and major policies of the university reflect the goals and objectives of the Adventist Church. Other changes recognize the limitations of expecting a board to manage day-to-day details of a complex institution.
The board will continue to appoint the president, provost, and vice president for financial administration, and grant tenure to members of the faculty. This allows the board to have direct interaction with the administrative, academic, and financial leaders of the university. It allows trustees to maintain financial oversight of the university, and to establish the policies necessary to university governance. The president is identified as the university officer accountable for implementing the board’s broad policies into daily operations.
Trustees will also focus on providing strategic vision for the university, establishing governing policies, and protecting the university’s assets. The full bylaws document identifies 18 specific governance functions retained by the trustees under the revised bylaws. The full document will be posted on the university website after the bylaws committee completes editorial changes voted by the delegates
“God’s spirit was evident throughout the session,” Graham said. “I appreciated how delegates cared so much about these issues, as demonstrated through the robust discussion and their insightful questions.
“I am optimistic about La Sierra University’s future,” Graham concluded. “The board, administration, and faculty are committed to building this outstanding institution of higher education and developing the Christian commitment of every student.”
For Immediate Release May 23, 2013 Larry Becker firstname.lastname@example.org
Since my “Open Letter to Ted Wilson” regarding the proposed changes to La Sierra University's bylaws, the university has released four press releases that appear to respond to the issue. On March 5 LSU noted that the vote on the bylaw changes, which was to have been held on February 21, had been postponed until May 23, 2013, at 1 p.m. The meeting had been scheduled at the Pacific Union Conference headquarters in Westlake Village, but that violated the bylaws, which required that constituency meetings be held at the La Sierra campus.
According to the story, 72 delegates attending what became an “informational meeting,” examined the proposed changes, “asked probing questions, and shared suggestions about a number of items in the proposed Bylaws document. Members of the Articles and Bylaws Committee attended the February 21 meeting to hear the constituents’ comments. They will meet to consider the feedback, and adjust the proposed changes where advisable.” But if the bylaw changes have been modified at all, no new version has been posted online.
Next, on March 15, LSU posted a press release titled "Is La Sierra University Leaving the Adventist Church? No!"
This raises the question: How many other Seventh-day Adventist colleges have to answer questions about whether they are leaving the church? What is it about La Sierra that leads people wonder whether it is leaving the church? The article states:
Several groups and individuals are using postings on independent websites to allege proposed changes in La Sierra University’s bylaws are an attempt to weaken or break the school’s historic ties with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Then LSU tries to argue that this is not true. But according to LSU, these changes to the board structure have been demanded by Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), and WASC has indeed stated that “an educational institution’s board and administration should preserve their independence from . . . external parties, such as related entities,” the term “related entities” including sponsoring denominations. The stated purpose of the bylaw changes is to satisfy WASC that the university is sufficiently autonomous from the Seventh-day Adventist Church. LSU can hardly argue both that the bylaw changes are necessary to satisfy secular accreditation, and that they do not weaken the church's control over the University. That's trying to have it both ways. If the bylaw changes address WASC's concerns, then obviously they are intended to weaken the university's ties to the church.
The March 15 posting has several numbered statements. The first states:
1. Throughout the university’s accreditation conversations and bylaws revision process, La Sierra University’s Articles and Bylaws Committee maintained the position that the university would remain distinctively Adventist. Governance concerns expressed by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), our regional accrediting body, prompted the bylaws discussion. But WASC’s concerns were focused on the University’s governance practices, not on its mission. During their two years of careful work to resolve WASC issues, committee members also ensured the bylaws remained in alignment with the University’s mission and values, developed and voted by the faculty, staff, and trustees.
The real question is why does WASC have governance concerns about La Sierra? La Sierra's Board of Trustees is structured exactly like every other union-affiliated Seventh-day Adventist college in North America. Why has no other secular accrediting body in North America expressed concerns about the board structure of an Adventist college?
WASC has taken the remarkable stance that, “Concerns can arise when the board chair is responsible to a related entity, such as a religious institution, . . .” But all SDA tertiary educational institutions have a union president or other church official as their ex officio board chair, who obviously is “responsible to a related . . .religious institution.” All union-affiliated colleges have the union president as their board chair. So WASC has just fired a shot across the bow of the entire tertiary educational apparatus of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. WASC is casting aspersion on all of our colleges’ governing boards. WASC is, in effect, demanding that the church cut loose its entire higher educational structure. If the LSU constituency caves in to this pressure from a secular accrediting authority, it jeopardizes the entire SDA tertiary educational establishment in North America.
The author of LSU's press release makes a distinction between governance and mission, but if the mission of La Sierra is to be governed by the SDA Church, then changes to its governance will impair its mission. This board structure, used throughout North America, has been developed in order to ensure that the SDA Church retains control of its schools. Without structures in place to ensure church control, the church has no way of making certain that its schools continue to support and promote the mission of the church. To change the board structure is to undermine the ability of the church to ensure that La Sierra is faithful to its mission.
2. The proposed bylaws require the Board of Trustees to ensure the mission and major policies of the university are well aligned with the goals and objectives of the Adventist Church. The board oversees the strategic plan and its progress. Adventist mission is central to the function of the board.
The proposed bylaw changes transfer almost all governing power away from the Board of Trustees and vest it in the president of the university, so the board will no longer have the power to ensure anything. For example, all power to hire and fire is removed from the board and given to the president; the board will not even retain oversight in this area. So how can the board ensure that faculty hires are aligned with the goals and objectives of the church? If the mission and major policies of the university are not aligned with the goals and objectives of the Adventist Church, the board will have no power to do anything except fire the president and hope for better luck next time.
3. The revised bylaws make no change in the number or offices of the church leaders who serve the board on an ex officio basis. The board will continue to have among its members the Pacific Union Conference president, secretary, treasurer, vice president, director of education, and the presidents of the Southern and Southeastern California conferences and the Arizona Conference.
But the quorum rule is changed so that there is no quorum unless lay members outnumber ex officio members. And the Pacific Union Conference president can no longer serve as the president of La Sierra's board of trustees as long as he continues to chair PUC's board of trustees. Moreover, the chair changes from an ex officio to an elected position, which obviously weakens the power of the board chair relative to all other board members and the university president. Again, remember that these changes are designed to satisfy WASC that La Sierra has sufficient independence from the Seventh-day Adventist Church. That is the stated purpose of the changes to the structure of the Board of Trustees, so it is disingenuous, to say the least, to argue that they do not loosen the SDA Church's control over the university.
4. La Sierra University’s comprehensive Spiritual Master Plan (entire document available at: http://www.lasierra.edu/index.php?id=8122) makes the following clear statements about the university’s commitment to the church:
- La Sierra University is committed to the Seventh-day Adventist faith and life.
- La Sierra University embraces the biblical Sabbath as a gift of sacred time.
- La Sierra looks to the future with eagerness, anticipating the fulfillment of the Advent hope.
La Sierra University remains deeply committed to the Adventist philosophy of education. Our mission of seeking truth, knowing God, and serving others is daily experienced by our students and those privileged to accompany them on their educational journey. The university’s Spiritual Master Plan guides our work in providing invigorating classroom conversations, meaningful worship experiences, and transformative service opportunities,” says Randal Wisbey, president.
La Sierra claims to embrace the biblical Sabbath “as a gift of sacred time,” but the Sabbath is sacred because God hallowed it at the creation; it is more than just a gift of time, it is a memorial to God's work of creation in a literal week. Adventism came into existence largely to call people back to worship on the day that God set aside at the creation. (Gen. 2:2-3; Ex. 20:11; Rev. 14:7) If mainstream science is correct in its theories about origins—life spontaneously self-assembled and self-vivified, and evolved from single-celled forms over the course of some six hundred million years, and humans evolved from an apelike ancestor some two million years ago—then the Adventist faith is utter nonsense. Yet La Sierra has been teaching this view of origins as truth for many years, and has resisted all efforts to reform this aspect of its curriculum. This casts grave doubt on the university's commitment to the Adventist faith.
La Sierra points us to a “Spiritual Master Plan,” but having a plan for the future is no substitute for upholding plain Bible truth right now. Moreover, the plan raises more questions than it answers. It discusses a science-faith seminar, but previous efforts in this area were probably more corrosive to Adventist faith than the biology classes.
According to the “Spiritual Master Plan,” subjects that will be featured at campus-wide assemblies include “earth care, women’s issues, service, mission, social justice, Christian responsibility,” a litany of liberal enthusiasms.
The problem with any “Spiritual Master Plan” that La Sierra might devise is that it will be implemented by the extremely liberal religion faculty. That faculty was formed by Fritz Guy, who recently co-wrote a book arguing that the writer of Genesis intended to convey that the raqia [Heb. = expanse, firmament, sky] is actually an inverted metal dome:
Then there's John Webster, who told the students in the seminar class that the literal (Historical-Grammatical) method, which is the approved method of Biblical interpretation is “not particularly helpful,” and it might be more helpful to view the opening chapters of Genesis not as how the world came into being, but how it was inaugurated to be God’s dwelling place. Then there's Tricia Famisaran, who urges us to repent of our sins of heterosexism and patriarchy, and suggests that since Lady Gaga has determined that homosexuals were “born that way,” the rest of us should act accordingly:
In sum, a “spiritual plan” is only as good as the people who implement it. A fine-sounding plan cannot take the place of a dedicated and committed Board of Trustees having real governing power, who will put in place a dedicated and committed president and faculty.
Much of LSU's official response to the bylaw change issue is aimed at trying to get the LSU constituency—which has an ethical obligation to inform itself, from any and all sources, regarding the nature, details, and effects of the bylaw changes it is being asked to vote for—to pay no attention to anyone other than the current LSU administration:
While the theories these critics present appear to be objective, they omit important information about the bylaws, the revision process, and recent actions by the university’s board, administration, and faculty. . . . Critical voices are often loud, and their accusatory tone attracts attention. Their self-assured manner suggests that they are speaking with authority. But be assured, there are other more credible voices to be heard.”
But the constituents can judge for themselves what is truth while considering several points of view. “In a multitude of counselors there is safety.” Prov. 11:14. It is always better to consider both sides of the story. “He that speaks first in his own cause seems just; until his neighbor comes and examines him.” Prov. 18:17. It should be clear that when Wisbey advocates these bylaw changes, he speaks in his own cause.
Moreover, LSU Constituent Members do not represent the current administration, nor do they exist to rubber-stamp the existing administration's agenda. The constituency represents the entire Adventist community in Southern California and the Pacific Union, and its commission is to ensure that the University remains faithful to its mission and founding purpose. For LSU to discourage its constituent members from hearing all points of view is like the president discouraging your congressman from listening to your point of view on pending legislation.
Next, on April 5, LSU treated us to a brief history of its accreditation.
The point of this press release seems to be to claim that WASC first raised board structure/governance concerns in 1996, long before Wisbey became president (and, in fact, early in Larry Geraty's tenure as president). We are told that the two main items WASC wanted addressed way back in 1996 were:
1. The number of trustees not employed by any entity of the SDA Church (deemed insufficient at the time), and
2. That the president of the Pacific Union Conference also served as chair of the Pacific Union College board. WASC recommended four steps to take in beginning to address this issue.
We are expected to infer from this information that WASC's intrusion cannot have been solicited by Randal Wisbey, because WASC had these same concerns 11 years before Wisbey became president of La Sierra.
Now, let me see if I have this straight: WASC raises concerns about La Sierra's board structure back in 1996, does nothing for fourteen (14) years, grants LSU accreditation for a full 8-year term in 2010, then says, “oh, by the way, fix your board structure like we said back in 1996.”
To whatever extent WASC raised a concern about board structure in 1996, it was obviously answered back then. The notion that WASC allowed a concern to fester, unaddressed, for 14 years is a non-starter. The concerns were addressed, and WASC was satisfied, back in 1996. Moreover, if the board structure were such a grave concern to WASC, would WASC have extended full accreditation to La Sierra in 2010—fourteen years after the concerns were first raised without them ever having been addressed? Bear in mind that LSU's accreditation is valid until 2018, a full 22 years after the concerns were first raised.
The idea that there is continuity of concern between 1996 and 2010 is surreal. Obviously, the governance issue somehow got put back on the front burner after 14 years of being a non-issue. Why? Because (one strongly suspects) Randal Wisbey wants bylaw changes that he knows he cannot push through without a threat from the accreditors.
But is WASC being consistent in making these demands? There are three separate Brigham Young Universities, the main one in Provo, Utah, another in Idaho, and a third in Hawaii. All three are separate institutions; the Idaho and Hawaii schools are not branch campuses of the BYU in Utah. These three schools share one (1) board of trustees headed up by one (1) man, Thomas S. Monson, the current president and prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All of the board members are high officers in the Mormon Church, and most if not all are paid by the Mormon Church. There are no elected lay members on the board; all board members are there by virtue of their offices in the Mormon Church. In other words, they are all ex officios.
The Brigham Young University in Hawaii is within WASC's territorial jurisdiction. Is WASC demanding that BYUH have a separate board? Is WASC demanding that Thomas Monson step down as board chair of BYUH because he also chairs the board for the Utah and Idaho schools? Is WASC demanding that the Mormon Church pack its unitary board with lay members who hold no high offices in the church? The answer to all these questions is, of course, no. Why? Because WASC understands that it exists to ensure basic academic standards, not to dictate to religious denominations how they shall govern their educational establishments. In fact, in 2008, WASC reaffirmed BYUH's accreditation for 10 years.
Finally, on April 12, LSU posted an article explaining the importance of accreditation.
But no one disputes the value of accreditation, and accreditation is not the issue here. La Sierra could retain its current board structure throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity without ever jeopardizing its secular accreditation. The problem is that Randal Wisbey wants to be his own boss, with no real possibility of any meaningful interference from the larger Seventh-day Adventist community. These bylaw changes are a huge step in that direction. WASC doesn't really care about these changes; in the case of BYUH, WASC has not challenged a single, unitary board and board chair governing three separate Mormon institutions, consisting only of church ex officios, with no elected lay members.
The constituency of LSU must not allow itself to be stampeded by an empty, solicited accreditation threat into approving bylaw changes that should never be approved, and that place at risk the entire tertiary educational structure of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
LA SIERRA UNIVERSITY CONSTITUENT MEMBERS2013
48 MEMBERS OF THE PACIFIC UNION EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE 9 MEMBERS (IN RED) ARE ALSO ON THE LSU BOARD OF TRUSTEES AND CAN'T BE COUNTED TWICE
PACIFIC UNION 1. RICARDO GRAHAM, CHAIR 2. BRADFORD NEWTON, VICE CHAIR 3. THEODORE BENSON 4. ARNOLD TRUJILLO 5. VICLOUIS ARREOLA 6. BOBBY MITCHELL 7. JORGE SORIA 8. BERIT VON POHLE
ARIZONA CONFERENCE 9. TONY ANOBILE, PRESIDENT 10. THAINE CREITZ 11. ISABEL FRITZLER 12. CHARLES WHITE
CENTRAL CALIFORNIA CONFERENCE 13. RAMIRO CANO, PRESIDENT 14. CURLIE CARLISLE 15. ANTONIO HUERTA 16. CHAD STUART 17. MATT TRESENRITER
HAWAII CONFERENCE 19. RALPH WATTS, LLL, PRESIDENT 20. ELLIE KAANAANA 21. ENRIQUE MARTINEZ 22. WALT NELSON
NEVADA-UTAH CONFERENCE 23. LARRY UNTERSEHER, PRESIDENT 24. MISTEE ARIAS 25. KELLI PERSHING PRIEST 26. SHANNON SKELTON
NORTHERN CALIFORNIA CONFERENCE 27. JIM PEDERSEN, PRESIDENT 28. VIRGIL CHILDS 29. HUGO LEON 30. JIM LORENZ 31. GEORGE MILLER 32. BARBARA MORRISON
SOUTHEASTERN CALIFORNIA CONFERENCE 33. GERALD PENNICK, PRESIDENT 34. VERONICA CHALCO 35. DEAN HORINOUCHI* 36. CHARLES JOHNSON 37. CHRIS OBERG* 38. ALICE SODERBLOM
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA CONFERENCE 39. LARRY CAVINESS, PRESIDENT 40. ALFREDO LEE 41. PETER LOU 42. KATHLEEN MYERS 43. MYRIAM SALCEDO-GONZALEZ 44. MAURITA PHILLIPS-THORNBURGH
ADVENTIST HEALTH 45. BOB CARMEN, PRESIDENT
PACIFIC PRESS PUBLISHING ASSOCIATION 46. DALE GALUSHA, PRESIDENT
LA SIERRRA UNIVERSITY 47. RANDAL WISBEY, PRESIDENT
PACIFIC UNION COLLEGE 48. HEATHER KNIGHT, PRESIDENT
MEMBERS OF THE LSU BOARD OF TRUSTEES 13 ELECTED MEMBERS OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES
49. JOAN COGGIN (Retired Physician) 50. HENRY COIL JR. (Businessman) 51. KAREN GAIO HANSBERGER (Physician) 52. ERNIE HWANG (Bank President) 53. MEREDITH JOBE (Attorney) 54. DONALD KANEN (Businessman) 55. ALVIN KWIRAM (Academic Administrator) 56. GERALD MCINTOSH (Businessman) 57. CHRIS OBERG (Pastor) 58. ALINA SANCHEZ (Businesswoman) 59. MARILENE WANG (Physician) 60. JUDY ST. JOHN 61. ALVARO BOLIVAR
REMAINING CONSTITUENT MEMBERS
THE PROVOST 62. STEVE PAWLUK
THE VICE PRESIDENTS 63. NORMAN YERGEN, Vice President for Advancement 64. DAVID GERIGUIS, M.B.A., Vice President for Finance 65. YAMI BAZAN, M.A., Vice President for Student Life 66. DAVID LOFTHOUSE, B.S., Vice President for Enrollment Services 67. MARILYN THOMSEN, Ph.D.,Vice President for Communication
THE DEANS 68. ADENY SCHMIDT, Ph.D., College of Arts and Sciences 69. JOHN THOMAS, Ph.D., Dean, School of Business 70. GINGER KETTING-WELLER Ph.D., Dean, School of Education 71. JOHN WEBSTER, Ph.D., Dean, School of Religion
THE CHAIR OF THE FACULTY SENATE 72. SANDY BALLI
PLUS 4 ELECTED FACULTY SENATE REPRESENTATIVES 73. 74. 75. 76.
PLUS TWO STAFF MEMBERS 77. 78.
TWO ELECTED STUDENTS ASSOCIATION MEMBERS 79. 80.
SIX ALUMNI ASSOCIATION BOARD OF DIRECTORS 81. NORMAN POWELL, PRESIDENT 82. 83. 84. 85. 86.
TWO ARIZONA CONFERENCE REPRESENTATIVES 87. 88.
THREE SOUTHEASTERN CALIFORNIA CONFERENCE REPRESENTATIVES 89. 90. 91.
THREE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA CONFERENCE REPRESENTATIVE 92. 93. 94.
This list is incomplete.
In a couple of days, fewer than 100 people will determine whether the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America will hold onto any of its tertiary educational institutions. The constituents of La Sierra University have been called to a special session this Thursday, February 21, where they will be asked to approve radical changes to La Sierra's bylaws that will loosen the University's connection to the Church. Under pressure from WASC, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, a sub-committee of La Sierra's Board of Trustees has drafted proposed bylaw changes that dilute church representation on the Board of Trustees, weaken the position of the Board chair, and transfer most of the Board's governing power to the president of the University.
The proposed bylaw changes ensure that lay Trustees will always outnumber church official Trustees; in fact, the provision regarding Board quorums is amended so that there is no quorum unless lay Trustees outnumber church officials. The new bylaws would make the office of board chair an elected office, elected by the other board members, and would prevent the Pacific Union president from ever serving as chairman, or vice chair, of the Board of Trustees, assuming that he continues to serve as chairman of the PUC Board of Trustees. The proposed bylaws also strengthen the position of vice-chair and make that officially a lay position.
These changes are in response to WASC's expressed desire for greater board autonomy, by which WASC means greater independence from the official Seventh-day Adventist Church. But all of our union-affiliated colleges' governing boards are set up exactly like La Sierra's: the union president is ex-officio chairman of the board, and all affiliated conference presidents are board members. No other secular accrediting organization has ever taken issue with this arrangement. But you can expect that, if La Sierra knuckles under to WASC's demands and approves these bylaw changes, all the other regional accrediting bodies will try to enforce similar demands of our other colleges. If sound educational policy demands an autonomous board in Southern California, then sound educational policy demands it in Northern California, Washington, Nebraska, Texas, Tennessee, Michigan, and Maryland, as well. Eventually, and sooner than you think, all of our Adventist tertiary educational institutions will be Adventist in “heritage” only; they will no longer be governed by officers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
How did we get to this dangerous place?
We got here because some of “us” do not want our educational institutions to be governed by the Adventist Church, and are willing to go to great lengths to see that they aren't. This faction has long seen accreditation as a way to secularize Adventist tertiary education. They would love for the SDA Church to be forced to choose between a truly Adventist education, on the one hand, and secular accreditation with its prestige and government money, on the other. They constantly argue, on such blogs as Spectrum, that Adventist education cannot be truly Adventist and still maintain secular accreditation. Indeed, they argue that Adventist education cannot be real education, much less accredited education, unless it abandons the Adventist educational philosophy. For example, T. Joe Willey recently wrote at Spectrum:
Beyond governance issues and outside interference, how will Adventists come to terms with not just biology, but all of higher education? This will be problematic if the church’s traditionalists continue to maintain that Scriptural authority has absolute priority over history, science, psychology, social science, philosophy as well as theology — that it is infallible and cannot be circumvented and is above challenge by methodological naturalism or scientific data or evidence. If this policy is going to be used to cast off outside approvals or accreditation commissions . . . the church could then face closing down its academic colleges and universities [or] transforming them into unaccredited Bible colleges. Willey, “The Accreditation of La Sierra University: Tampering with Financial Consequences,” Spectrum, January 28, 2013.
So far, there is no real conflict between accreditation and upholding the Adventist philosophy of education, just a strong desire for such a conflict on the part of secularists within our midst. Secular accrediting associations understand that church schools exist to further the mission of the sponsoring denomination, which will sometimes include a different view of origins, among other things. Creationists in the Adventist Church and elsewhere want Darwinism taught and understood in our schools—indeed, we want our students to understand it better than students in state universities—but we want it taught and understood as a false theory of origins. The truth about our origins is set forth in the Word of God and in the inspired testimonies of Ellen White.
But although there is no genuine conflict between Adventist education and secular accreditation, certain ones so desperately want such a conflict to exist that they are willing to foment it. They are willing to make it actually happen. Which brings us back to the immediate situation at La Sierra.
Apparently, former La Sierra Trustee Lenny Darnell wrote to the WASC commission with responsibility for accrediting La Sierra and urged them to demand that the board structure be changed. Darnell managed to record himself saying, “And if there's any way that Lenny can figure out, there's gonna be a memo to the WASC commission that says that you need to demand that we dismantle this ex-officio structure, or these problems will never go away. And this needs to be . . . whatever language you want to use, you need to say that we're coming back in two years and it has to be different.”
Even if we didn't have a recording of Lenny Darnell planning to solicit WASC to demand the exact change to the structure of the Board of Trustees that WASC ultimately demanded, and that the constituents will be asked to vote on Thursday, it could easily be deduced that Randal Wisbey, or some intermediary working on his behalf, had contacted WASC and solicited bylaw changes, based upon the following facts:
- Denominational ownership has never before been seen as an impediment to secular accreditation.
- All of the union-affiliated Adventists colleges have governing boards set up exactly like La Sierra's: the union president is ex-officio chairman of the board and all affiliated conference presidents are board members. WASC is essentially decreeing that any sectarian school that is actually governed by the sect--as opposed to just loosely affiliated with a denomination--cannot receive secular accreditation. This is an astonishing position, and may well be a novel argument. As far as I am aware, no other secular accrediting organization has ever taken issue with our standard governing board structure.
- WASC would never say, “La Sierra, you're too tightly bound to your sponsoring denomination; make changes to your bylaws to loosen the connection” without knowing in advance that the suggestion would be agreeable. If the president, Board of Trustees, and the Pacific Union were all united on the present board structure, such a demand to re-structure the board would be expected to draw a lawsuit. Yet WASC made that demand of La Sierra because it had been assured that the administration wanted these board changes, and hence WASC would not be buying a lawsuit by demanding them.
- WASC would expect to lose such a lawsuit. When I've mooted this issue online, liberals argue that WASC has a free hand to bully colleges because accreditation is voluntary and a college can simply choose not to be accredited. This is a poor argument. Accreditation is effectively no longer voluntary; federal grant and loan aid depend upon accreditation, as does transferability of credits and use of a degree as a prerequisite for admission to graduate schools. Because accreditation is crucial to a college, it cannot arbitrarily be removed; an accrediting association cannot make unreasonable demands. If La Sierra sued, WASC would back down, but they never would have made this demand had La Sierra insiders not solicited it.
- Randal Wisbey resents efforts to interfere with La Sierra's inculcation of Darwinism. He allowed Louis Bishop to be disciplined three times for pointing out that La Sierra was undermining Seventh-day Adventist beliefs on origins, he demonizes those who, like the founders of Educate Truth, call attention to La Sierra's wrong teaching on origins, he has frustrated all efforts, internal and external, to address La Sierra's origins problem, he fired Lee Greer over Greer's rapprochement with Larry Blackmer on the origins issue, and he had three Trustees thrown off the Board for their efforts to address the problem. Wisbey wants these bylaw changes in order to put an end, once and for all, to any efforts by the Board of Trustees to address the origins issue. The proposed bylaw changes will put faculty, curriculum, and normal university operations far beyond the purview of the Board of Trustees.
- If the bylaw changes were really driven by WASC, they would address only WASC's stated concerns: the structure of the board and the close connection to the official Seventh-day Adventist Church. But the overwhelming majority of the bylaw changes take governing power away from the Board of Trustees and give it to the president. This is contrary to WASC's stated policy on governing boards. WASC intends for governing boards to have strong oversight and strong committees in such areas as finance and academic affairs, but these bylaw changes strip the Board of most of its power to in these areas. In fact, the bylaw changes strike out the committee names (Executive, Membership, Academic Affairs, Personnel, Student Life, Trusteeship, and Finance) because these Board committees will no longer be necessary—the Board will lose its governing authority in these areas. That most of the bylaw changes are contrary to WASC policies demonstrates that WASC was never the driving force behind the bylaw changes. This is a power grab. Randal Wisbey is seizing power from the Board of Trustees and from the Church.
Where do we go from here?
First, we go to California and defeat these bylaw changes. They will require a two-thirds majority to pass, and things are not so far gone that two thirds of the La Sierra constituency will vote for something that has the potential to divest the entire church in North America of its tertiary educational apparatus.
And make no mistake, we are playing for all the marbles. Some fourteen months ago, I was blogging with someone who seemed extremely knowledgeable about La Sierra, but who was using a pseudonym. He wrote:
Interestingly enough, the LSU bylaws are being rewritten under WASC's guidance as we speak. Presuming the "permanent" (ex-officio) board member positions including the automatic Chairmanship by the PUC President are eliminated or weakened would you expect the PUC to stand idly by and see their "ownership" of LSU diluted by a bothersome third party whom they see as the cause of their problems in the first place? Perhaps they will go to the courts to protect their investment and control.
On the question of how much WASC can interfere with curriculum and board structure, my answer is, not much. The strategy of using secular accreditation to effectively wrench La Sierra free of church control is too cute, and it won't work if the church is willing to sue WASC on First Amendment Freedom of Religion grounds. But, as I've said several times, if La Sierra even comes close to setting a bad precedent with WASC, we should close it down and sell the property.
As for how much WASC can interfere with board structure - isn't that what is happening[?] Quite a bit, it seems, if rumors are correct. WASC even visited the LSU campus a couple of months ago to lay out exactly the changes they are demanding. . . . In the end, I don't think the church will have the option of shutting down only LSU. I think it's going to be an all-in game. Accept accreditation and accept severe limits on church structural and functional control of the church's tertiary institutions in the U.S. or close them ALL down.
I have since come to believe that the person I was blogging with was Lenny Darnell, the same former La Sierra Trustee who said he would write WASC demanding that the ex-officio board structure be done away with. Lenny is wrong about La Sierra, and Adventist education, and Seventh-day Adventism, but he's right about one thing: This is an all-in game, one hand for all the chips on the table. We defeat these bylaw changes or we risk losing all of our colleges.
The La Sierra University constituents will meet in a special session on February 21, to consider proposed changes to the university's bylaws. The recommendations address concerns about university governance issues identified by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), La Sierra's regional accrediting body.Read More
Part I: A Summary and Evaluation of the Bylaw Changes, Taken as a Whole.
These bylaw changes have three main goals: 1) to dilute the vote of the church officials on the Board of Trustees, and ensure that they are outnumbered by lay Trustees; 2) to weaken the office of Chairman of the Board of Trustees; and 3) to greatly diminish the governing power of the Board of Trustees, and, pari passu, to concentrate power in the hands of the University's president.
The changes aimed at diluting official church influence include making the Pacific Union Conference president ineligible to be chairman of the Board, changing the rules on constituent-elected Trustees so that only two can be church employees, changing the quorum rule so that a quorum is achieved only if lay members outnumber church officers, and expanding the powers of the (lay) vice-chair. These changes are clearly intended to dilute and weaken the Seventh-day Adventist Church's influence over the Board of Trustees and hence over La Sierra University.
The changes designed to weaken the office of chairman of the Board of Trustees include changing the position from an automatic ex-officio position to an elected position, providing that the chairman may be removed from office, with or without cause, by a two-thirds vote of the Trustees present, strengthening the office of vice-chair, and strengthening the power of the president relative the power of the Board Chairman. These changes are designed to make it difficult for the Chairman of the Board to exercise real authority over the Board, the University, and the president, and constitute a counter-balancing power to the president.
The changes designed to weaken the Board of Trustees include stripping the Board of the power to set policy, stripping the Board of the power to write policy manuals, stripping the Board of the power to hire and fire the vice presidents, deans, provosts, department chairs and faculty, stripping the Board of any real financial oversight, stripping the Board of the power to oversee fund raising, and stripping the Board of its power to “control all affairs and business, and to be informed of the work of the various schools, departments, committees, and programs.” All these powers that the Board currently exercises are given to the president, concentrating an extraordinary amount of power in the president's hands. The obvious intent of these bylaw changes is to prevent the Board of Trustees from exercising control over the operation of La Sierra University, and to render the Board a rubber-stamp to the president.
Part II: A Detailed Description and Analysis of the Major Proposed Changes
A. Changes to the Structure and Composition of the Board of Trustees:
Change: Section 6.2 is amended to lower the number of non-ex-officio Trustees (i.e., constituent-elected Trustees) who may be church employees from 5 to 2.
Analysis: This change ensures that lay Board members will be a majority of the Board of Trustees. Currently there are 8 church officers automatically on the Board. There are fourteen other Board members appointed by the constituents, of who five can be church employees. If all five were church employees, the church officers and employees would outnumber the lay Trustees 13 to 9 not counting the president. With this change, church officers and employees will be a maximum of 10, and can never outnumber the lay members, who will be a minimum of 12, not counting the president. This change clearly dilutes and weakens official Seventh-day Adventist Church control over the University and can only be intended to do exactly that.
Change: Currently, the president of the Pacific Union is automatically the chairman of the Board of Trustees. Section 6.5 is amended to provide that the chairman shall be elected from among the union officers serving on the Board (Vice President, Secretary, or Treasurer) Also, “neither the chair or vice-chair shall be the chair or vice-chair of any other accredited institution.” The president of the University serves as acting Board chairman until the chairman is elected.
Analysis: The president of the Pacific Union may never again be elected chair of La Sierra's Board of Trustees, assuming that Pacific Union College does not change its bylaws and hence that the president of the Pacific Union continues to serve automatically as chair of the Board of Trustees of Pacific Union College. The chairmanship is effectively taken away from the Pacific Union president and given to one of three lower union officers, to be determined by majority vote. The president of the University is acting chairman, pending the election of the chairman (which is a conflict of interest, because the Board of Trustees supervises the president). This change clearly weakens official Seventh-day Adventist church control over La Sierra University. An ex-officio chair that need not run for office, and cannot be voted out of office, is obviously in a much stronger position than one who must electioneer and seek approval of a majority of the Trustees. These changes make the chairmanship a popularity contest to be determined by a Board vote.
Change: The current section 6.6, specifying the duties and term of office of the vice-chair, is removed and replaced with an expanded section 6.5. The changes specify that the vice-chair must be elected from among those Trustees elected by the constituents; currently the vice-chair could be any member of the Board, including an ex-officio Trustee. Under the current bylaws, the vice-chair merely fills in for the chairman when he is absent, but under the proposed bylaws, the vice-chair can be tasked with “such other duties as the Board may delegate.”
Analysis: Under the proposed changes, the vice-chair may not be an ex-officio Trustee (and, under the proposed changes to § 6.2, the odds are 12 to 2 that the vice chair will be a layman, not a church officer or employee). Absent a PUC bylaw change, the president of the Pacific Union cannot serve as vice-chair of the La Sierra Board, because he will still be the chair of the PUC Board of Trustees. So the Pacific Union president is effectively shut out of the offices of both chairman and vice-chair of La Sierra's Board of Trustees. Moreover, the vice-chair's authority and responsibilities may be expanded in an open-ended manner by a vote of the Board of Trustees. This strengthens the position of vice-chair (now almost certainly a lay position) weakens the chairman (an elected union officer) and potentially weakens official church control over the Board of Trustees and hence over the University.
Change: Section 6.5 a is changed to alter the description of the chairman's duties. The chairman is to plan Board meetings “in consultation with the president.” He is to preside over the Board's self-assessment; (2) ensure that the Board is “well informed about and engaged with the university's needs and issues; and (3) “have ongoing consultation with the president” between meetings “regarding goals and directives established by the Board.”
Analysis: These changes decrease the chairman's responsibility, and increase the president's responsibility, to plan Board meetings. They seem to turn the chairman (a union official) into a sort of special confidant and assistant to the president. They also enshrine in the bylaws a navel-gazing process of Board self-assessment, which seems intended to distract from the Board's legal and fiduciary obligation to govern the University. Proposed changes to the Board's powers, discussed below, will make it difficult for the Board to be “well informed” about anything having to do with La Sierra University. The language about “the university's needs and issues” is not legal language and seems like psychobabble, as though the university were a neglected wife.
Change: Section 6.7 (new 6.6) is changed to reflect that the chairman may be removed from office, with or without cause, upon a vote of two-thirds of the Trustees present at the meeting.
Analysis: This change underscores how weak the chairman will be under the proposed bylaws changes. Under the current bylaws, the chairman is the union president, he does not have to be elected, and he cannot be removed from his position as chairman. It is a strong position, reflecting the University's strong ties to the Seventh-day Adventist Church at the level of the union conference. Under these bylaw changes, the chairman is no longer ex officio, he must be elected by the Board of Trustees, and he can be removed, with or without cause, by a two-thirds vote of the Trustees present.
B. Changes to the Powers of the Board of Trustees:
Change: Section 6.9 (proposed 6.8) is changed to add language about efficiency and transparency, and also to again mention a duty of self-assessment.
Analysis: Any lack of transparency is due to the overuse of executive sessions (closed sessions) when they are not appropriate. The second mention of a duty of self-assessment seems intended to tie up the Board of Trustees with navel-gazing, self-criticism, and self-analysis, crowding out the Board's statutory duty to control and govern the University, and its duty to provide effective oversight and supervision to the president.
Change: Sub-section 6.9a is revised to spell out a more specific oversight goal for the Board of Trustees, including to ensure that the University's mission and polices are aligned with the goals, philosophy, and objectives of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Analysis: This change is a very positive change, a change for the better. Unfortunately, however, the Board is stripped of the power to carry out that oversight in subsequent sub-sections of § 6.9.
Change: Where the bylaws state that “The functions of the Board shall include, but not be limited to, the following:” the phrase but not be limited to is proposed to be struck out.
Analysis: The Board's powers will thus be limited to its enumerated powers. This is a subtle but very important diminution in the Board's powers.
Change: In sub-section 6.9b, the Board is stripped of its power to “control all affairs and business, and to be informed of the work of the various schools, departments, committees, and programs.”
Analysis: How is the Board supposed to perform its duty of oversight and governance if it is not allowed to be informed of the work of the various schools, departments, committees and programs? This is obviously aimed at foreclosing any efforts by Trustees to directly inform themselves about what is being taught in the biology department, or other departments that may become controversial, such as the theology department.
Change: In sub-section 6.9c, the Board is stripped of its power to formulate, revise, and maintain official policies.
Analysis: Formulating policy should be a core concern of the Board of Trustees. This is a major step toward taking practical control of the University away from the Board of Trustees and giving it to the president.
Change: In sub-section 6.9d, the Board is stripped of its power to approve major policy handbooks.
Analysis: Again, this a remarkably bold step toward removing any meaningful control of the University from the hands of the Board of Trustees and giving it to the president.
Change: In sub-section 6.9e, the Board of Trustees is stripped of its power to remove a Trustee from the Board for cause and declare vacant the seat of any Trustees upon a two-thirds vote of the Board.
Analysis: Section 6.9e is surplusage, because § 6.7 already gives the Board the power to remove any Trustee, with or without cause, on a two-thirds vote of the Trustees present at the meeting. Section 6.7 is problematical, because it does not provide enough protection to outspoken Trustees who are a nuisance to the president. We saw this provision abused when President Wisbey had Dr. Lidner-Baum, Dr. Tooma, and Ambassador Proffitt thrown off the Board in the autumn of 2011.
Change: In sub-section 6.9b, the Board is stripped of its power to promote, discipline, reassign, or discontinue the president, the provost, the vice presidents, deans, administrative department directors, academic department chairs and faculty. The Board had the power to delegate the “appointment, promotion, demotion, or removal” all of these personnel, with the sole exception of the president, but this power is also removed. The Board is empowered to “recruit, appoint and support the president as the chief executive officer charged with the leadership of the institution: to evaluate the effectiveness of the president: and to make changes in the office of the president in harmony with the goals, philosophy, and objectives of the University.”
Analysis: The Board is stripped of the power to fire anyone other than the president (which power is explicitly granted to the Board in § 7.1). Stripping the Board of its powers to fire vice presidents and deans is a substantial step toward emasculation and neutering of the Board of Trustees.
Change: In sub-section 6.9c, the Board is empowered to charge “the president with the task of leading a strategic planning process, participate in that process, approve the strategic plan, and monitor its progress.”
Analysis: The president, not the Board of Trustees, leads the strategic planing process. It appears from the language (although it is vague) that the Board is allowed to “participate in that progress,” “monitor” that progress, and possibly approve the final plan. Strategic planning should be a Board prerogative. That these bylaw changes make it a presidential prerogative show how radically these changes would empower the president and dis-empower the Board of Trustees.
Change: In sub-section 6.9m, the Board is stripped of the power to review the articles of incorporation and the bylaws, and to recommend changes to them.
Analysis: Apparently this is the last time the Board of Trustees will ever have to vote to recommend changes to the bylaws, because its power to review them and recommend changes is stripped by this bylaw change. If the Board finds that these bylaw changes render it unable to perform its statutory duty of oversight and governance (as it certainly will) it has no power to recommend changes that would restore some reasonable power to the Board.
The annotation says that bylaw changes are governed by the bylaw committee, which is established in § 5.7, but that committee is a sub-committee of the Board of Trustees, and makes recommendations for action by the full Board. Stripping the full Board of the power to recommend bylaw changes leaves the sub-committee without any lawful purpose, and effectively dissolves it.
Change: In sub-section 6.9(l), the Board is stripped of its power to approve salary scales and compensation packages, to receive the annual report of the auditor, and to approve the annual audited financial statements. The Board is empowered to approve major capital expenditures.
Analysis: This change strips the Board of Trustees of financial oversight of the University, with the exception of major capital expenditures. This is a substantial diminution of the Board's power and ability to govern the University. Under article 8, the Board of Trustees will still have the power to receive the annual report of the auditor, but without the powers enumerated under § 6.9l, it isn't clear that the Board will be able to do anything with the auditor's report other than “receive” it.
The annotation says that salaries and compensation are covered in the approval of the budget, but the power to approve or reject a budget does not necessarily entail the power to set salary scales and compensation packages, so the annotation is misleading.
Change: In sub-sections 6.9s and t, the Board is stripped of the power (or obligation) to cultivate, facilitate, and personally support the fund raising efforts of the University, and to approve and provide finances, including voluntary support for the long range development of the University.
Analysis: This provision strips the Board of an important aspect of financial oversight, namely, the power to oversee and regulate fund raising efforts. The secularizing bond covenants are a perfect illustration of why the Board of Trustees needs to continue to be involved with oversight of fund raising. Secularizing the University's physical plant with inappropriate financing does not serve the long term mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Raising funds by naming things after the donor is another area that needs careful Board oversight, as per the recent naming of a “Center for Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship” after a notorious abortionist.
Change: In sub-section 6.9o, the Board is given the power “to engage regularly, in concert with the president, with the University's major constituencies.”
Analysis: It is not clear what this means. The University's constituencies are the Pacific Union Conference and the larger Seventh-day Adventist Church, but it is not clear how the Board is supposed to “engage” these groups. This seems to be an effort to reverse the role of the Board of Trustees from ensuring that the University furthers the mission of the SDA Church to forcing the Board to plead the University's case to the larger SDA Church. This is backward. The Board should ensure that the University serves the Church, not that the Church serves the University.
Change: In sub-section 6.9p, the Board is empowered “to adopt a Board policy manual providing effective policies to guide the Board and its committees, as well as Board relationships with University staff, and to facilitate assignment of responsibilities among them.”
Analysis: The implication here is that the Trustees need a manual to tell them how to exercise oversight and governance of the University. If this is true, new Trustees are necessary, not a manual. The bylaws themselves are a sufficient manual to the Board of Trustees. Again, the purpose of the Board of Trustees is to govern the University, not vice versa.
C. Changes to the Power of the President, and Miscellaneous Changes
Change: In section 6.15, regarding quorums, language has been added to ensure that, in order to have a quorum legally necessary to conduct business, a majority of Trustees present must be elected Trustees, as opposed to ex-officio Trustees.
Analysis: In essence, this means that the Board of Trustees can never conduct business unless lay members outnumber church officers. Obviously, this change substantially weakens the Seventh-day Adventist Church's control over the University. This change can have no other conceivable purpose.
Change: Section 7.1 is changed to indicate that the secretary, chief financial officer and vice presidents are no longer to be appointed by the Board of Trustees.
Analysis: The Board now has real power to hire and fire only the president. All other positions are appointed by the president, and only he has authority to fire them.
Change: In section 7.2, the president's title is changed from chief administrative officer to Chief Executive Officer.
Analysis: This would be inappropriate under the current bylaws, but under the changed bylaws it fits. These changes really do give the University president the kind of broad ranging power that a corporate CEO has, if not more.
Change: Sections 7.2 a and b are amended to relieve the president of his obligation to present a comprehensive annual report including a financial report. He is instead required to give “regular” reports, whatever that means. The president is empowered to “appoint promote, direct, discipline, reassign. and discontinue the provost, vice presidents, deans, administrative department directors, academic department chairs, and faculty members, in accordance with established university policies and procedures.”
Analysis: Here the president is formally given powers that were previously given to the Board of Trustees. This change represents a substantial concentration of power in the hands of the president, and an equal diminution in the power of the Board of Trustees.
Change: Section 7.2h is amended so that the president can “exercise such additional powers as are assigned by the Board of Trustees.”
Analysis: This is potentially an open-ended grant of power to a position that already wields enormous specified power.
La Sierra University was contacted the day ADvindicate published "La Sierra University hires new evolutionary biologist," but was unavailable for comment until today. Their full statement is posted below:
For Immediate Release Larry Becker Executive Director, University Relations email@example.com 1-‐1-‐1
La Sierra University Responds to False Charges on Independent Websites
Educatetruth.com and ADvindicate.com have focused their efforts on damaging the reputation of Dr. Raul Diaz, who joined the La Sierra University biology faculty at the beginning of January.
Initially one of these sites used an unnamed source to accuse Dr. Diaz of being an atheist. When that was proven false, the site changed its conjecture to Dr. Diaz being agnostic. In fact, Dr. Diaz is a baptized member of the Seventh‐day Adventist Church. He has attended various Adventist churches throughout the span of his academic career.
Dr. Diaz is also quoted by these sites as saying he is an “evolutionary biologist.” Using this as an attack shows a lack of understanding of contemporary biology. An “evolutionary biologist” does focused analysis of the diversity of life, the genetic variations of living organisms, and how organisms interact with their environment. Through this important work, these scientists make possible advances in human health and medicine, agriculture, and the environment.
Dr. Diaz is a dedicated and talented young scientist who is seeking to discover what causes human facial and hand malformations through his research. His passion for his subject has already shone through to students in the three weeks he has been on campus. He looks forward to using his bio-‐medical research to develop classes for students with a pre‐professional health focus. His field and laboratory research efforts will also benefit those students planning to seek graduate biology education.
EducateTruth.com has also been attempting to short‐circuit the board’s efforts to revise the university’s bylaws in response to WASC’s and AAA’s concerns regarding governance issues. The Bylaws Committee members have worked many hours educating themselves so that they fully understand the issues. Their efforts have resulted in a set of recommended bylaws changes for the university constituents to act on during a special constituency meeting on February 21.
These recommendations are not designed to remove the university from Church control, as claimed by some. The proposals leave that defining relationship strong and unchanged, while addressing WASC’s stated concern about potential conflict of interest at the board leadership level. This is a unique situation, because the Pacific Union Conference is the only union in the North America Division where the union president chairs two college boards—Pacific Union College and La Sierra University.
A key recommendation from the Bylaws Committee is that the board chair be elected and be one of the four Pacific Union officers who serve as ex officio board members, rather than automatically being the union president. This allows the board to select its own chair, while ensuring that the chair will always be a union officer. The only limitation imposed through the proposal is that neither the board chair or vice chair of La Sierra University’s board may concurrently serve as chair or vice chair of another university or college board.
There is no change to the ex officio membership of the board, which will continue to have among its members the Pacific Union Conference president, secretary, treasurer, vice president, director of education, and the presidents of the Arizona, Southeastern California, and Southern California Conferences. The revised bylaws make no change to the constituent membership, and the constituency retains all existing control over lay appointments to the board and any amendments to the bylaws.
The board, according to the proposed bylaws, will continue to focus on setting policies that keep the university closely aligned with the mission, goals, and objectives of the Adventist Church.
Edward C. Allred made a fortune owning a chain of abortion clinics, personally aborting hundreds of thousands of fetuses, and currently owns gambling venues in California and New Mexico. In 2010, La Sierra University founded the “Edward C. Allred Center for Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship" in his honor. It hardly seems possible that La Sierra University, which still purports to be a Seventh-day Adventist school, would name anything after a man who has left such a trail of wreckage in his wake, a man who made his fortune eliminating two generations of humanity, and now spends his days devising ways to separate gamblers from their money. And yet they did. But apparently they are not proud to be associated with his life work, as shown by the misleading information on their website:
Dr. Allred has always been an entrepreneur, whether in his innovative and financially successful medical practice or in his lifelong commitment to the sport and business of quarter horse racing in the United States and Southern California in particular. To both he has brought not only sound and creative business practices but also a deep interest in his colleagues and employees and a genuine care for their well being.
To characterize a business with annual revenues of $70 million from 23 outlets in two states as a “medical practice” goes beyond spin and crosses over into dissimulation.
In 1969, Dr. Edward C. Allred, a graduate of La Sierra University and Loma Linda University, founded the “Avalon-Slauson Medical Group,” which was later renamed “Family Planning Associates.” Although this was before the Supreme Court effectively legalized abortion nationwide in Roe v. Wade (1973), California had already legalized abortion in several situations, and hence many women traveled to California to have abortions. “We had planeloads of people coming in,” recalled Allred to a Los Angeles Times reporter in 2002, “We'd meet them at the airport with a bus.”
In 1980, Allred claimed to have personally aborted a quarter of a million fetuses in the preceding 12 years. It may seem difficult to believe that one man could perform so many abortions, but Allred tried to spend no more than five minutes with each pregnant woman. “We've been pioneers in so many ways,” he once told a reporter. “We streamlined, we made efficiencies, we employed the suction technique better than anyone, and we eliminated needless patient-physician contact. We usually see the patient for the first time on the operating table and then not again.” Spending only five minutes per patient would have allowed Allred to perform as many as 100 abortions in a 10-12 hour working day, and 200 working days per year (50 four-day work weeks) would, over 12 years, add up to 240,000 aborted fetuses. So Allred's estimate of the number of abortions he performed during that time is credible.
You might wonder how a person who has aborted a very large city worth of human lives salves his conscience. The pioneers of abortion, such as Margaret Sanger, were quite explicit in favoring it as a means of weeding out undesirables and the unfit, and there was general agreement that the black race was undesirable. Dr. Allred has, at least on one occasion, voiced similar thoughts.
Population control is too important to be stopped by some right-wing pro-life types. . . . The Aid to Families with Dependent Children program is the worst boondoggle ever created. When a sullen black woman of 17 or 18 can decide to have a baby and get welfare and food stamps and become a burden to all of us, it's time to stop. In parts of South Los Angeles, having babies for welfare is the only industry the people have. Edward C. Allred, M.D. quoted in Anthony Perry, "Doctor's Abortion Business is Lucrative," San Diego Union, October 12, 1980, pages A-3 and A-14.
Family Planning Associates expanded to the point where Allred owned 21 abortion clinics in California and two in Chicago. According to a 2001 article in Forbes Magazine, Allred's business generated $70 million in annual gross revenues and $5 million in annual profits. Just as McDonald's founder Ray Kroc pioneered efficiencies and economies of scale in the hamburger business, Edward C. Allred pioneered efficiencies in the abortion clinic business, causing some to call Allred “the Ray Kroc of abortions.”
But things did not always go smoothly; there have been post-abortion deaths, and Allred has been sued many times. One abortion technique Allred used in the early days was saline amniocentesis--injecting saline in place of the normal amniotic fluid--which slowly poisons the baby while burning its skin. This method was usually used in late-term abortions, and the baby typically took an hour to 90 minutes to die. In 1977, Gianna Jessen's 17-year-old mother went to Dr. Allred's Avalon Clinic in Inglewood, California, seeking to abort a pregnancy of 29 weeks (seven months). Dr. Allred used the salt poisoning method, underestimating the amount of saline necessary to kill the fetus, which began struggling to escape the deadly womb. Gianna Jessen was born alive, and Dr. Allred is listed on her birth certificate as the doctor who delivered her. Gianna suffers from cerebral palsy, which she calls the gift of cerebral palsy, and today has become a prominent spokeswoman in the pro-life movement.
Dr. Allred sold Family Planning Associates in 2005, and has retired from the abortion business. He devotes his time to a hobby and passion he acquired while still in medical school: horse racing. Dr. Allred now owns Los Alamitos Race Track in Cypress, California, and Ruidoso Downs, in New Mexico. Horse racing is a very dangerous “sport,” and the exploitation of jockeys is one of the most under reported aspects of that “sport” (really just an excuse for gambling).
Jockeys are independent contractors who earn on average about $38,000 per year; for a basic “mount fee” of as little as $60.00 per race, they risk death and paralysis. In a typical year, at least one or two jockeys are killed or suffer catastrophic spinal cord injuries, and yet the tracks do not carry adequate insurance. A paralyzed jockey will typically burn through a million dollars in medical bills in the first 2 years after the accident. This isn't a theoretical concern; on September 2, 2011, Jacky Martin suffered a broken neck in a fall at Ruidoso Downs, is now a quadriplegic, and needs mechanical help to breathe. Ruidoso downs reportedly carries only $500,000 in accident insurance, and, as in almost every case of this type, that is grossly inadequate to provide for Jacky Martin's ongoing medical needs.
These men and women risk death an catastrophic injury almost solely to provide an occasion for gambling. At Los Alamitos, the daily “handle,” or total dollar amount of bets taken in, was reported to be $1.3 million. Allred decided to simulcast Los Alamitos races to other venues, thus enabling gamblers to bet and lose money on races that they did not attend. Ruidoso Downs had been losing money, but Allred and his partners made the track profitable by adding 300 slot machines, some of which are proudly shown on the track's website. Attendance at horse racing venues has sharply declined in recent years, and industry insiders say the “sport” cannot survive without casino-style gaming at the tracks. But is saving the tracks in the public's interest? According to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission (NGISC), more than one in three racetrack patrons is a pathological or problem gambler, so the tracks cause financial problems for the patrons, as well as causing jockeys to risk death and quadriplegia.
Back to La Sierra University. The Board of Directors is stocked with Adventist Church leaders. Pacific Union president Ricardo Graham is Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and all the affiliated conference presidents within the Pacific Union are also board members. These are all decent men, so it is difficult to understand how they could have allowed La Sierra to become associated with such a person as Edward C. Allred. This sad incident, along with previous stories—such as the issuing of tax-free bonds that came with a secularizing bond covenant, and the ongoing failure to prevent Darwinism being inculcated as truth—call into question whether the Board of Trustees is exercising any meaningful oversight at all.
If the church leadership in the region cannot reform La Sierra, world church leadership must take action. If La Sierra cannot be reformed, it must be clearly and publicly separated from the official church.
The story is an old one, oft repeated. Harvard was founded in 1636 to train Congregationalist and Unitarian clergy. Yale was founded in 1701 by the Colony of Connecticut, primarily to train ministers for the colony. Presbyterians founded Princeton in 1746 to train young men for the gospel ministry. Congregationalist minister Eleazar Wheelock established Dartmouth College in 1769. Brown, Wake Forest, and The University of Chicago emerged from the Baptist denomination. Vanderbilt and USC were once Methodist universities but are no longer. Duke, Emory and SMU maintain ties to the Methodist Church but are essentially secular. These and many other famous and prestigious universities were founded by religious people, with religious motives, for religious purposes, usually to train ministers. But as time passed, their ties to their founding denominations were cut or became nominal, their religious purposes were obscured or lost, and they became secular. In fact, they typically became quite hostile to biblical faith (see, e.g., the Emory faculty's hostility to the biblical faith of Dr. Ben Carson, who was invited to speak at Emory's commencement ceremony). Why does this change always happen? Why do colleges founded by Christian denominations always lose their religious purpose and mission? There are many reasons—academia's hostility to faith, the desire to conform to worldly academic standards, methods and philosophies, etc.--but based upon what we can observe happening in real time at La Sierra University, finances are also a factor. In 2008, in order to get a lower interest rate on its debt on the Price Science Complex, La Sierra issued tax-exempt municipal bonds. But in order to issue those bonds, La Sierra had to pledge that, “no portion of the proceeds of the Bonds will be used to finance or refinance any facility, place or building used or to be used for sectarian instruction or study or as a place for devotional activities or religious worship or in connection with any part of the programs of any school or department of divinity for the useful life of the project.” Hence, the Price Science Complex may not be used for “sectarian instruction or study,” and every court that has ruled on the issue in the past 35 years has ruled that creationism—or creation science, or intelligent Design—is sectarian and religious in nature.
Perhaps even more jarring is the language of religious neutrality from the controlling California Supreme Court case, California Statewide Community Development Authority v. All Persons Interested in Matter of the Validity of Purchase Agreement (2007) 40 Cal.4th 788. The court held that in sectarian schools issuing the tax-exempt bonds:
the information and coursework used to teach secular subjects must be neutral with respect to religion. Of course, religion may be an object of study in classes such as history, social studies, and literature, just as in public schools, in a manner that neither promotes nor opposes any particular religion or religion in general. But a class that . . . as part of the instruction information or coursework . . . promotes or opposes a particular religion or religious beliefs may not be taught in facilities financed through tax-exempt bond financing.
So, in order to legally issue the tax-exempt bonds, La Sierra's “secular” curriculum must be neutral with respect to religion, and must not promote any particular religion (such as Seventh-day Adventism).
But can La Sierra guarantee that its curriculum is religiously neutral, that it doesn't promote any particular religious view? In fact, it has already done so. In the Official Statement of the LSU bonds, (available online) at page A-5, the University states: “Thus, La Sierra does the things most other universities do: all information and coursework used to teach secular subjects are neutral with respect to religion.” That's not the Supreme Court of California talking; that's La Sierra University describing its own curriculum: neutral with respect to religion.
Is a curriculum that is “neutral with respect to religion” consistent with the Seventh-day Adventist philosophy of education? Let's spend a moment with some of the relevant texts.
True education means more than the perusal of a certain course of study. It means more than a preparation for the life that now is. It has to do with the whole being, and with the whole period of existence possible to man. It is the harmonious development of the physical, the mental, and the spiritual powers. It prepares the student for the joy of service in this world and for the higher joy of wider service in the world to come. Education 13
Since the purpose of education is to prepare the student for this life and for the life to come, every branch of learning, every academic discipline, should show the student something of God, some aspect of the character of God:
In a knowledge of God all true knowledge and real development have their source. Wherever we turn, in the physical, the mental, or the spiritual realm; in whatever we behold, apart from the blight of sin, this knowledge is revealed. Whatever line of investigation we pursue, with a sincere purpose to arrive at truth, we are brought in touch with the unseen, mighty Intelligence that is working in and through all. The mind of man is brought into communion with the mind of God, the finite with the Infinite. The effect of such communion on body and mind and soul is beyond estimate. Education 14
Whatever the line of investigation, whatever the discipline, we seek to bring the student into communion with the mind of God.
With this goal in mind, should an Adventist school teach its “secular” subjects in a religiously neutral manner? Can it do so? Most would assign history classes to the category of “secular” curriculum, but consider what Ellen White says about the teaching of history:
Let [history] be considered from the divine point of view. As too often taught, history is little more than a record of the rise and fall of kings, the intrigues of courts, the victories and defeats of armies--a story of ambition and greed, of deception, cruelty, and bloodshed. Thus taught, its results cannot but be detrimental. The heart-sickening reiteration of crimes and atrocities, the enormities, the cruelties portrayed, plant seeds that in many lives bring forth fruit in a harvest of evil. Far better is it to learn, in the light of God's word, the causes that govern the rise and fall of kingdoms. Let the youth study these records, and see how the true prosperity of nations has been bound up with an acceptance of the divine principles. Let him study the history of the great reformatory movements, and see how often these principles, though despised and hated, their advocates brought to the dungeon and the scaffold, have through these very sacrifices triumphed. Such study will give broad, comprehensive views of life. Education 238
Clearly, history is not to be taught in a religiously neutral manner. What about science, another “secular” subject; can it be taught in a religiously neutral manner?
Since the book of nature and the book of revelation bear the impress of the same master mind, they cannot but speak in harmony. By different methods, and in different languages, they witness to the same great truths. Science is ever discovering new wonders; but she brings from her research nothing that, rightly understood, conflicts with divine revelation. . . . Inferences erroneously drawn from facts observed in nature have, however, led to supposed conflict between science and revelation; and in the effort to restore harmony, interpretations of Scripture have been adopted that undermine and destroy the force of the word of God. Geology has been thought to contradict the literal interpretation of the Mosaic record of the creation. Millions of years, it is claimed, were required for the evolution of the earth from chaos; and in order to accommodate the Bible to this supposed revelation of science, the days of creation are assumed to have been vast, indefinite periods, covering thousands or even millions of years. Such a conclusion is wholly uncalled for. The Bible record is in harmony with itself and with the teaching of nature. Education 128-129
Science is to be taught in a way that harmonizes with revealed religion, with the Genesis record, not in a religiously neutral manner. Even mathematics should be taught with a redemptive purpose:
Since the goal of math class is to connect the student's mind with the mind of God, and to develop both the mind and the character in the twin pursuits of both education and redemption, then any aid given to the “secular” pursuit of "mere" arithmetic also aids “Religious Instruction. ” The entire premise of religious education is that it is entirely sacred, not secular. It is holistic, not dualistic. Religion is part of the warp and woof woven into the fabric of life in a religious school. There are no secular subjects. (Brief for the Interfaith Religious Liberty Foundation, et al, as Amicus Curiae, p. 17, Mitchell v. Helms, 530 U.S. 793 , co-authored by Alan Reinach, Director of Religious Liberty for the Pacific Union Conference).
Indeed, there are no secular subjects. Religion is woven into the fabric of Adventist education, into every academic discipline.
This philosophy is reflected in the General Conference Educational working policy:
... a balanced, integrated curriculum will address the major developmental needs in the spiritual, intellectual, physical, social, emotional, and vocational realms. All areas of study will be examined from the perspective of the biblical worldview within the context of the great controversy theme.
All disciplines are taught from a biblical perspective, in the context of the great controversy theme. There are no subjects that are examined in a religiously neutral manner.
Faulkner once wrote that the past is never dead; it's not even past. In an Adventist school, the “secular” curriculum is never religiously neutral, it's not even secular. The Seventh-day Adventist philosophy of education is clear: The purpose of education is to bring the student into communion with the divine mind; all subjects are to be taught from the biblical worldview. Every discipline plays its role in bringing the student into communion with the mind of God, preparing the student for Christian service in this life, and for the never-ending, glorious education of the life to come.
Any Adventist school that boasts that “all information and coursework used to teach secular subjects are neutral with respect to religion” has deviated, flagrantly, from the Adventist philosophy of education. Yet that is exactly what La Sierra has done. It has deviated from the Adventist philosophy of education, and has issued tax-exempt municipal bonds that it could not legally have issued were it faithful to its religious mission.
I wonder if all of La Sierra's Trustees, including such high church officials as Ricardo Graham, President of the Pacific Union Conference, Larry Caviness, President of the Southern California Conference, and Gerald Penick, President of the Southeastern California Conference, know that the University publicly declares its coursework to be “neutral with respect to religion.” The church officials on La Sierra's Board of Trustees are not there because of accomplishments in business, industry, science, literature, or the professions. They are there for one purpose and one purpose only: to ensure that La Sierra is providing its students with a truly Seventh-day Adventist education. If they won't insist that La Sierra stay true to its religious mission, who will?
This press release was issued by Lee Greer and his lawyer Chris Heikaus Weaver. Riverside, CA — May 09, 2012 — It’s not every day that a church-affiliated University terminates a biology professor for proposing a way to teach creation as a theological position alongside evolutionary science in classes on origins, but that is exactly what happened to La Sierra University’s Dr. Lee Greer.
Dr. Greer has been a biology professor at La Sierra University for 5 years and was only one year away from tenure review. Since early 2009, he has seen an ongoing conflict in the blogosphere and on campus over the teaching of evolution in LSU’s biology program. This conflict has created divisions between the University and the Church and even threatened the school’s accreditations with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and the Adventist Accrediting Association (AAA).
During the conflict, Dr. Greer, an evolutionary biologist by research discipline, reached out to conservative students on campus, as well as to conservative Trustees of the University’s Board, and also Church officials, notably the Adventist North American Division Vice President for Education, Larry Blackmer. Consulting with these and other individuals, Dr. Greer drafted an informal “Joint Proposal of individual La Sierra University Faculty and Trustees” that he hoped would balance the interests of the biology faculty who need to teach evolutionary science and students who need to learn it, with the concerns of the Church and constituents, who want the inclusion of creation in this Seventh-day Adventist institution.
Dr. Greer’s Joint Proposal suggested continued inclusion of evolution by “teaching and research in the various disciplines of the modern sciences according to the most up-to-date and rigorous standards of the published science . . . including the data which highlight the strengths and weaknesses of various models.” The proposal also suggested that biology faculty affirm and incorporate “the Biblical concept of creation, including the Seventh-day Adventist understanding of Genesis 1 and 2, as a faith position at the classroom level, when questions of origins are discussed.” The proposal noted that “creation is not a scientific construct. It is a faith construct. The conviction of Divine Creation lies beyond the purview of the methods of empirical science, and cannot be subjected to them. Nevertheless, faith and science can and should interact.”
This proposal was endorsed by the majority of La Sierra’s biology faculty and by four Trustees. Although signed on to by individuals, explicitly not on behalf of the University, the informal proposal was welcomed by the Board chair and also officials of the Adventist Church. The Board of Trustees voted to affirm the document by officially adopting it verbatim as a “curriculum proposal.”
According to Dr. Greer, “I intended the proposal to be a suggested compromise to finally put an end to the conflict over the teaching of evolution on our campus, by safeguarding the scientific integrity of our program, the affirmation of the official denominational position, and the University’s continuing accreditations."
Unfortunately, the Administration’s response to the independent proposal was not positive. “It seemed to me that President Randal Wisbey was upset that biology faculty, such as myself, had independently exercised our academic freedom by proposing a solution,” Dr. Greer said. In addition, three of the four Trustees who signed were removed because of their role in the Joint Proposal. The Administration insisted that the biology faculty sign a hastily-written, official apology memo over the release of the informal proposal. Because of the memo’s mischaracterizations and errors of fact, Dr. Greer refused to sign giving his reasons in summary—despite several warnings communicated to him that failure to sign would place his faculty position in jeopardy. Two months later during the Christmas break 2011, Dr. Greer was notified that his contract at LSU would not be renewed. Furthermore, he was informed that this “does not constitute a ‘for cause’ termination.”
Dr. Greer is convinced that the University terminated him because of the informal proposal. “Before this, things were going positively – the University often let me know how well I was performing. The provost thanked me by letter ‘for the many stellar things which you have done, and continue to do, to enhance the learning experiences of our students.’ The termination of my appointment really came out of the blue, especially since I had been assured shortly before Christmas that no problems were anticipated.” To many it is evident that the issue was neither Dr. Greer’s teaching, his research publications and presentations, nor his service on campus and beyond, including for the City of Riverside, and his widely-reported work on the Navajo Nation.
Kathryn Proffitt, a former LSU Trustee who individually endorsed Dr. Greer’s informal Joint Proposal, agrees with Dr. Greer’s assessment, “For a faculty member to take the initiative to suggest an approach-in-principle to resolve this long-standing controversy, which was acceptable to the Church, was extraordinary. Rather than losing his position, Professor Greer should have been commended. President Wisbey has done a great injustice to Dr. Greer."
Dr. Greer hoped for a fair, expeditious hearing and to return for the new school year in the Fall, after the facts had been revealed. On February 23rd, he filed a grievance which, if successful, would have led to his reinstatement. His expectations were ended when LSU’s lawyer sent a letter that in effect attempted to close the door on the grievance process for Dr. Greer.
This leaves Dr. Greer with little recourse other than filing an action against the University for violating his contract, which guaranteed him complete academic freedom to teach and publish without interference from the University. His attorney, Chris Heikaus Weaver, remains hopeful that such a move will be unnecessary, stating, “Dr. Greer was trying to incorporate creation into La Sierra’s science classrooms in a way that would respect the Church's beliefs, while maintaining scientific integrity. I have to believe that once the University’s Trustees understand this, they will reverse course and let Dr. Greer get back to the teaching and research he loves.”
Sometimes you don't want a story to be confirmed. Sometimes you desperately want it not to be true. Unfortunately, the story about La Sierra's use of tax-exempt municipal bond money has been confirmed in its essential details by the university's official press release. Not only does Larry Becker confirm the Price Science Complex was re-financed with public bond money, he also confirms the balance of the bond money. Some $7 to $8 million has been used for capital improvement projects around the university.
Of greatest importance, however, is that the university does not deny that the bonds contain the following restrictive language:
The Corporation covenants and agrees that no portion of the proceeds of the Bonds will be used to finance or refinance any facility, place or building used or to be used for sectarian instruction or study or as a place for devotional activities or religious worship or in connection with any part of the programs of any school or department of divinity,” (page D-32) and that these restrictions apply “for the duration of the useful life of the project financed with the proceeds of the Bonds. (page 27)
Of course, it would be pointless to try to deny this, because the bonds are public documents and are posted online.
Given the prohibited covenant language, not only has the Thaine B. Price Science Complex been secularized in perpetuity, every building on campus on which the remaining $8 million has been spent, has also been secularized in perpetuity.
Unfortunately, the university's primary outside counsel, Kent Hansen, makes misleading arguments in the press release. First, he implies that the California Supreme Court's language in the case of California Statewide Community Development Authority v. All Persons Interested in Matter of the Validity of Purchase Agreement (2007) 40 Cal.4th 788; 152 P.3d 1070, is the language that governs the bonds. In a way it does, but it only sets the minimum standards that entities receiving public money in California must abide by. The covenant language demanded by the bond authority and placed in the documents that Wisbey and Geriguis signed is the language that immediately governs these bond moneys, and restricts the use of buildings on which these moneys have been spent.
By way of analogy, suppose there is a city ordinance requiring that all houses be set back 30 feet from the street, but the lot that you purchased and wish to build your house on contains a restrictive covenant that requires you to set your house back at least 45 feet from the street. If you try to build your house 30 feet from the street, the other lot owners can sue to enforce the covenant, and force you to move it back 15 feet. And they'll win, because that's what you agreed to, as evidenced by the documents that you signed with due solemnity. It doesn't matter that the city only requires you to set back 30 feet, you agreed to set back 45 feet, and if you build your house closer than that, it's liable to be bulldozed.
So what directly governs the use of the money from these bonds is not the Supreme Court's minimum standard, but what La Sierra agreed to, what Wisbey and Geriguis signed, and what they agreed to is the covenant language referred to in all the articles. There is no indication in the bond document that this covenant is unenforceable. To the contrary, the failure to abide by the covenant, if left uncorrected for more than 30 days, is an “event of default” pursuant to provision (a)(iii) on page D-32 of the bond, and one of the remedies in the event of default, as describe on page D-33 (a)(iii), is that the University can be sued and forced to abide by the covenant.
But even if Hansen were correct in his implication that what governs is not the contractual language the University agreed to but rather the California Supreme Court's decision, Hansen does not properly appreciate the implications of that ruling. The portion of the opinion Hansen selectively quotes from is as follows:
[T]he straightforward assessment for the trial court to make is whether the academic content of a religious school's course in a secular subject such as math, chemistry, or Shakespeare's writings is typical of that provided in nonreligious schools. When a school establishes, through its course descriptions or otherwise, that the academic content of its secular classes is typical of comparable courses at public or other nonreligious schools, it is not necessary to scrutinize the school's day-to-day classroom communications. The circumstance that a teacher may, in addition to teaching a course's religiously neutral content, express an idea or viewpoint that may be characterized as 'religious' does not result in a benefit to religion that is more than incidental to the state's primary purpose of enhancing secular education opportunities for California residents. (20 Cal.4th at 804-805; 152 P.3d at 1080.)
Assuming that La Sierra wanted to teach creation science, or the Seventh-day Adventist view of origins, in the Price Science Complex, it could not do so under this standard. The class offering would not be “typical of that provided in nonreligious schools” nor would the course content be “typical of comparable courses at public or other nonreligious schools.” It would be uniquely biblical and Seventh-day Adventist, and utterly atypical of anything taught in public or nonreligious schools.
So even the California Supreme Court's operative language would certainly prohibit teaching creation science, intelligent design, or flood geology in any systematic way. At most, the professor would be limited to expressing the occasional religious idea or viewpoint; he could not teach the Seventh-day Adventist view of origins in a systematic or comprehensive way. This should be obvious to any layman reading the opinion, and for Kent Hansen, who holds himself out as a lawyer, to imply otherwise is legal malpractice. In all likelihood, even beginning class with a devotional thought and a prayer will not pass constitutional muster under this California decision, and obviously runs afoul of the agreed covenantal language prohibiting “devotional activities or religious worship.”
Hansen notes that other religious institutions have received public bond money, including Azusa Pacific, Biola, Mater Dei High School, and Westmont University. This argument is familiar to every parent: “but, mom, everyone else is doing it!!” to which the time-honored reply is, “if everyone else was jumping off a cliff, would you jump off a cliff?” We are unfamiliar with the bond terms negotiated by the other institutions mentioned, but the terms Hansen negotiated for La Sierra University, and allowed his client to sign and commit to, are unacceptable.
The remainder of the university's press release is devoted to shifting blame onto the board of trustees, but nowhere does the press release state that the full board of trustees was apprised of the language of the prohibited use covenant. Ricardo Graham is quoted as saying that the bond measure passed through channels, and of course it did, but he does not say that he was aware, at the time, that the bond document contained the restrictive language. I wonder how many of the trustees will soon be coming forward denying that they were ever apprised of this issue.
For the last four years, La Sierra science professors have been legally restricted from teaching Seventh-day Adventist beliefs in their classrooms, according to a recently discovered bond document that President Randal Wisbey and Vice President for Financial Administration David Geriguis signed in August 2008. The tax-exempt revenue bonds totaled over 24 million, but the bonds used to refinance the new Thaine B. Price Science Complex were about $17 million. By signing, Wisbey and Geriguis agreed the complex would not be used for sectarian instruction, devotional activities, religious worship or to be connected with any programs of any school or department of divinity:
The Corporation covenants and agrees that no portion of the proceeds of the Bonds will be used (1) to finance or refinance any facility, place or building used or to be used for sectarian instruction or study or as a place for devotional activities or religious worship or in connection with any part of the programs of any school or department of divinity.... (Page D-32)
Page 27 of the bond document says these restrictions will last "for the duration of the useful life of the project financed with the proceeds of the Bonds."
Knowing the terms of the bond might explain Wisbey's reaction to the joint statement published in the Adventist Review October 2011 by six biology faculty and four board members "to affirm and incorporate the church's position on creation at the classroom instruction level." Wisbey condemned the joint statement under the pretense the statement creators had not recognized normal and established governance protocols. However, La Sierra administration was aware of the joint statement prior to its publication. The Associate Provost for General Education and Academic Support at La Sierra Barbara Favorito edited it.
The board later dismissed three of the four board members whose names were on the joint statement, and a few months later Lee Greer was fired.
Because of the actions of a few men, La Sierra University is caught in a covenant agreement, which prohibits it from promoting Seventh-day Adventist beliefs. The consequences of breaking the bond agreement are dealing with a potential lawsuit and/or having to pay the bond principle immediately.
Page 27 Prohibited Use Covenant
Page D-32 Prohibited Use Covenant