Home > Opinion > Z - Archived Opinion Writers > Schilt, Nate > 2011 >
Personal Autonomy Versus Institutional Conformity
Submitted: Jul 15, 2011
By Nate Schilt

I argued in my blog last week that the request for the resignations of the LSU4 was not criminal, and it should not be seen in the stark moral terms that those who demonize the General Conference (GC) and La Sierra University (LSU) administration wish to portray it. Some who read that blog seemed to think I might be an ‘Educate Truth’ plant. Far from it! I think Educate Truth (EC) likely sees these issues in very stark moral terms as well. They just demonize the LSU4 rather than the administration. About the only thing I have in common with the sponsors of the EC website is a belief we should expect no less transparency, accountability and openness from academic institutions in the Church than we do from clerical institutions.

Unlike the folks who host the Educate Truth website, I believe the Church and LSU are being tragically diverted and enervated by challenges over doctrinal conformity. Creationism and abstinence would not be on my top 28 list of priorities for the Church or its institutions of higher education. I do not agree with the Church’s traditional teaching regarding biogenesis and the Noachian Flood, though I am certainly not qualified or competent to defend my skepticism. And I wish SDA science professors felt greater freedom to honestly present the scientific problems with creationism. Furthermore, I do not believe in the Cana Grape Juice Myth, a major pillar in the SDA Church’s teaching regarding alcohol consumption. (I do behaviorally conform to the Church’s teaching on this issue, however, because I do not wish to breach covenant relationship with my faith community.)

Having said that, I believe a private organization has the right to set its own rules, even if they’re stupid, archaic, and have nothing to do with morality. Furthermore, the organization should be able to anticipate those who choose to become part of the organization will do so with the understanding they are expected to conform to clearly articulated policies. They should generally be free to question the wisdom or legitimacy of those rules, but they cannot reasonably expect to casually violate those rules and policies without adverse consequences. Those in leadership roles should feel even less freedom to publicly or privately undermine institutional values and standards. And yes, the institution should also follow its own policies and rules.

Getting beyond the question of whether the recording should have been used, I suspect most partisans who are upset over the 'forced' resignations would be no less upset if the alcohol consumption had come to light in a different manner, and been used as a basis for requesting the resignations. They believe the policy prohibiting alcohol consumption is a stupid policy with no Biblical or moral basis. Yet progressives regard as sacred the due process policies which they claim were not followed by LSU administrators. Is there a double standard here?

So who decides what policies are sacred, what are not, how to prioritize those policies, and what consequences should flow from violation? And why do we have to make huge moral issues out of every policy concern? Suppose a judicial review concludes LSU administrators didn’t dot every ‘I’ and cross every ‘T’ when they offered resignation in lieu of disciplinary hearings. Does that make them evil, malicious, and un-Christian? Does it mean they intended to violate their own policy? So what if the LSU4 chose to drink alcohol? Does the fact they obviously violated policy with intent to do so, make them bad people? Surely not! But why is the LSU administration being demonized by the Left while the LSU4 are being canonized?

Every issue with policy and legal ramifications doesn’t necessarily come with clear moral choices. If the legal considerations clearly favor the position of the resignees who want do-overs, I am sure the Board will sound the retreat, and the LSU 2, 3, or 4 - whatever the number - will either be reinstated, have their hearing, or both. It will be because it is legally prudent to do so, not because it is a moral imperative. What if the legal analysis does not clearly support vacating the resignations? Would the LSU4 partisans then concede the moral issue to administration? I doubt it. So aren’t the partisans really offering a 'heads-we-win-tails-you-lose' analysis? "If policy and law support our position, LSU administration acted immorally; if it turns out we’re wrong on policy and law, LSU administration still acted immorally."

It is generally assumed top leadership in an organization serves at the pleasure of the CEO and/or the Board. When a leader is philosophically and behaviorally out of step with the values of his/her organization, and when that nonconformity becomes, or threatens to become, notorious, why doesn’t the institution have a right to respond in a self-protective manner? Why can’t the institution simply say, “We understand your values, and we respect your personal freedom. We just want someone representing the institution who is more philosophically aligned with its values.”

Is it possible to have deeply held opinions and beliefs without insisting that God is on your side?


Seminary Student
2011-07-15 1:39 AM

very good !@

Seminary Student
2011-07-15 1:41 AM

excellent !

2011-07-15 2:25 PM


You say "Having said that, I believe a private organization has the right to set its own rules, even if they’re stupid, archaic, and have nothing to do with morality."

Yes and no. If LSU wants to remain accredited by WASC then they do not have the right to just any set of rules. The governance has to conform to norms of other institutions. You know nothing of how accreditation works.

LCME and WASC have a powerful role in how an academic institution formulates is rules.

2011-07-15 2:22 PM

Non conformity? To what? They were accused of drinking, but that did not occur. The 4 individuals were joking and no alcohol was at the gathering. The board chair and some others were annoyed because of the scientific viewpoints of these faculty and because they had a derogatory view of some of the members of the board.

Elaine Nelson
2011-07-15 3:09 PM

Until all the facts are in we should withhold our judgement.

Doctorf1 has identified the "Catch-22" that is the dilemma: The church wishes to impose a YEC on the Science Department. The WASC accreditation cannot approve such teaching. Without WASC accreditation the school loses it university status, and with it all government funding. Guess which will rule: Money or religious doctrine?

Patti Grant
2011-07-15 3:20 PM

To propose that LSU administration had any degree of autonomy in this decision is to deny the all-encompassing power of the GC hierarchy. Adventist history is replete with examples of when the GC says "Jump" SDA administrators have no choice but to ask "How High?" on the way up. And university counsel gave the appearance of being all too eager to leap into the fray without allowing for a scintilla of mercy. Is this what Jesus would do? Send them straight to the Guillotine?

Elaine Nelson
2011-07-15 5:27 PM

Do you also teach one of the sciences in a university? What suggestion do you offer for those who have a dual responsibility: to abide by the church's YEC, and also to teach the scientific knowledge to meet the qualifications expected by the student, and required by university status?

If your suggestions were followed, all SDA universities would no longer receive necessary approval by the respective accrediting associations.

There are SDA Bible schools, simply "Google" and you will find a number. These offer the type of education you are suggesting. It's like wishing to drive, yet refusing to get the state's license. Universities cannot operate with their accrediting associations. That's the plain, unvarnished truth. They can operate under the SDA blessing as Bible schools, however, So there are choices to be made.

2011-07-15 6:25 PM


There was no alcohol at the meeting yet you say "Getting beyond the question of whether the recording should have been used, I suspect most partisans who are upset over the 'forced' resignations would be no less upset if the alcohol consumption had come to light in a different manner, and been used as a basis for requesting the resignations."

You then say "They believe the policy prohibiting alcohol consumption is a stupid policy with no Biblical or moral basis."

Show me where the Bible condemns alcohol. It does no such thing. It condemns drunkenness like it condemns other excesses. Jesus drank wine and I am sure it contained alcohol not the lunatic SDA belief that it was "fresh grape juice." When you suggest that SDA views on wine etc are somehow sacred and supported by the Bible is misleading. They are not.

Nathan Schilt
2011-07-16 10:50 PM

I don't know how I can make it any clearer, Doctorf. I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT THE SDA TEACHING RE: ALCOHOL IS SACRED, NOR DO I BELIEVE IT IS A BIBLICAL TEACHING. It is sacred for me personally because I feel have been called to a covenant of abstinence through my community of faith. Organizational rules should not have to be sacred or Biblically mandated to be taken seriously. Nor should a community of faith be limited in its covenants, beliefs, and behaviors to what is rationally compelled or can be logically inferred from scripture.

2011-07-20 2:18 AM


The issue is personal for you, fair enough. Abstinence is a classic boogeyman created through your community of faith. In addition, this community of faith supposedly justifies itself through the bible. You cannot divorce the SDA community of faith and its views on alcohol from the bible that supposedly is its foundation.

Elaine Nelson
2011-07-15 6:52 PM

The SDA non-alcoholic obsession is made out of whole cloth and cannot be supported biblically.

Overcliff Road
2011-07-15 8:09 PM

I tend to agree with Nathan that if professors, pastors and teachers no longer agree with the tenets of the organization they work for then in most cases they have an ethical obligation to admit that and resign. However this same principle may also apply in a way that I had not heard anyone mention until this evening, which Elaine Nelson brings out in excruciating clarity here. If an organization is so conscientiously dedicated to the principle of correlation between one's beliefs and one's affiliation then maybe Adventist schools should all revert to being bible schools and not seek to accept the privileges that come with being affirmed as universities by outside accrediting agencies. Wouldn't integrity to the stated ethical principle require that same kind of honesty, so that the educational institution as a whole would avoid putting on and benefiting from a false identity?

2011-07-17 1:06 AM

Reverting back to Bible schools is for the most part what the initial thrust for Adventist education was to be about.

Nathan Schilt
2011-07-17 2:15 PM

Overcliff Road - I didn't say what you attribute to me. I think professors, pastors, and teachers should be able to critique the tenets and values of the organization they work for. Otherwise, how does an organization grow? There can be a fine line between openly and respectfully urging rethinking/change, and going underground with a don't-ask-don't-tell practical disdain for institutional values and lifestyle guidelines. There can also be difficulty discerning just what the real tenets of an organization are.

For example, I suspect that some, if not most, of the LSU professors who endorse evolution have not changed their beliefs since they were hired. If LSU hired these professors, presumably knowing where they stood on evolution, couldn't one reasonably argue that the University has thereby sent a message that the creationism tenet of the University, to the extent it is a tenet, has been waived? Is it fair to change the rules now, when it clearly was not an issue at the time of hire? Just asking…

2011-07-20 2:26 AM


The professors may have been avid slobbering creationists at the time of their hiring over 35 yrs ago. However, over the course of experience and new knowledge the professors may have altered their views. I know I did when I discovered I could use conserved sequences in the mouse genome and human genome to look at gene expression in a species where the code for similar proteins is not known. Darwin proposed that particular traits necessary for the survival of a species would be conserved. We see this in the genetic code. We are 75% similar to a rat genome. We have as many gene coding sequences as a fruit fly. Pretty unimpressive? Or very impressive?

T. Joe
2011-07-15 11:41 PM

Adventist education debated intensively whether or not to voluntarily accept accreditation during the 1920s. The worry was about worldly influences and higher capital requirements. Then in 1931 the Journal of American Medical Association published an account that the College of Medical Evangelist accepted 118 freshmen but only 31 came from accredited institutions. The Secretary of the Department of Education at the General Conference immediately demanded that henceforth CME would qualify as a professional school and only accept students from accredited institutions. Today of course the requirements are even more robust and LLU School of Medicine cannot accept students unless they are recruited from accredited schools. And since all Adventist colleges and universities are now accredited by secular organization students can qualify for federal and state grants and loans. WASC for instance is accredited by the U. S. Department of Education. And these federal loans, in some cases make up about 90 percent of the tuition for an SDA college, is how the schools survive...not appropriations from the church. Students can also transfer their grades and course work to other accredited institutions.

AAA is not accredited by the U.S. Department of Education but is a self-imposed sectarian accredited agency that mimics the secular (self-study and review teams from other Adventists). The consequences of losing secular accreditation such as WASC or SACU could be the death blow for Adventist education since the Church is unwilling to financially underwrite the costs. So when anyone says, the Church can demand certain subjects be taught to support church dogma that is not exactly the case. Adventist institutions are now beholding to the tax-payers than to the church just by looking at capitalization of education. This is much more complex than most people understand. They think that an Adventist college or university could simply drop its secular accreditation and become a Bible College. Graduates could not be hired to teach in public schools, many employers will not hire graduates without accreditation, graduate schools deny entrance, dental and medical pre-med students cannot apply to LLU or Kettering, etc.

And the Congress which funds the Department of Education insists that students who receive federal loans be properly trained broadly, not church dogma, to perform as citizens of the country...well balanced and able to think through issues and problems. You cannot expect under these circumstances that Congress is going to look favorably through WASC and other secular accrediting agencies to train individuals in a narrow bandwidth of learning. When it comes to science WASC will review how well students are being exposed to mainline scientific education...not creationism...a religious belief. Of course there is give and take in a faith based institution...but there will be standards that must meet the objectives of the Department of Education and the Congress. LSU could be facing consequences that might become more serious unless Adventist educators and administrators begin to treat this relationship with some seriousness.



2011-07-20 2:30 AM


Nice summary. You are correct. If SDA schools lose their WASC accreditation, from a monetary aspect they are in trouble and would cease to exist as there is not enough money from the GC to support all of our colleges and universities.

Elaine Nelson
2011-07-15 11:48 PM

It is good to hear the voice of reason repeat the absolute importance of secular accreditation. Without it, all the SDA colleges and universities would close their doors in the blink of an eye.

Be careful what you wish for as the law of unintended consequences always results.

Overcliff Road
2011-07-16 6:57 AM

Just for clarification's sake I was not advocating the idea that SDA schools give up accreditation and become "bible colleges." I was just wondering out loud whether the ethical principle assumed in this discussion: that there should be a correspondence between one's personal beliefs and one's affiliation would not, when applied on the institutional level, demand such a move.

T. Joe
2011-07-16 10:00 AM

Let me try to understand your comments Overcliff Road "just for clarification sake," since it sounds interesting. You are not "advocating the idea that SDA schools give up accreditation and become Bible Colleges." (Right?) So that settles this issue.

Although Lisa Beardsley, the director of the AAA would disagree with you. Her comments to the Riverside newspaper was "The real crux of the matter is whether the Bible has a privileged position as a source of knowledge." Basically she is advocating a Bible College configuration, not a university with broader educational ambitions. This implies that AAA gives priority to indoctrination.

On the other hand, you are "just wondering out loud whether the ethical principle assumed in this discussion: that there should be a correspondence between one's personal beliefs and one's affiliation would not, when applied on the institutional level, demand such a move." Now you turn and go in the opposite direction and advocate a reconfiguration of Adventist colleges and universities to be Bible Colleges. There is nothing wrong with that if indeed it is an "ethical principle." Just don't expect America's tax payers to support SDA's schools, but instead be prepared to strike out on your own without the ability for students to be recognized for further training, including nursing, dentistry and medicine, and jobs that require secular accreditation as in public education.

Do you see any fuzzy logic in this reversal of your position. It is like saying, "I am going to go shopping at Home Depot downtown in San Jose" and on the way you turn north and go across the Golden Gate Bridge heading in the opposite direction towards Portland Oregon.

Good luck in any case along the way. Accreditation is one way to regulate human lives, among other things. Long ago (almost a hundred years) Adventist educators decided that accreditation would bring a quality to education that drove ignorance away. Recasting the routine practice in mid-cycle would have enormous consequences. Review what has happened to Atlantic Union College and the financial exposures that impact the students when an Adventist college fails and you will see what I mean. Be careful with all manner of reforms. Consider the alternatives and outcomes. To be perfectly clear about this, it is my opinion that Adventism today is respected because of its commitment to (1) higher education and (2) winsome health practices. This in comparison to Jehovah Witnesses which does not encourage higher education. And Loma Linda University sitting as the flagship has done more to gain acceptance of Adventism on both accounts. It is the king-pin to secular accreditation. If all Loma Linda had was accreditation from AAA its graduates would not be allowed to practice the healing arts. So it is a public protective issue as well as an ethical principle.



2011-07-20 3:38 AM


Lisa suggested the same thing at LLU and within a year she was gone. Dr. Beardsley almost advocates a return to the dark ages of adventism. The problem she faces as you suggest is that SDA schools have done a good job in educating our young people. With education comes the ability to ask questions and reason. In the case of scientific reasoning the data do not support SDA fundamentalism. People like Dr. Beardsley are scary.

Overcliff Road
2011-07-16 4:38 PM

Okay, I'll try again and hope for the best.

Judging from the fact that tjoe and possibly Elaine seem to have misunderstood my first comment I will assume that I did not express myself clearly. Either that or I jumped into the middle a conversation that has been going on for a while and thus, as a result, people have read into my first comment something that I did not intend. In any case I was not making a recommendation that SDA schools give up accreditation. And if by coincidence someone from "AAA" (whatever that is) did in say something to that effect I was neither aware of that fact nor supporting it. I was merely responding to the comments I saw on this very thread and taking note of a potential disconnect, as follows.

I was wondering whether the same ethical principle that many would like to enforce on a personal level - for instance, on some professors at La Sierra - may not also apply on an institutional level. If so, then those who press that ethic so vehemently may not like the consequences of the very principle that they insist on. That was my point.

To be more specific, if it is true that under no circumstances should anyone, by hiding their true beliefs and positions, ever remain affiliated or benefit from association with an organization that they do not fully agree with, then could it be that by receiving accreditation from outside agencies our denominational schools are not in fact doing that very thing: putting on false pretenses in order to receive benefits (i.e. accreditation) from a system that they do not really support?

I hope that makes my intended point clearer. Now, whether or not you too think there may be some ethical inconsistency here, well that is exactly the issue I would like to receive feedback on.

Elaine Nelson
2011-07-16 5:34 PM


If it appeared I misunderstood your comments, let me clarify: Yes, I agree with you when you said:

"If an organization is so conscientiously dedicated to the principle of correlation between one's beliefs and one's affiliation then maybe Adventist schools should all revert to being bible schools and not seek to accept the privileges that come with being affirmed as universities by outside accrediting agencies. Wouldn't integrity to the stated ethical principle require that same kind of honesty, so that the educational institution as a whole would avoid putting on and benefiting from a false identity?

That would be the honest and upfront expression wouldn't it? Rather than apppearing to meet WASC accreditation while seeking to undermine the very essentials that require accreditation. IOW, registering students for courses with the expectation and statement that the school meets full WASC accreditation, thus accepting federal and state funds? This would be hypocrisy and "untruth in advertising" wouldn't it?

2011-07-16 6:44 PM

"The Right of Conscience cuts both ways in that every individual has the Right of Conscience but with that Right of Conscience come the honest duty to recognize that if you do not believe in the Seventh-day Adventist Fundamentals of Faith, that conscience should require your resignation and separation from the Body of Believers that have the full faith and spiritual experience that allows them to live in harmony with the Body of Believers that share so unreservedly in that Faith." Gailon Arthur Joy

I fully subscribe to this statement as I understand it although I have no idea exactly who the author is. Frankly, I don't even read comments from persons who have confessed they are no longer members of the church. It is beyond my comprehension that someone who left the SDA church years ago would spent endless hours, apparently, dissing the church and its beliefs.

If I ever reach the point of not accepting Creationism as reflected in Scripture and taught by the SDA church, and no longer accept the veracity of the Flood story I will ask for removal of my name from official membership and not spend time on AToday explaining why I believe the SDA church is on the wrong track.

Elaine Nelson
2011-07-16 7:13 PM

Anything that is beyond one's comprehension indicates that he or she is unable to see any other view. If we cannot realize that each one of us has views that are owed just as much respect as another, then we have not yet matured and reached understanding of humans. It is narcisisstic to feel that one's own view is the only possible one. Does that infer that all but SDAs are somehow either unintelligent or badly informed? Is that an attitude that converts non-SDAs?

This site allows all to participate, regardless of church affiliation. There are some who know much more about the inner workings of an institution and how the doctrines were formed. (Hint, like sausages and laws, religious doctrines should not be seen being made.)

Nathan Schilt
2011-07-17 10:26 AM

Thanks to those of you who have emphasized the accreditation angle as a check on the ability of LSU to set whatever standards it chooses. You have helped to make my point. Just as the exercise of personal autonomy contrary to the rules of an institution is fraught with consequences, so institutional choices may run afoul of policies set by agencies to which an institution is beholden either by choice or by law. To the extent that institutions try to enforce moral and religious values which run afoul of standards set by outside governing authorities, it will find itself in trouble. This appears to be just fine with those who are waving the accreditation flag. And I agree.

So why, IF faculty members run afoul of religious and moral standards set by the institution, which are within the purview of institutional authority, should they not expect to find themselves in trouble? Back to my original questions: As between an employee, who agrees at hire to work under the policies and standards set by his/her employer, and the employer, who gets to decide what policies are important and what are not?

Doctorf, assuming for purposes of argument, that the University had unimpeachable information, morally and lawfully obtained, that the LSU4 had in fact adopted a lifestyle which included alcohol consumption in moderation, would the University be within its rights under its policies and accrediting standards to request their resignations or institute other disciplinary action? I'm not asking whether you think abstinence SHOULD be the policy. I know the answer to that.

2011-07-20 2:45 AM


Your question is rhetorical. I am not dishonest and the answer is yes. But you and I know that alcohol consumption has nothing to do with the issue of why these people were brought before this small band of inquisitors. Alcohol consumption was assumed by the recording. It was a joke. Its like me coming home after a day of nonsensical admin meetings where we "pray" for gods guidance and wisdom and once our heads come up, we are left with "what the hell are we going to do now." God is absent in these discussions and after the prayer god is a mere afterthought. I sometimes kid around with my wife and say "man do I need a drink." Its banter.

The issue here was due to the ongoing friction between science and religious dogma and these professors teach the science and not the religious dogma. That annoyed some people who see themselves as the vanguards of faith as well as enforcers. .

Elaine Nelson
2011-07-17 12:18 PM

Does the control over faculties private lives extend into their homes? Or, were they hired to teach certain subjects PLUS agree to abide by a lengthy list of how they should live outside the classroom or campus? A general statement that they agreed to live by SDA beliefs could have even included their assent to all the 28 Fundamental Beliefs which even the strictest Adventist would have difficuly totally affirming.

The AAA is at cross purposes attempting to meet two impossible goals. My bet is that WASC will rule the day. If the church's standard is chosen, look for LSU to close in less than one year.

As an aside: the local 12-grade academy in the town where I live has been operating for more than 100 years. It is now facing closure, owing $1.7 million, with $1.2 million to the local conference, and approximately $500,000 to vendors, insurance, etc. This amounts to $35,000/month shortfall.

It is facing the same fate of other SDA educational institutions in the U.S. With insufficient funding. So to believe that a university such as LSU can choose to ignore the larger percentage of its funding and continue to operate is to refuse to face reality.

Nathan Schilt
2011-07-18 12:47 PM

Elaine, help me understand your point. I thought the potential conflict between WASC and AAA pertained to Church and doctrinal authority over science classroom curriculae. That seems to be the point of your second paragraph. It is a valid one. Most SDA Church members who send their kids to La Sierra, like the AAA, also want to ignore reality. They want certain values and beliefs promoted in the classrooms, but they also want the benefits that come with accreditation. Usually these types of conflicts are resolved through institutional compromises that are not wholly satisfying to either interest, but simply help to soften the dissonance.

But isn't this a very different issue from the one presented by the resignation of the LSU4? I have assumed, without knowing its contents, that indeed the faculty/employee handbook at LSU does prescribe behovioral standards for faculty which apply 24/7. In other words, I assume that it would be cause for termination if faculty members were hosting bacchanals in the privacy of their homes, a prospect with which you seem to have problems. Without getting into whether or not proper procedure was followed, or what behavioral standards were allegedly violated, are you suggesting that the behavioral standards prescribed by LSU for its employees/faculty may be a problem for WASC?

Elaine Nelson
2011-07-18 1:37 PM

While I do not know the formal accusations agains the LSU4 and only what is on the grapevine, here and other blogs, it appears that there are cross-purposes which cannot be resolved by adhereing to both the AAA and WASC.

Yes, it is likely that parents send their children to LSU to get a "good SDA education" which they expect to include more indoctrination into Adventism. Yet, at the same time, they want them to receive a good university experience which necessitates studying science, the humanities and other subjects, all of which may raise questions about SDA beliefs. It appears to be a demand that cannot be satisfactorily resolved, as teachers who have dedicated their lives in a particular discipline are being asked to forget about their knowledge and instead, teach the Creation story in Genesis which would take l/2 of one class session; or else attempt to combine the two into one coherent answer. Does anyone think this can be done to the satisfaction of both AAA and WASC? Suggestions, please.

I have no information on the contracts signed by these accused, nor if behavioral standards were violated. Therefore, I cannot comment on them, only the accusations that have been made include drinking alcoholic beverages (unconfirmed, even denied). If using alcohol is grounds for dismissal, there are numerous other prohibitions equally qualifying for dismissal.

It is difficult to believe that WASC would be at all involved in whether or not faculty imbibed alcohol; on the contrary, it is such a common custom in all professions that it seems particularly odd that WASC would have anything to say about this, as they approve all universities where alcohol is freely used--at home but not in classrooms.

If this is a problem with WASC, it has not, so far, been mentioned. WDYT?

Kevin Riley
2011-07-18 10:26 PM


As part of employment by the SDA church - whether or not one is personally a member - is the agreement to live in harmony with SDA standards. In the past, contracts I have seen specifically stipulated a 'conservative' SDA lifestyle. I do not know of any SDA organisation that would not consider imbibing alcohol a sufficient reason for dismissal. More than likely the person would be asked to resign, as the church tends to like to avoid dismissals unless necessary. It is not a question of what you, I, or employees, believe to be the biblical standing of the no alcohol policy, but of what church policy and employment contracts/agreements state.

I have seen contracts that state that the employee and their family will follow church guidelines in their lives. I believe I once signed one myself that stipulated that. I am pretty sure that they could be challenged legally, and I haven't seen that for years, but when a person enters into an agreement to work for a church organisation it is not uncommon for part of the agreement to be that they will support and follow church guidelines.

2011-07-20 2:53 AM


I had lunch with one of "the 4." They were not drinking. It was a joke during the conversation post board meeting. They were discussing the board meeting. Alcohol was an "add on" issue. Its clear that particular people on the board had it in for these professors. I suspect that the view from the board was "better the academic death of these 4 than the whole institution." Brigham Young used the same argument when the evidence for the Mountain Meadow Massacre implicated him and others in the church hierarchy.

2011-07-20 3:06 AM


WASC will not concern itself with alcohol use. The issue will be governance and following procedures. I have been through 4 LCME and WASC accreditations. A major issue is the governance relationship between administration and faculty. Its always a testy issue in SDA schools. At UC schools the faculty regents have veto power over the administration. Thus, admin at those schools cannot act by fiat. Its a delicate dance at SDA schools where upper administration clearly has all the power. Admin gets around this issue by having policies in place that supposedly guarantee that the rights of faculty are not trampled. Faculty committees act soley as "advisory" which WASC and LCME begrudgingly accept but hold the feet of administration to the fire every 5-7 yrs when they come to re-accredit SDA institutions.

Elaine Nelson
2011-07-18 10:43 PM

It has been repeated here that no alcohol was used by the LSU4. Do you have contradictory information? If so please give us the evidence. Otherwise, it is mere rumor and speculation. Gossip, as I recall, was one of the sins condemned much more than alcohol use.

Elaine Nelson
2011-07-20 12:02 PM

Over on the Spectrum blog, the letter from WASC is detailed and its meaning for LSU. It is a serious document and must be given consideration if LSU is to continue to receive WASC accreditation.

Nathan Schilt
2011-07-20 12:35 PM

On the alcohol issue: The transcript of the recording readily yields a strong inference that alcoholic beverages were being consumed at the private gathering. Additionally, audible statements on the recording, as transcribed, indicate a comfort level with alcohol consumption as an positive lifestyle choice for the individuals present at the gathering. Would I find to a moral certainty, beyond a reasonable doubt, on that evidence alone, that alcohol was consumed by all four gentlemen at the private gathering? NO! Would I find by a preponderance of the evidence that consumption of alcoholic beverages occurred at the gathering and that it was an underground lifestyle choice for those present? Most definitely.

I do not believe that the recorded trash talk alone would have prompted a request for resignations, much less actual resignations by all four. It seems to me that any reasonably intelligent individual, confronted with false accusations of alcohol consumption, would angrily dig in his heels rather than resign. From what I know of the resigning Board member who was responsible for the inadvertent recording, I find it difficult to imagine him being easily intimidated or bullied by false accusations, particularly when leveled by Church institutional authorities.

So I think most reasonably objective individuals would agree that the transcript of the recording permits, if not compels, a inferences that rise well above "rumor and speculation". That's just my opinion. Could I be persuaded otherwise? Of course. But I don't think it makes sense, based solely on self-serving hearsay statements offered by Doctorf (not that there's anything wrong with hearsay - everything we know at this time is based on hearsay) to insist that detached observers should dismiss the alcohol issue as a joke that was misunderstood.

2011-07-20 1:32 PM


Two did dig in their heels. The other just did not want the fight and chose to deal with the issue in a law suit. You do not know these people like I do and after listening to one of the four and my 30+ yrs of knowing two of the 4, the recording makes sense. It was banter. Once again, alcohol is a peripheral issue. The real issues are the ongoing angst of board members who had problems with the scientific perspectives of these faculty. But, then again science does not validate ones mythological beliefs.

Elaine Nelson
2011-07-20 1:12 PM

If inferences indict, we are all susceptible. To "presume" alcohol was an "Underground lifestyle" is patently wrong, no more so that to accuse someone of drinking because he may have entered a bar.

Reminds me of the story of a widower who was accused by a woman, a fellow church member, of being an alcoholic because she saw his truck parked in front of a bar. The next night, he parked his truck in front of her house, left it there all night, walking home. This silenced her! Such accusations would be laughed out of court, so why should good SDAs be less skeptical?

Nathan seems to be relying on "hearsay" a very poor reason to charge anyone.

Nathan Schilt
2011-07-20 4:31 PM

You're right, Doctorf. Reasonable inferences that can be drawn from the transcript may well be refuted or counterbalanced by other evidence such as character evidence - usually not admissible in a court of law, by the way. The fact that you see the evidence in a different light, thanks to conversations you have had with a participant who has not, to my knowledge, made a public statement, certainly entitles you to draw a contrary inference - that alcohol banter was all in jest. But it does not make the inferences I have drawn, based on the transcript of the recording alone, unreasonable, even if they turn out on closer inspection, in light of all the evidence, to be untrue, does it?

To whom was alcohol a peripheral issue and how do you know? Presumably those who requested the resignations did not recognize the banter as a joke. Is your belief that alcohol was a peripheral issue not the product of debatable inferences you have drawn from evidence that is probably considerably softer than the transcript at issue? Why does "permission to infer" seem to be a one-way street for the Adventist Left? Is it reasonable to infer, from the fact that some Board members had problems with the scientific perspectives of some of the LSU4, that those who initiated the resignation proceedings - not the Board, as I understand it - saw alcohol as merely a "peripheral issue"? That, it seems to me is a considerably bigger stretch than the inferences which I suggest are supported by hard evidence on the recording.

Your first two sentences make no sense. You say "two did dig in their heels." Do you mean that they resigned and are not contesting their resignations, or that they didn't resign, or something else? If they resigned and are not seeking recission, that doesn't sound very much like they dug in their heels. As to the other two who "just did not want to fight," common sense suggests that by trying to contest their resignations in a court of law, they have taken on a considerably bigger, more expensive fight than they might have had by refusing to resign when confronted with false charges, and seeking, through internal process, the vindication that their defenders seem to think is a foregone conclusion. What am I missing? It sounds to me like what they want is to fight really big battles on a big stage. I'm okay with that. But it doesn't square with your statement that they resigned because they didn't want to fight.

Elaine, we're not talking about indictments here. These are not criminal proceedings. Furthermore, nearly all conclusions that we reach, and opinions that we embrace, are based on inferences that we draw from circumstantial evidence. I'm not sure what you mean when you say it is "patently wrong" for me to infer from the transcript that alcohol consumption appears to have been an underground lifestyle. It certainly wasn't open, correct? And whether the transcript of the conversation supports the conclusion that it was a lifestyle choice is really a judgment call that can be made only if one has read the transcript.

As for your humorous analogy - If you saw me walk into a "gentlemens' club" (What an oxymoron!) and emerge two hours later, would it not be reasonable for you to draw certain inferences about my taste in entertainment, if not my character? I think so. Other possibile explanations for what you observed would not render your negative inference unreasonable, would they?

Would it have been unreasonable for the accuser in your anecdote to infer that the bar patronizing fellow church member was likely out of step with Church orthopraxy if she had a recording of him saying, as he left the bar, "Thanks for the brew."? Information that the Church member was an actor who was actually in the bar to do a movie scene would certainly go a long way toward dispelling the inference. But retaliatory conduct - parking his car in front of the woman's house the following night - would do nothing to dispel the inference. It would only be an indignant exclamation point to the possibility of innocent explanations for what she observed. In a faith community, I do not think it would be unreasonable for other members of the faith community - which had mutually covenanted among its members to a lifestyle of abstinence - to tell the clever truck driver, "Okay, Joe, we get your point. But you still got some 'splainin' to do."

2011-07-21 4:40 PM


Inferences is all one has and the tape is proof of nothing. There is no blood alcohol evidence. After spending 4 hrs with one of the 4 it was clear to me what the agenda of the board was regarding these 4 and why.

What is clear to me is that the teaching of modern biology at LSU was both effective and troubling to some fundamentalists that choose to bury their heads in the sands as the belief box of literal creation is being smashed by modern science. Adventism is first of all a business and it has a product to sell to the believers. In exchange the believers are willing to pay the clergy for their efforts. If the established product comes under scrutiny then the GC establishment becomes frightened. This fear comes about because of the expectation that the faculty are going to support the fundamentalist doctrines in the science classroom.

The LSU 4 is the culmination of a rancorous fear campaign put on by vocal fundamentalists from the oxymoronic group, "educate truth." In the end Adventism cannot have it both ways with high standards of scholarship and stubborn uniform adherence to beliefs that are inconsistent with science, much like the Catholic clergies adherence to Ptolemaic views of the solar system in the face of the Copernican observations and data.

What is happening at LSU is a classic attempt to maintain intellectual honesty in the Adventist brand of Christianity. To me this is an oxymoron. They can't have it both ways. Once you start showing the remarkable and breath taking similarities in the human genetic code and that of lower animals and even insects, like the fruit fly, the evolutionary theory suggesting life forms are interconnected comes forth.

The professors taught modern biology and yet the charter of the LSU is Christian. The idea of God as creator of life is a theological tenant, not a scientific one and outside the purview of science. Deal with the author of life arguments in a theology class, not a science class.

Elaine Nelson
2011-07-20 5:10 PM

Regardless of any and all explanations, the truck driver certainly had the last word!

Nathan Schilt
2011-07-21 7:32 PM

I agree with most of what you say Doctorf, particularly when it comes to the Church not being able to have it both ways. But I am still having difficulty understanding why you believe that the request for resignation was an assault on the biology department. How will that do anything to change the way biology is taught by tenured faculty members? I can't believe Administration is so stupid as to think that tenured faculty members, who have defiantly stood shoulder to shoulder on this issue, will be induced by these resignations to yield ground to the conservative fundamentalist agenda.

Yes, I know that one of the four was actively teaching in the biology department, and was, I assume, a target of criticism. And I think the Board member who resigned had been a fairly outspoken advocate for the status quo in the biology department. But what about the other two, particularly the Director of Advancement? Had he taken a position in the conflict? These resignations do zero to impact the full time biology faculty or their curriculum. Do you think that the administrators involved in the requst for resignations believed that no alcoholic beverages were present and were being consumed at the private gathering? I know you think that is a red herring. But I wonder if you have an opinion as to whether Administration thought it was true. And if you concede that they thought it was true, do you really think it didn't matter to them? I don't see the LSU4 as the "culmination" of anything. I see it as a most unfortunate side issue that both sides are trying to exploit in their tug-of-war over LSU.

I certainly can't argue science with you, Doctorf. I couldn't even argue science with a reasonably sophisticated lay creationist. I am definitely not in either the YEC or YLC camps. I don't believe traditional Adventist dogma as science. But I'm pretty agnostic and skeptical about many of the imperialistic claims of evolutionary "science". It doesn't seem self-evident to me, as a layperson, that breathtaking genetic similarities in life forms prove natural selection and random mutation, any more than breathtaking similarities among cars unearthed by archeologists thousands of years in the future would prove natural selection or random mutation. Correlation may be strong evidence of a common design, and it may also permit evolutionary inferences. But it is hardly conclusive proof of basic evolutionary hypotheses. Do the breathtaking similarities between humans and apes render scientific the speculative "ascent of man" charts which are a staple of most biology textbooks? I know this is a bit off topic, but since you brought it up, I was curious... Where are the blood alcohol analyses to prove evolutionary theories?

Kevin Riley
2011-07-21 8:00 PM

I can't help thinking that maybe the action was a way of administration showing the conservative majority that they were prepared to act - to 'do something'. It has been a perceived lack of 'doing something' about LLU that has led to so much support for groups like educatetruth. The two don't need to be formally connected for people to connect the dots. Perception counts for much in the world of church politics.


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