This Week in God

THIS WEEK IN GOD…. If you weren’t around last week, I have brought back “This Week in God” as a regular Saturday feature. The weekly piece highlights some of the news from the world of religion, most notably instances in which faith intersected with politics and/or public policy. TWIG was on hiatus during the height of the election season, but by popular demand, it’s back.

First up from the God Machine, one of the nation’s more notorious religious colleges is owning up, at least on the surface, to its embarrassing history.

Bob Jones University is apologizing for racist policies that included a one-time ban on interracial dating and its unwillingness to admit black students until 1971.

In a statement posted Thursday on its Web site, the fundamentalist Christian school founded in 1927 in northwestern South Carolina says its rules on race were shaped by culture instead of the Bible. […]

“BJU’s history has been chiefly characterized by striving to achieve those goals; but like any human institution, we have failures as well. For almost two centuries American Christianity, including BJU in its early stages, was characterized by the segregationist ethos of American culture. Consequently, for far too long, we allowed institutional policies regarding race to be shaped more directly by that ethos than by the principles and precepts of the Scriptures. We conformed to the culture rather than provide a clear Christian counterpoint to it.

“In so doing, we failed to accurately represent the Lord and to fulfill the commandment to love others as ourselves. For these failures we are profoundly sorry. Though no known antagonism toward minorities or expressions of racism on a personal level have ever been tolerated on our campus, we allowed institutional policies to remain in place that were racially hurtful.”

It’s a start. Also from the God Machine this week:

* AP: “The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the state’s ‘In God We Trust’ license plate Monday, rejecting a claim that people who buy the plates should have to pay a $15 administrative fee charged for other specialty plates. In its 12-page ruling, the appeals court found that state lawmakers acted correctly in creating a license plate classification system that exempts people who buy the ‘In God We Trust’ plate from paying the administrative fee.”

* The Living Word Christian Center, a Minnesota megachurch, went to court recently so it wouldn’t have to disclose the compensation taken by its founder and pastor, James “Mac” Hammond, to the IRS. This week, a U.S. district magistrate judge’s recommendation sided with the church. (thanks to Zeitgeist for the tip)

* The German government announced that is no longer trying to ban Scientology, but added that German intelligence agencies would continue to monitor the group. The announcement ends a decade-long investigation.