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While Bob Jones was for decades the choice destination for conservative Christian students, enrollment at the school was dropping: down about 10 percent in the last decade and nearly 25 percent since its heyday in the early 1980s.
Until the early 2000s, faculty were paid minuscule wages—hovering around $15,000 a year for a full-time professor—in exchange for subsidized living and the commitment that the school would care for them into old age (a retirement plan called “The Promise”).Rules for students are infamously strict—no TV, no holding hands, no Christian contemporary music, and, until 2000, no interracial dating.By 2012, though, the fortress no longer seemed inviolable.Phelps resigned from the board of trustees in December 2011, just days before the rally.But then a few months later, on the eve of graduating, Peterman was expelled for watching , among other violations. Peterman and alumni groups active on Facebook began to hear from more and more students who claimed they had been poorly treated when they reported sexual abuse to school staff.She was then sent to a family in Colorado until the baby was born and given up for adoption.
Anderson’s rapist, a registered sex offender, was made to confess as well—but to adultery, not rape—and he remained at the church for years.
Tina Anderson, a 15-year-old who lived in New Hampshire, was raped and impregnated in 1997 by one of her church’s deacons, then in his late thirties, while she was a babysitter for his family.
When Anderson and her mother told their pastor, Bob Jones graduate Chuck Phelps, what had happened, Phelps had Anderson stand before the congregation while he read a confession of her pregnancy.
Bob Jones, founded in 1927, isn’t just any conservative Christian college; it’s the de facto center of the national Independent Fundamental Baptist network, which functions almost as a denomination unto itself, with thousands of affiliated churches, feeder schools, and businesses including Bob Jones’s textbook company, radio station, and music publisher.
Outsiders call the school the “mother ship” of fundamentalism; the university prefers another moniker, “the fortress of faith.” To call Bob Jones insular doesn’t quite cover it.
In November 2012, Bob Jones University, the longtime flagship institution of fundamentalism, announced it had hired GRACE (short for Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment), an independent group of evangelical lawyers, pastors, and psychologists, to investigate the university’s handling of sexual-abuse and -harassment reports.