Judge Says Regent University is Pervasively Religious, Cannot Receive State Support for Bonds

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
July 30, 1999 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Virginia
Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


RICHMOND, VA — A Richmond Circuit Court judge ruled this afternoon that the Virginia College Building Authority may not issue low-interest bonds for construction projects at Regent University.

Finding that the primary purpose of the Christian graduate school founded by Pat Robertson is to promote religion and that the school environment is pervasively religious, Judge Randy Johnson said issuance of the bonds would violate the constitutional mandate for separation of church and state.

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and Americans United for Separation of Church and State represented Virginia taxpayers who opposed the issuance of the bonds.

Regent University recently asked the Virginia College Building Authority to approve a $55 million bond request for construction projects. Approval of the bond would have made the university eligible for a low interest rate that would save the school millions of dollars over the life of the loan.

The court ruling today stems from a hearing on June 22, when the Virginia College Building Authority chose not to issue final approval of Regent’s request because of uncertainty concerning the religious status of the university, but to ask the Richmond Circuit Court to decide whether the request conforms with statutory and constitutional guidelines.

According to its articles of incorporation, Regent University “shall exist for the purpose of bringing glory to God and His Son Jesus Christ by providing an institution or institutions of learning in which those who are mature in the knowledge of God and His ways can assist and guide, in a spirit of free inquiry and scholarly excellence, those would learn of Him, His ways, and His creation, while together they study ways to glorify God and better their world.”

The application for admission includes questions such as, “Given Regent’s commitment to a Christ-centered educational philosophy, explain how your personal and spiritual objectives relate to that commitment.”

“From its articles of incorporation to its student selection process, Regent University’s official documents make it absolutely clear that its primary and overriding purpose is religious,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “The judge saw this and was unequivocal in his ruling.”

In 1991, Liberty University, founded by Jerry Falwell, was denied $60 million in low- interest bonds by the Virginia Supreme Court on the basis that the school was “pervasively religious.” Last year, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Maryland’s denial of tax dollars to Columbia Union College because it, too, was pervasively sectarian in nature.

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release