Ala. Seminary Defends Right to Issue Religious Degrees

The Alabama Community College System will no longer demand that a private divinity college and seminary cease offering all of its associate and bachelor programs in religion, ministry, theological studies, and Bible.

The school system's Department of Postsecondary Education had notified the chancellor of Bethany Divinity College and Seminary back in June that the Dothan, Ala.-based school is not authorized to offer programs of study of associate or bachelor degree levels.

In a letter, the school system demanded that certain religious degree offerings from its catalog and website be removed within 30 days.

In response, attorneys with the faith-based Alliance Defense Fund sent letters on behalf of the school, outlining how the college is officially exempt from government intrusion and regulation of its religious programs, and that any attempt by the state to alter or revoke its degree programs would be unconstitutional and in conflict with state law.

"The government should not attempt to regulate religious programs that are specifically exempt under state law," said ADF Senior Litigation Staff Counsel Daniel Blomberg after the school system notified his legal group of its intent to drop its demand.

"The Alabama Community College System did the right thing here by finally deciding to recognize Bethany's right to offer associate and bachelor degree levels in its religious programs," the attorney added. "State law does not regulate programs that only offer religious degrees, which are the only degrees Bethany Divinity College and Seminary offers."

Although Bethany respectfully declined to eliminate its degree offerings when it received the June letter, it did volunteer to slightly alter the names of some of its degrees.

The incorporation certificate of Bethany Divinity College and Seminary states that the school's purpose is to "establish and maintain a Religious institution, to provide advanced training in Bible, Theology, Christian Education and Pastoral Ministry, as to such to prepare students for full or part time Christian Service."