We may learn from the experiences of Ohio Valley College, Parkersburg, West Virginia. Here’s the story. Ohio Valley College, like many private colleges in the land, received federal assistance in its buildin g program, under the Higher Education Facilities Act of 1963. One day, early in 1968, the college was visited by auditors of the Government General Accounting Office. It was a routine visit, but it had embarrassing results for the college. The auditors learned that an auditorium, erected in part with a $76,000.00 federal grant, was being used for chapel exercises. Ohio Valley College is allied with the Church of Christ, and chapel exercises are a required part of the students’ daily program. Federal authorities pointed out that this constitutes a violation of the provisions of the Higher Education Facilities Act which states, “No part of the facility or facilities included in the project may be used for sectarian instruction or religious worship.” The college was given a choice to suspend all devotional exercises or to repay the $76,000.00.

Ohio Valley College’s predicament is the concern of many. Or, at least, it should be. Back of it lies the philosophy, expressed in Title IV of the Act as it forbids “any facility used or to be used for sectarian instruction or as a place for religious worship.” The philosophy implied is that learning can be transmitted within a neutral framework and that only such learning is acceptable to the state and qualifies for governmental benefits. It appears that the public authorities recognize no other type of basis for learning and culture in general. Thus education, in order to qualify for public recognition, must renounce the Christian faith as a basis, and adopt pragmatic humanism as its philosophic foundation.

This constitutes the almost unnoticed paganization of North American culture. It is the most startling development of the twentieth century. Those who want to base education and academic pursuit on God’s revelation forfeit all meaningful public recognition. What a pernicious blow to the Christian faith!

From these wider implications we return to the immediate problem of Ohio Valley College, and many other private and church-related colleges, which is this: a government financed auditorium may be used for all sorts of inspirational exercises -inspirational toward an appreciation of humanistic secularism, that is -but meetings towards an appreciation of the Christian faith are forbidden.

The immediate remedy lies in political action. It does not lie in a re-interpretation of legislation, but in new legislation, legislation that respects the existence of a number of basic ideologies in the land, not just one, namely humanism.

And here the vicious circle closes, because the present two-party system itself is the outcome of the same philosophy, namely that the Christian faith is not integrally pertinent to politics and the affairs of the state. And where does that leave the Christian Kingdom community?


Rev. Louis Tamminga is Pastor of the Bethel Christian Reformed Church, Sioux Center, Iowa.