Baylor U. Denies Tenure to Intelligent-Design Proponent
By PAULA WASLEY, THOMAS BARTLETT, and AISHA LABI
From the issue dated April 14, 2006
TENURE DENIED: Controversy is brewing at Baylor University, where Francis J. Beckwith, a prominent and widely published Christian philosopher and legal scholar, was recently denied tenure Ã¢â‚¬â€ some say for his conservative religious views.
Mr. Beckwith, 45, an associate professor and associate director of Baylor’s J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies, joined the faculty of the Baptist university in 2003. Since his appointment, there have been rumblings on the campus about Mr. Beckwith’s affiliation with the Discovery Institute, an intelligent-design think tank, and his writings promoting the teaching of intelligent design in public schools [[BeckwithÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s writings argue that teaching ID is constitutionally permissible — he has never, verbally or in print, argued that ID should be taught]].
Mr. Beckwith’s supporters call his tenure denial, announced last month, a “watershed” moment for Baylor and its new president, John M. Lilley.
William A. Dembski, a professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Kentucky, who was director of a short-lived intelligent-design center at Baylor, sees two warring factions at work. “One side wants to see Baylor turned into a top-flight research university with an explicit Christian identity,” he said. The other “wants to see Baylor continue in its old way as a recognized regional institution without the emphasis on the research and without pushing the Christian identity.”
Mr. Dembski is among those who view Mr. Beckwith’s tenure denial as the triumph of an “entrenched guard that wishes to see Baylor on its track toward secularization.”
Baylor’s provost, J. Randall O’Brien, would not comment on the particulars of the tenure review, but said Mr. Beckwith’s “writings on intelligent design has absolutely nothing to do with the decision.” [[The ID connection may not have been explicitly cited, but it was there in the background. –WmAD]] He added that the university remained “totally committed” to its vision: “Baylor intends to enter the top tier of American universities, while affirming and deepening its distinctive Christian vision.” Mr. Beckwith has appealed the tenure decision and is “cautiously optimistic,” he said, about the outcome.