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Bob Jones, in Greenville, South Carolina, is a niche school.Indeed, you may have only heard of it if you’re from a Christian fundamentalist background or follow that subculture closely. Although its discriminatory policies preceded desegregation, historian Randall Balmer has noted that it lost its non-profit status due to President Nixon’s crackdown on so-called “segregation academies.” (Among those segregation academies: Jerry Falwell’s Lynchburg Christian School.) Bob Jones received numerous warnings from the federal government and ignored each of them, but when the IRS finally rescinded its status the religious right reacted with outrage, as Balmer recounts: As Elmer L.Fully a quarter of black men who got married in 2013 married someone who was not black.Only 12% of black women married outside of their race.Bob Jones University lost its tax exemption after a 13-year battle with the IRS over whether the university’s policies against interracial dating precluded it as a non-taxable religious educational institution.The university didn’t admit any black students until 1971, 17 years after Brown vs. It then wouldn’t admit any students who were in a mixed-race marriage and created rules to prohibit students from interracial dating.It’s embedded deep into the movement’s rhetoric and political priorities.
Among newlyweds in 2013, 37% of Asian women married someone who was not Asian, while 16% of Asian men married outside of their race.As such, Trump’s effective use of conspiracy theories calls to mind some ominous historical parallels.The most famous American precedent is Senator Joseph Mc Carthy, whose demagoguery poisoned the political system in the early 1950s, as with his accusation that former Secretary of State George Marshall was involved with treason.But the story of how Bob Jones lost its non-profit status offers timely insight into the contemporary religious right. Rumminger, longtime administrator at Bob Jones University, told me in an interview, the IRS actions against his school “alerted the Christian school community about what could happen with government interference” in the affairs of evangelical institutions. Although Bob Jones’s ban is history, it left a significant imprimatur on the religious right.“That was really the major issue that got us all involved.”Bob Jones ended its ban a mere 17 years ago—right before then-President George W. Evangelicals still fear secular interference with sacred affairs.