Illinois Bible Colleges File Legal Challenge for Right to Issue Degrees to Students

CHICAGO — The Illinois Bible Colleges Association has filed a lawsuit against the Board of Higher Education (IBHE) in an effort to obtain the right to issue degrees to students.

“The IBHE prevents Illinois Bible colleges from operating and granting degrees unless their teaching and curriculum is approved by the state,” reads a website that provides information about the case. “We believe religious communities should determine the standards and criteria necessary to complete a degree for a ministry vocation.”

The association, representing approximately 15 Bible colleges in the state, states that the board’s prohibition on the issuance of degrees by Bible colleges violates their First Amendment rights to freedom of religion and also the separation of church and state—that the state should stay out of the business of the church.

“We don’t think there can be state regulation of a religious program,” Jim Scudder Jr., president of Dayspring Bible College and Seminary in the Chicago suburb of Mundelein, told The Associated Press. “If there is, then the state is deciding ‘which’ religion and breaking the establishment clause of the First Amendment.”

The association also states that the prohibition violates the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Currently, Bible colleges can offer certificates or diplomas, but cannot issue degrees because they do are not accredited, state-certified schools. College officials desire to be able to issue degrees to students since a degree carries more weight in the ministry and workforce.

“It’s sort of a governmental ‘ghettoization’ of faith-based education by saying, ‘You can’t tell your students what you think the value of their degree is because you haven’t gotten our accreditation,'” attorney John Mauck told reporters. Mauck is with the law firm Mauck & Baker, LLC. The Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is also a part of the case.

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The organizations note that similar battles have been fought successfully in other states.

“In 1999, HEB Ministries, Inc., a church in Fort Worth, TX that operated the Tyndale Theological Seminary & Bible Institute, filed a lawsuit against the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for restricting the college from calling itself a ‘seminary’ or using words like ‘degree,’ ‘bachelor,’ ‘master,’ ‘doctor,’ or their equivalents, without State approval,” they explain on

“HEB Ministries and Tyndale Theological Seminary & Bible Institute won the case in 2007 allowing post-secondary religious schools in Texas to now operate and grant degrees according to the tenets of their faith,” the site continues.

Last year, Illinois Sen. Bill Haine (D) introduced a bill that would have amended the state’s Private College Act to allow Bible colleges to issue degrees as long as “the institution’s handbook for students include[d] the following statement: ‘This religious degree is not approved by the Illinois Board of Higher Education.'” The bill passed the Senate unanimously but stalled in the House.

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  • Gary

    The government has no authority to tell Bible Colleges what to do in this area.

    • BarkingDawg

      The colleges are free to sell their diplomas, but they have to meet the standard if they want to issue degrees.

    • “Bible college” doesn’t mean what you think it does.

  • Rudy Brinkman

    Well, it’s good to see the state protects *worldy* titles and degrees from diploma mills. Is it really that important if a minister has a ‘degree’ or not? There are many fake degrees floating around, esp. in the Christian education.

  • Kevin

    You heard it! The government shouldn’t meddle in the affairs of the church! The federal/state government should take this to heart and bow out gracefully taking their tax exempt status with them. By their own request, the churches want to pay taxes. Of course, they’ll need to file like the businesses that they are but I’m positive they’ll eventually become corporate welfare queens.

    • BarkingDawg

      Should the government allow churches to issue medical degrees? Engineering degrees? Law doctorates?

      • Kevin

        You have a point there. I was thinking only of the tax exempt status. I would assume for a college like this that if they want to issue diplomas then they still need to be subject to government over sight. This would be to make sure they are teaching the appropriate and correct subjects instead of either doing nothing or basically teaching the bible and telling people what to ignore because the bible says so.

  • bowie1

    I wonder how Calvin College and Seminary manage to issue degrees since many of our Christian Reformed pastors have these (Bachelor of Arts and/or Bachelor of Divinity) unless Michigan has different standards. Perhaps I will have to ask them. (There were also some Canadian institutions who had the same problem some years ago, and it took them some time to be approved for similar degrees).

    • BarkingDawg

      There are 46 colleges in Illinois that are acredited and can issue degrees in theology.

      • That’s sick & disgusting. Can you imagine how many theocracy factories we have in the entire country?

  • Fundisi

    Clearly this is a violation of the First Amendment. The State has no authority over such educational institutions or their issuing of diplomas, as long as the curriculum and basis for the diploma are a matter of public record so that others seeing these diplomas can know what they are based on.

    On the other hand, I am for all churches and religious schools not being entangled with the state regarding any tax incentives. In that way, they subject themselves to oversight by the state and become answerable to the people. Get out from among them and be ye separate!

    • BarkingDawg

      The state already allows these colleges to issue diplomas.

      Pay attention

      The colleges want to be able to issue degrees without requiring the work that goes into that degree.

      • Fundisi

        Where does it say they want to issues degrees without requiring the work that goes into the degree, I am missing it.

        • BarkingDawg

          That is the whole point of the lawsuit. They do not want to offer an accredited program.

          They want to issue degrees on their own terms ($$$$).

          Read the article in the Chicago tribune. They make no effort to hide the fact that its all about the money.

          • Fundisi

            So you lied when you said, “The colleges want to be able to issue degrees without requiring the work that goes into that degree.”

          • BarkingDawg


            they want to sell cheap degrees.

            Requiring the students to follow an accredited curriculum would take more effort and more money.

          • Fundisi

            You lied about their not requiring work that goes into that degree, it is thing different to suggest they wanted to sell cheap degrees that did not require the work other accredited colleges would demand and the state feels are minimum requirements.

          • BarkingDawg

            What are you talking about?

            It they wanted to require the same amount of, or even more effort from their students, then they would set up an accredited program.

            They don’t want to set up acredited programs. They even admitted in their press release that one reason is that they are marketing to students who don’t want to do the work required by an accredited program.

            Why are you defending these people? Is it just because they claim to be “bible colleges?” They are clearly diploma mills looking to make a quick buck selling cheap degrees.

            Have you no sense of pride or integrity?

    • First amendment? Not at all. The issue here is consumer fraud.

  • BarkingDawg

    Well, hey, why not make internet diploma mills legal for everything.

  • BarkingDawg

    This is not an issue if the state establishing a religion. The state standards for accreditation have nothing to do with religion at all

    These “colleges” just want to be able to sell degrees without requiring that the students meet the srandards for those degrees.

    This has nothing to do with freedom of religeon, it has to do with freedom of making a quick buck.

  • BarkingDawg

    There are 15 “schools” involved in this lawsuit. Yet there are 46 accredited colleges in Illinois that offer degrees in theology. In other words, 46 schools have no problem with the accreditation requirements.

    I’m thinking that those school (and the graduates of those schools) don’t want these 15 diploma mills undermining the value of their degrees.

  • James Grimes

    One of The Useless, who doesn’t know much, issued this statement, “These are not real colleges, they are scams operating under the ciolor of the bible.” Isn’t he brilliant?

    And another, “There are many fake degrees floating around, esp. in the Christian education.”

    Finally, here is this, “These “colleges” just want to be able to sell degrees without requiring that the students meet the srandards for those degrees.”
    I’m still looking for citations that will support any of these “facts.” Oops, I can’t find any.

    • BarkingDawg

      From a Chicago Tribune article on the lawsuit:

      The Bible colleges – there are about 15 statewide – don’t have full-fledged collegiate curriculums that the IBHE requires to issue degrees. But the schools’ leaders say not every student is seeking that; many want the religious education at a quarter or less of the cost of other private and many public institutions.

      There you have it.

      It’s all about the money.

      There are 46 colleges in Illinois that offer acredited degrees in theology.

      Why should these 15 schools be allowed to offer the same degrees without requiring the same amount of work?

  • BarkingDawg

    Just because these are. “Bible ” colleges, doesn’t mean that they are not being run to make a profit.

    • patriotism-matters

      Got ya. Know who you are now.

  • BarkingDawg
  • thoughtsfromflorida

    In related news, bible college says that since they believe that prayer can heal, they should be allowed to issue medical degrees.

  • Clin_Ton

    To my mind, it is not right to mix education and education. Actually, these two spheres are closely connected, for religious people, but it is just vital to set priorities and know what are you doing right now: praying or prepare for future career. Moreover, no pray can fulfill thesis and assignment writing instead of you. So, it is time to write papers and prepare for the classes and take care of your soul. Eventually, we all know what employees care about and it is also important to take care of your brains and fortune.