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Duke-UNC Middle East Studies Center Flagged for Anti-Christian Bias

Lance King/Getty Images: An aerial view of the University of North Carolina campus including the Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower (center) on April 21, 2013 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

This article was first published at Christianity Today, on September 27.

Certain evangelicals have long complained about bias in American universities. The government may now be doing something about it, as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos examines a prominent Middle East studies program for downplaying Christianity and other non-Muslim faiths.

A three-page letter sent by the Department of Education chastised the Duke-University of North Carolina Consortium for Middle East Studies (CMES), jointly administered by the two universities, for its “considerable emphasis placed on understanding the positive aspects of Islam.”

The complaint also found “an absolute absence of any similar focus on the positive aspects of Christianity, Judaism, or any other religion or belief system in the Middle East.”

At stake is the Duke-UNC consortium’s status as a “national resource center,” a term created by Title VI of the 1965 Higher Education Act. It authorizes Congress…

The school had its response:

The Duke-UNC consortium, though it agreed to establish an advisory board in compliance with the ministry’s letter, ultimately defended its Middle East program.

Enrollment in Urdu studies ranks first in the nation, they wrote in reply. Arabic and Turkish rank eighth. It listed the many events held on Middle East minorities, saying “positive appreciation … suffuses” their outreach activities.

And whereas government employment lags behind academia, if counting also the Title VI emphasis on business, 30 percent of graduates work in that field.

Meanwhile the items deemed inappropriate by the ministry were a small percentage of over 100 organized each year, none of which were supported by federal funds.

The academic establishment also came out in their defense, calling the inquiry “unprecedented and counterproductive.” Nineteen scholarly societies, including the American Academy of Religion, the Middle East Studies Association, and the Society of Biblical Literature, published a joint reply…

Please click here to read the full article at Christianity Today, including three evangelical professors who give their perspective.

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