In The Church

Church v. State: Liberty Institute Stops Government From Bullying Private Seminaries

Posted May 11th, 2012


Opulent Life Church; Telsa DeBerry v. City of Holly Springs, Mississippi | Liberty Institute

 

HEB Ministries v. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board

Background

  • The state of Texas fined Tyndale Seminary, a ministry of HEB Ministries $173,000 for using the word “seminary” and issuing theological degrees without receiving government approval of its board of directors, its curriculum and its professors. Under a new Texas law, seminaries were required to submit to state oversight and approval of all aspects of their religious operations, including a mandate that would force seminaries to continue the employment of professors who at some point abandoned the faith and a prohibition on Billy Graham teaching a course on evangelism because he did not have an earned masters degree.
  • Liberty Institute filed suit in district court against the state for violating the U.S. and state constitutions that guarantee religious liberty. The suit, on behalf of Tyndale as well as other seminaries across the state, argued that government attempts to control the religious training of seminaries is unconstitutional and oversteps the boundary between church and state.

Current Status

  • The Austin Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the state and Liberty Institute appealed to the Texas Supreme Court. In 2005, the Texas Supreme Court granted review and heard oral arguments from Liberty Institute. In 2007, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of HEB Ministries, striking down the regulation of seminaries in Texas and restoring constitutionally guaranteed religious autonomy to seminaries and other religious organizations.

Impact

  • This was a landmark case that continues to protect seminaries in Texas and provide national precedent for seminaries across the country. Government bureaucratic overreach is increasingly prevalent in today’s society. But as this case proved, the First Amendment protects seminaries and churches from government intrusion into the religious and educational training such institutions use to advance the faith. Now, faith-based schools may teach their beliefs as they see fit free from government oversight and interference.

 

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