Investigation to resume into Bob Jones University handling of sex abuse claims

Move follows criticism of fundamentalist Christian college for stopping inquiry

An investigation into Bob Jones University’s handling of sexual abuse complaints will be allowed to resume. Photograph: Chris Keane/The New York Times

An investigation into Bob Jones University’s handling of sexual abuse complaints will be allowed to resume. Photograph: Chris Keane/The New York Times

 

An investigation into Bob Jones University’s handling of sexual abuse complaints will be allowed to resume, the university and investigators have said, after the school endured two weeks of criticism for cutting off the inquiry, without explanation, as it neared completion.

After Bob Jones, a fundamentalist Christian college in Greenville, South Carolina, suspended the investigation in late January, people who said they had been abused and had been interviewed by the investigators went public with their stories, some for the first time.

Some common themes were that when university students sought counselling, officials at Bob Jones called them liars or sinners, and told them not to report abuse to the police because turning in a member of their religious community – especially a parent or pastor – would harm Jesus and the church.

Most of the accounts involved abuse that occurred when the students were children. But some people said they were abused as students at the university or its affiliated grade school, Bob Jones Academy.


Terminated contract
The university has not explained why it terminated its contract with the group it had commissioned to conduct the investigation, Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment, or Grace.

Stephen Jones, the university president and a great-grandson of the founder, acknowledged this month it had not told Grace of any of its concerns before halting the investigation.

He did not elaborate when addressing students and staff members on February 7th. “We terminated our agreement with Grace so that we could sit down and get it back on track,” he said. The university’s critics assailed his statement as contradictory nonsense, saying Bob Jones was interested only in protecting its reputation.

The two sides met last week and this Tuesday. Both said the investigation would resume, with no new limitations placed on its scope. Bob Jones released a statement saying, “Grace satisfactorily addressed the university’s concerns.” Grace released a statement saying it was “greatly encouraged this morning to be notified by BJU of its decision to accept our offer to reinstate the original agreement with no changes.”

The group said it was not clear when it would produce a final report. Neither side would say what problems Bob Jones had cited, or what assurances it might have received.

“I’m really relieved, but I expected it to be back on, because I knew we weren’t going away, even if that’s what Bob Jones expected,” said Catherine Harris, one of the university’s most vocal critics.

She has said she was sexually abused by clergy members as a child, and that she went to a university administrator for counselling in the mid-1990s, only to be told not to go to the police.

– ( New York Times )