Southeastern College of the Assemblies of God 1000 LONGFELLOW BOULEVARD LAKELAND, FLORIDA

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Southeastern College of the Assemblies of God 1000 LONGFELLOW BOULEVARD LAKELAND, FLORIDA 33801-6099 Tel (941) 665-4404 t Fax (941) 665-0486 E-Mail CHARLES W. SPONG, D. Min. Director for Distance Education Statement for a hearing of the United States House of Representatives Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution in Tampa, Florida June 23, 1995 I appear here today because of information sent earlier this year to the office of Mr. Charles Canady, the honorable United States Representative of Florida. Thank you for allowing me to speak. Mr. Chairman and committee members of the United States House of Representatives, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to come to Florida so we could share some concerns relating to first amendment freedoms. I speak on behalf of U. S. servicemen who would like to receive their education with Southeastern College through Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support called DANTES, as servicemen do at many other American colleges and universities. DANTES is a federally funded program of the Department of Defense to financially assist servicemen taking non-traditional education, such as distance learning. Located in Lakeland, Florida, Southeastern College for 60 years has served the nation well in providing quality leaders for America's public and private schools, the chaplaincy of the U.S. military and churches, meeting America's spiritual, educational, and social needs. There is an Army ROTC program on our campus. Though a small college, Southeastern College ROTC students have been recognized by their commanders for outstanding leadership in the program. I have served the college for 26 years in faculty and administrative positions, holding four post secondary degrees the highest being a doctor of ministry. As of November, 1994, I began serving as the Director for Distance Education and continue to this day. In January 1995 our standing with DANTES came to an abrupt end. The public announcement was made in DANTES information Bulletin Number 222 "Educational Support to the DOD- Worldwide" 1995. It stated "Dantes canceled its Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Southeastern College of the Assemblies of God in Lake land, Florida, effective 21 January 1995. Southeastern College entered the DANTES program in 1989 as a member of the Accrediting Association of Bible Colleges, a USDE recognized agency, to provide US Military and their families non-traditional education leading to a bachelor of arts degree. In a letter sent to Southeastern College, Feb 25, 1994 from the Director of DANTES, Pensacola, FL, we were informed that "due to a recent ruling by the Judge Advocate General (JAG) after a legal review of college admissions policies, we are asking schools participating with Dantes to confirm in writing that they do not require the signing of a statement of faith or behavior which implies acceptance of certain religious tenets. " The letter went on to say that, "Military students or military family members who express interest in enrolling in your institution's courses or degrees should not be required to sign any kind of statement of faith or behavior which implies acceptance of certain religious tenets". This DANTES policy and ruling of the Judge Advocate General is in direct conflict with policy as authorized by the Board of Directors of Southeastern College. The new DANTES guidelines do not appear to be the same as those in which we entered the program in 1989. In November of 1994, the Board of Directors of the college reaffirmed its commitment to the college's mission and purpose. This mission and purpose is stated in our college catalog and is reflected in the college's application for admission. Two questions on the application are, "Are you a Christian? and Do you agree with and are you committed to living a positive Christian life based on Biblical values?" All students who attend Southeastern College indicate a statement of faith on their application and must have a recommendation on file from a pastor. Apparently these two questions ended our relationship with DANTES in January 1995. The college must remain true to its mission of preparing people for Christian living and Christian service. As a Christian college administrator, I could not in good faith recommend a person for chaplaincy or Christian ministry not knowing one's commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and to Christian principles. I would also think military chaplaincy personnel would want to know a person's religious convictions and persuasion before admitting him or her to the chaplaincy. In my November 1994 letter to the DANTES representative, I stated "hopefully in the future a workable solution will be able to be found. If I can assist in this regard, I will be happy to do so. " To date no solution has been found. Servicemen have called the college and asked about our standing with DANTES. We had to indicate we were no longer able to be a part of their program due to our admission process that included a statement or confession of faith. To my knowledge, there are other colleges that find themselves in a similar situation. It is the desire of Southeastern College to be able to assist US servicemen in their educational needs through the DANTES program. -2 - We believe that the Judge Advocate General's ruling unnecessarily limits the options available to members of the armed forces who are able and willing to meet the admissions requirements of faith affirming institutions. We agree that no member of the military should be forced to indicate adherence to specific religious tenets. At the same time, there is no defensible reason for precluding their voluntary affirmation of religious convictions. We still hope there will be an acceptable solution down the road. Thank you again Mr. Canady and members of the House Subcommittee on the Constitution for hearing me today on a vital issue that could have long term effects not only on our college but other institutions that may feel the impact of the Judge Advocate General's ruling and the new policy of DANTES. Charles W. Spong -3 -


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