Bob Jones University

A conservative evangelical institution with a history of controversial policies on race, religion, and academic accreditation.

Bob Jones University (BJU) is a private evangelical university in Greenville, South Carolina, known for its conservative cultural and religious positions. Founded in 1927, BJU has been a significant figure in the development of conservative evangelical education in the United States. The university’s history is marked by its founders’ and leaders’ strong stances on theological and social issues, leading to controversies and debates within and outside the evangelical community.

Foundation and Growth

The university was officially established in College Point, Florida, by Bob Jones Sr. and moved several times before settling in Greenville, South Carolina, in 1947. This move marked a period of rapid growth for BJU, including the establishment of a radio station, a film department, and an art gallery. During its early years, BJU became embroiled in a controversy with Billy Graham over the issue of cooperation with theological liberals, which negatively impacted enrollment and led to a rift within the evangelical community.

Leadership and Expansion

Over the years, BJU has been led by members of the Jones family, with Bob Jones III taking over as president in 1971 and later being succeeded by Stephen Jones in 2005, and eventually by Steve Pettit in 2014, the first president outside the Jones family. The university has expanded its academic offerings over time and achieved accreditation from the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS) in 2011 and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 2017. BJU regained its federal tax exemption in 2017 after a restructuring into for-profit and non-profit entities.

Academic and Religious Education

BJU offers a wide range of undergraduate majors, with a strong emphasis on religious education. The School of Religion trains men for ministerial roles, while other students prepare for various forms of ministry. The university uses the King James Version of the Bible but does not adhere to the King-James-Only Movement. Its Division of Fine Arts is notable for its large faculty and extensive program offerings, including annual opera and Shakespearean play productions.


BJU has faced criticism for its positions on Catholicism and Mormonism, referring to them as “cults” and expressing strong anti-Catholic sentiments. The university’s history with racial policies, particularly its ban on interracial dating until 2000, has been a source of significant controversy. This policy led to the revocation of its tax-exempt status by the IRS in 1970, a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in Bob Jones University v. United States in 1983. BJU has since apologized for its racially hurtful policies and made efforts to promote diversity and inclusion on campus.

Criticism and Reform

The university has also been involved in a sexual abuse study conducted by GRACE, which led to recommendations for significant changes in how BJU handles sexual abuse allegations and supports victims. Additionally, BJU’s stance on academic accreditation has evolved over time, with the university moving towards accreditation to better serve its students and faculty despite its historical skepticism towards external educational standards.

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