A Louisiana College professor resigned in protest in February, claiming administrators at the Baptist school tried to suppress criticism of a chapel speaker for using sexualized imagery and leaving the impression that a woman’s value is measured by her physical appearance and sexual history.
A lawyer representing the college responded May 29 that Russ Meek – who resigned as assistant professor of Old Testament and Hebrew three days after a meeting with administration officials on Feb. 25 – “was already disgruntled about other leadership decisions and now has purposefully pursued this issue in an attempt to malign the leadership of Louisiana College.”
Meek, who earned his Ph.D. from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2014, says he went through formal channels to object to remarks in a Valentine’s Day chapel sermon by Joshua Dara, dean of the Louisiana College School of Human Behavior.
According to Meek, the sermon – which is inaccessible online – included troubling advice to single women looking for a mate. Comparing their bodies to houses, the speaker reportedly urged women to “mow your lawns,” taken by some in the audience as shaving pubic hair. He proceeded to warn against letting too many people into their “house,” reminding ladies that places where people enter and exit all the time are called “crack houses.”
Dara apologized for what he called a poor attempt at humor. Administrators attributed the controversy to “differences in cultural perceptions and nomenclature.” Dara, pastor of Zion Hill Baptist Church in Pineville, Louisiana, is black. The majority of both Louisiana College faculty and students are white.
Meek said he was especially shocked to hear such language only days after two Texas newspapers published a series of investigative stories about hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse by ministers and church volunteers in the Southern Baptist Convention.
“The Southern Baptist Convention is in the midst of a reckoning with sexual abuse,” Meek wrote in an e-mail to the administration Feb. 17. “One must wonder what role is played [by] the misogynistic view that women are merely sexual objects.”
Meek said he is concerned not only about people who were upset by the remarks, but also those who might agree with the unchallenged implication that women exist primarily for the pleasure of men.
“How are we teaching men to value women as made in God’s very own image when we speak of them as ‘houses’ who must ‘mow your lawn?’” he asked. “How are we empowering women to be who God has called them to be, when a chapel message reduces their value to the number of sexual partners they’ve had?”
Meek said his formal complaint led to a meeting with Louisiana College President Rick Brewer and two vice presidents, but his superiors seemed more concerned about negative publicity than distancing themselves from a clearly unbiblical view.
“Reducing women to sexual objects who must take care of their physical bodies in order to attract a suitable husband [is] simply incorrect,” Meek said in an essay chronicling his departure. “A human’s worth is in their being made in God’s image, not in how many people they have had sex with.”
Attorney Steven Oxenhandler said May 29 that Meek “erroneously attempted to conflate nationally reported cases of sexual abuse with a comment made by Dr. Joshua Joy Dara during a Louisiana College chapel message.”
“Louisiana College has policies and procedures for filing grievances,” the attorney said. “To date, no student or employee has filed a complaint in this regard.”
“Louisiana College also has policies and procedures to address sexual harassment/abuse and will take all measures necessary to ensure the safety and welfare of all Louisiana College students and employees,” he added.