Home > Bp. Breidenthal > Dean Breidenthal vs. the Jesus-Freaks

Dean Breidenthal vs. the Jesus-Freaks

6 January 2010

[Elder’s note:  Contra bloggequete, I’ve excerpted the complete article from Catholicnewsagency.com.  I have also inserted footnotes to compliment the article, and highlighted some things.]

This is regarding a bit of recent history (May of 2005), that concerns our present bishop. 

From here:

Princeton University has granted official recognition to an evangelical Christian student group after two months of debate. The school’s dean of religious life, Thomas Breidenthal, had withheld official status from Princeton Faith and Action, but the university administration recently reversed the decision after an advocacy group intervened on the students’ behalf, reported AgapePress.

Princeton Faith and Action is associated with Christian Union, an off-campus ministry whose request to have a full-time chaplain on campus last year was denied by Breidenthal.

Princeton Faith and Action (1) was only formed in March 2005, after the Christian Union was blocked once again, this time from reserving campus space.

Princeton Faith and Action approached student government to apply for official recognition, but was told that it needed the dean’s approval due to its religious nature.

The dean reportedly refused the new group the opportunity to apply for recognition due to its association to Christian Union (2). According to students, he also refused to explain why he disapproved of Christian Union.

The president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (3), David French, wrote a letter to Princeton president Shirley Tilghman (4) on behalf of the students. He argued against Breidenthal’s seemingly arbitrary refusal and in favor of religious rights on campuses. As a result, the group was granted official status.

According to French, this kind of discrimination based on religion is not uncommon on U.S. campuses. 

So, let’s recap… Per a Catholicnewsagency article:

Prior to Bp. Breidenthal’s career as bishop of DSO, when he was dean of religious life at Princeton University, he refused official university recognition for two Christian parachurch organizations, with inadequate justification.  As a result of that, one of the organizations (Princeton Faith and Action) complained to a secular watchdog group (FIRE), who then went over Dean Breidenthal’s head to the president of Princeton University.  Dean Breidenthal’s snub was subsequently reversed.  And finally, the president of the secular watchdog group said this type of religious discrimination is more or less par for the course at our universities. 

What is particularly odd about all of this, is this dandy of a lament by Princeton’s former dean of religious life: 

I have occasion to feel some frustration,” says Breidenthal, who teaches a class on Christian thought, “that students who are very capable of careful argumentation, and who are willing to argue and argue about free will versus election and other issues in religion, are reluctant to speak about ethical issues, the war in Iraq, school vouchers, the environment … I’ve been teaching for three years, and it seems to be a steady problem. Everyone seems to be afraid of polarization.”

Just a guess… but perhaps they were afraid of disenfranchisement, rather than polarization (?). 

I am making the rounds to see if anyone from either Princeton Faith and Action or Christian Union would care to comment on these events.  In the meantime, I am offering Bp. Briedenthal (who reads this blog) the opportunity to explain his actions, here.  What I am particularly interested in is how people who for all I know, probably aren’t even Christians (at least, if they are, I cannot tell from reading through their biographies), would side with PFAF and against you. 

It just seems so .. I dunno .. ironic. 

– Elder


(1)  Princeton Faith and Action, in their own words:  “Princeton Faith and Action (PFA)is a community of Princeton students seeking to understand and experience the presence and power of God on campus. We want to love God and love people as He has loved us through His Son Jesus Christ. Some have been on a spiritual journey for years and some have just begun. Either way, come pursue the God of the universe with us and be a part of His story and the life that He has to offer.” 

(2)  Christian Union is a broader version of Princeton Faith and Action, viewing its mission field as all of the Ivy-League Universities. 

Per their mission statement, “The mission of Christian Union, by God’s power and with the help of other ministries, is to change the world by bringing sweeping spiritual transformation to the Ivy League Universities, thereby developing and mobilizing godly leadership to transform all sectors of society.” 

Their goal is to “to see 20% of students, faculty and staff involved with a Christian ministry by the year 2020.

(3)  The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is a secular institution committed to protecting what I would classify as Consitutional rights of students.  In their own words, “The mission of FIRE is to defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience — the essential qualities of individual liberty and dignity. FIRE’s core mission is to protect the unprotected and to educate the public and communities of concerned Americans about the threats to these rights on our campuses and about the means to preserve them.

(4)  Shirley M. Tilghman, 19th president of Princeton (2001-Present).

Categories: Bp. Breidenthal
  1. Rob Eaton+
    6 January 2010 at 6:07 AM

    +Tom has been known to be intense about certain ideas and focii now and then. I’d love to know more, though, about this decision on his part back then. The way you have this written up, it reminds me of +Butler vs Wesley.

  2. Pearls Before Swine
    6 January 2010 at 6:45 PM

    EO, very interesting find you got there. Please re-post this when/if Bp. Breidenthal responds to s’plain his actions! Until then I will assume to be true that which is implied.

  3. Fr. Theoden
    10 January 2010 at 4:05 AM

    Very nice background work, EO. Eagerly await +TB’s justification for his, well, less-than-transparent dismissal of this evangelical student organization. Gotta love the dissonance–suppressing actual diversity whilst spouting its academic virtues. Hmmm, was this a harbinger of the Politburo-esque state of the 2010 DSO?

  4. Elder Oyster
    10 January 2010 at 7:41 AM

    RE: “Eagerly await +TB’s justification for his, well, less-than-transparent dismissal of this evangelical student organization”

    I don’t think his response will be forthcoming.

    Moreover, the two student organizations haven’t responded either. I think I understand why, and I think they’ve acted honorably.

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