Promise Thoughts

mr clough 1948

This is from the 1948 Vintage. See Mr. Clough on the bottom row? His wife receives around $150 a month plus a discount on meals. That’s after he worked at the University for fifty years and she twenty-five. Even uber-loyal Bojos have said to me, “Mrs. Clough slipped through the cracks.” There shouldn’t be cracks like that, now, should there? 

Thank you for caring about my work. I appreciate the email and Facebook messages. Please continue to send stories, ideas, suggestions and old documents that are cluttering up your junk drawer (don’t worry; you’re not the only one) that might be helpful. My email address is

Here’s an update on my progress:

I’ve been gathering information—stories, documents, IRS filings, cases (yes, I read the tax case with astonishment). (Generally speaking, if there is a case and it says your name versus THE UNITED STATES, that’s not going to be great for you.) I’ve got a working outline and a decent idea where to go with my paper on Bob Jones University’s Promise to its faculty. I’ll be sitting down over the next couple of weeks with hopes of finishing up a decent draft. Don’t worry, Brian’s taking vacation to doing Primary Parenting. My children will not starve or live in cardboard add-ons.

An old friend who teaches math at West Point is doing some math for me, so the section of the paper that answers the question, “What is the difference in dollars between what was promised and what is received?”—won’t be drafted for a few weeks at least.



First, I have to say that the more I look into BJU, the more troubled I become. I have suffered a sort of psychological whiplash. Six months ago I thought Camille was a trouble-maker, a hater, a disloyal, disgruntled she-wolf, gnash, gnash.

After all, as Dr. Senior said, “A man who isn’t loyal isn’t anything.” (Standing Without Apology, page 148) Then–whoop, snap, ouch–my brain does a one-eighty and I wonder why I didn’t see all along that Dr. Lewis was saying something, and it was important. It is important. If she happens to say it in a way you don’t like, that doesn’t invalidate the information. (That you don’t like it being brought up that Bibb Graves was a Grand Cyclops doesn’t give him two eyes or remove his hood.) 

Let’s think about loyalty, shall we? “A man who isn’t loyal isn’t anything.” Sit with that. Ponder that. Realize that what Senior meant was, “A man who isn’t loyal to me isn’t anything.” Or perhaps, “A man who isn’t loyal to my son isn’t anything.” Dan Turner’s book Standing Without Apology is chock-a-block with statements about loyalty that, when read by a non-sycophantic eye are stomach-turning.

Here are some:

“If we get a Jonah on the ship, and the ship doesn’t take him, we let the fish eat him! We throw him overboard. . . ‘United we stand, divided we fall.’ That is the reason that in this school we have no ‘griping.’ Gripers are not welcome here. If you are a dirty griper, you are not one of us.” (page 64)

stop complaining


“Bob Jones was the sole controlling personality in the early days of the College and made all decisions relative to the cultural, religious and academic life of the school.” (page 83)

Speaking in chapel of a town student, “He is critical of the school. Now, son, you can just pack up your wife and family and house, and go somewhere else. We are not interested in folks who are not interested in the program of this school. A fellow who is disloyal to this school, he has no place in the school.” (page 148)

“If you are a griper in this institution, the trouble is you have got a sin buried in your heart…We are going to insist upon loyalty and cooperation.” (page 149)

There are lots more of these little gems in Standing. Buy a copy and have a blast.


Six months after starting to read and ask and ponder, I am appalled at how ignorant I was, how hateful of Camille (and others) and her (their) hard work, and how much more there is to learn. Scratch anywhere, there’s a mother lode of awful.

Secondly, I have gathered a number of theories under which the school might be sued on the Promise.

The old song-and-dance that this was an oral promise and therefore not enforceable is a load of cow patties. Oral contracts, even gratuitous ones–and this wasn’t that–can be enforced. The terms were clear: you work here for forty or fifty years, we’ll provide for you in your old age. These are nice and easy terms. A baby can understand them, and a court certainly will.

Another issue, the Statute of Frauds, comes up. The Statute of Frauds states that any contract that can’t be fully performed in one year must be in writing. Clearly, you can’t complete a forty- or fifty-year career in one year, so the contract has to be written down, right? Well, yes. But there’s a lovely little thing you can do to “take a contract out of the Statute,” and it’s called “having a sufficient memorandum.” Sufficient memorandum can be anything that indicates “the party to be charged” did in fact agree to the terms. Well, we’ve got it written down in Standing, for one thing (see page 237). We also have internal documents—faculty handouts describing the Promise, owning it. Here’s one: promise doc

Obviously the Promise was made. Obviously the terms are clear. Obviously you can sue on it. And, if you read my piece about the Brooklyn Bridge, you can think about the unilateral contract approach. I think that’s a powerful argument.

Thirdly, naturally there will be some resistance to actually taking the U to court. Two things: One, they have no problem taking people to court when a need arises. They took the presumably-Christian Greenville City Council to court in the sixties over a zoning plan. They took a man’s children to court in 2001 over the terms of the man’s will—for the possibility of $150,000, they sued a man’s children for his life insurance money, when the life insurance policy was not mentioned in the will. And two, there is no other way to get a decision here on the righteousness of the situation—there is no governing body other than the Trustees; there is no outside accountability.

The only way to crack open the bank even a tiny bit is to go to Court, and in fact, if I’m wrong and the retirees are getting everything they bargained for, then the court won’t crack open the bank.

Fourthly, food stamps. Retirees might be eligible for food stamps. Go here to check. Please be aware, dear older faculty member, that food stamps aren’t what they once were. You don’t pull them out and look all obvious. There’s a card exactly like your ordinary bank debit card. You swipe it, you’re done. It gets loaded automatically every month. food stamp card

You should not worry about any evil in taking government handouts. You worked for this—you built that side of Greenville with your sweat, tears, and lesson plans. You contributed. You taught students who went out and contributed. You’ve done your bit, paid your dues, run your race, earned your rest. You were promised food and instead you got a discount in the dining common, and you pay taxes on the discount. Take the food stamps if you qualify. In addition, there may be other government programs for which you qualify. I will try to find out what’s available.

In other fun news:

m and g

 This is the M&G. On their FAQs, you will see this:

What is your collection worth?

It is a priceless collection, but we do not share the dollar value with the public. The paintings were acquired during a time when they were relatively inexpensive, and since then their worth has increased as the favor of Baroque art has swelled.

However, IRS forms 990-T tell us that in 2010, the book value of the collection was $6,221,703, and in 2011, the book value of the collection was $3,632,081. Where went the $2,589,622 in book value, whatever book value may mean? Frankly, even six million dollars in value is not priceless, but now that it’s only worth three and a half, well, that’s about the value of one nice fat retirement account, isn’t it?

5 thoughts on “Promise Thoughts”

  1. I worked with Mrs. Clough at the Print Shop back in the 80s. I’m appalled that she has “slipped through the cracks” as you say! If the U is taken to court over the Promise, I hope they lose and lose big! So many, many faithful people have been screwed over after giving their lives to the place. Makes me glad we got out when we did. Then again, we were merely day employees.

  2. The accounting side of the value isn’t complicated. For works of art they are examined for a change in value. Unlike other items of ownership, say, a refrigerator or car, there is no depreciation. So for the value to have changed, they had to show a reduction in value, an impairment, and an adjustment had to be made by the auditor/auditing company in order to show the adjustment to the financial statements. I don’t do financial statement audits, but I look at the same figures and have to understand them to understand how a company puts together its costs for proposing and working on government contracts. Its would be interesting to see how they determined that the art lost $2.5M in value for it isn’t chump change or a minor financial impact. Did anyone question this? Is it explained any where? The financial statements, if available, should include notes to explain this.

    1. Thank you, Anne. I don’t know anything about art values, but I was intrigued to see a drop from one year’s 990-T to the next. My interest in the M & G is only to wonder the following:

      1. if the art was collected to provide for “a rainy day” as was always said, why was it spun off into a 501(c)(3) so that it is illegal for it to profit BJU, which is still labeled a racially-discriminatory organization, per the IRS. Now the paintings CAN’T benefit the U.

      2. Was the M & G spun off to allow for the new bylaws’ rule about any future dissolution of BJU–the bylaws used to say that if the school was closed, it would be sold and the money distributed to loyal employees and then given for the spread of the Gospel. NOW it says, the money will be put into a 501(c)(3) or given to a governmental agency (federal, state, or local–which might provide for some local entity that would benefit certain people????). Someone knows, but I sure don’t.

      3. How much does the City of Greenville benefit the M & G in relation to how much the M & G benefits the City?

      and so on. I suppose there are endless questions, and maybe I’m completely off-base. I’ve been wrong before, sometimes spectacularly. Maybe the M & G is what it is for entirely holy purposes.

      1. Reminds me of Matthew 15:4-6:
        4 God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother [Ex. 20:12; Deut. 5:16],’ and ‘Anyone who ·says cruel things to [speaks evil of; curses] his father or mother must be put to death [Ex. 21:17; Lev. 20:9].’ 5 But you say a person can tell his father or mother, ‘I have something I could use to help you, but I have ·given [dedicated; devoted] it to God already [a practice known as Corban; see Mark 7:10–12].’ 6 You teach that person ·not to [that he need not] honor his father or his mother. You ·rejected [invalidated; canceled; nullified] ·what God said [the word of God] for the sake of your own ·rules [tradition].

  3. This is so sad and tragic. So many people–good people, loyal people, faithful people full of the love of Christ–cheated out of what was promised to them. Words fail me. A God in heaven sees it all. He will not fail to make up to these folks for what they were robbed by the U. Here in this world, people cheat other people all the time and laugh all the way to the bank. It is nothing new. But for this to be perpetrated by a professing Christian University . . . . ? It is not Christian. They don’t believe the Bible they clam to preach.

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