Biola Torrey Honors Institute Management of Evangelical Outpost

by Joel on September 20, 2008

As Joe Carter has shifted his priorities, there is an announcement on the Evangelical Outpost blog that it will now be managed by Torrey Honors Institute of the tax exempt religious school, Biola University. I think the Outpost, though sometimes raising my blood pressure, has been an excellent blog, and it has had the readership to indicate it is highly respected and cited.

I was curious enough, though, to know how a highly partisan blog could be managed by an affiliate of a tax-exempt religious institution. Has Torrey been separated enough that it operates semi-independently of Biola, akin to how Focus on the Family Action separated from Focus on the Family, allowing the former to engage in more partisan activities?

I posted a comment/question to that effect at the Outpost, but at the moment I can’t find that it ever made its way past moderation. Clearly there are ways to set up “think tanks” that have a partisan edge, just as will be done with the Bush think tank at Southern Methodist University. I’m just curious as to how Torrey is set up to manage a blog that is rather clearly aligned with Republicans and against Democrats. The answer may be simple, but I’m still interested.

Joel Betow
Stroud, Oklahoma USA

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }


Richard 09.20.08 at 1:03 pm

I was very sad to see that Joe had handed control of EO to others. Even sadder to see who he had handed it to.


Bene D 09.21.08 at 1:41 am

Joe is playing with the big money guys now, and wants his daughter to be able to attend some Biola Torrey Institute thing - giving them his blog is his way of paying the California tuitition fees I guess.

I wish he’d just been forthright and shut it down.

I see Tall Skinny Kiwi and Christianity Today Liveblog gave Carter a fair good-bye in regards to his bit at EO where he muses about standalone blogs yielding to “socnet” or what they call new media as per the gospel of Hugh Hewitt.

Someone has to socnet for young Republicans.

At least David Kuo didn’t give up his standalone blog at Beliefnet, which I think was wise of him.

I don’t see much point in trying to comment at the new Evangelical Outpost Joel, although you get kudos for trying.

My last comment got through, however I was scolded privately by email like I was a wayward student.
Rather sad really.

I’ll miss Joe too, at least our discussions, as lively as they got; were honest, and he was civil behind the scenes.

The Torrey Institute folk have never made any pretention of being anything less than partisan. Discussion gets circular real fast, it’s just easier to leave them be. they have to chase the donor base.

Dr. John Mark Reynolds has a book coming out “The New Media Frontier” (Good News Publishers) end of September, co-written with Roger Overton, forward by Hugh Hewitt - draw your own conclusions.


dh 09.22.08 at 5:38 pm

How sad is that people thik it is sad that Joe handed over EO to someone else. What is sad is how people think it is sad regarding who he handed EO over to. It seems there is a double standard. I see the same thing by people who attack Republicans and I don’t see you guys “crying about it”. Yet EO is handed over to a group that happens to be Republican just like other on the other in handed over groups who happen to be Democrat. What is the big deal? Just like I wouldn’t think it is a big deal if Richard turned over his site to a bunch of Democrat supporters. I would still respond the same as I have which is civily. At least as much as possible and when I’m not I apologize fully. :)


Joel Betow 09.22.08 at 9:46 pm


Although Richard made his point centered on who it was turned over to, my point is centered on whether the management conforms to U.S. tax laws that prohibit churches and religious institutions from being involved in partisan politics. I posed the question. I leave it to others to explain the circumstances.

If Richard’s blog were U.S. based and it was his church’s blog instead of his own, I would not be able to post half the things that I do. But it is his personal blog and he is careful to make it known that 1) he is not speaking on behalf of his church and 2) that the posting of entries or comments don’t necessarily reflelct his own views.

The problem is not that the blog is partisan — it was before and people could disagree as they wanted but no one could challenge Joe’s right to publish or write what he wanted because though it was faith-oriented, it was not connected to any church or religious institution.

There are some exceptions to the “no-partisan” politics rule, but you have to basically carve out an area where people contribute separately and are told that their donations are not tax-dedictble.

Richard will have to give me an education about the laws in his part of God’s great creation.


dh 09.23.08 at 2:53 pm

Joel, it is my understanding that a pastor or anyone who makes a statement at a church can state their opinion as long as it is clearly stated that it is their opinion and their opinion alone. If that is done there is no problem with a member of a church making a public statement in the church that is political as long as it is clearly stated that it his opinion. Many members and pastors who are political in nature do this with no ramifications: Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, the late Rev. Falwell, etc.

While EO is clearly Conservative in nature, I don’t see it being against Democrats per se. I see that as being much more indirect by focusing on issues. As long as Biola focuses on the issues as opposed to party then there is no problem. They can mention party and the issues regarding the particular parties but they can’t directly say who they are for.


Joel Betow 09.24.08 at 7:10 am


Sorry to tell you, but you are wrong. Any clergy person or church representative can endorse a political candidate OUTSIDE the walls of the church (physically or by function) as long as they make it clear they are acting personally and not on behalf of the church. No one may speak for or against a political candidate on church property, at a church function, or at any function paid for with church funds, regardless of how many times they express that they are sharing their own personal views. Laity are given a little more leeway if they make occasional off-the-cuff remarks such as “I sure hope so-and-so isn’t elected president.” However, if by design or pattern they advance one candidate over another they can risk their church’s tax exempt status. What anyone IS free to do is share their views in church on issues of the day, such as abortion, gun control, affirmative action, minimum wage, unions, global warming, offshore drilling, social security, or whatever.

I am a committed Barack Obama supporter (but have done no active campaigning for him, limiting my support to the financial and to some posts here), but there have not been and never will be sermons, newsletter articles, or any statement inside the walls or at a church function indidicating either an endorsement or hinting at who people should vote for. I do not allow the distribution of voter guides from any faction because they invariably tilt toward certain candidates, regardless of any claim of neutrality.

My command is to “go out and make Disciples”, not to go out and recruit support for Barack Obama.


dh 09.24.08 at 2:48 pm

Well if what you say is the case (which I question) then the churches which Jesse Jackson and Sharpton pastor need to have their tax exempt status removed.

It is my understanding that pastors can indirectly state an endorsement by the nature of sermons mentioning a certain stance on issues and then on another occasion stating what the particular candidates are for. You mention voter guides and for me I have no problem with churches passing out voter guides and having sermons stating what the church stands for Biblically.

I even have no problem with Jesse Jackson or Sharpton. What I have a problem is the government being inconsistent with their actions in removing tax-exempt status’s. You do the math as to why some churches get tax-exempt status’s removed and Jesse Jackson and Sharpton don’t when they do the exact same thing at those particular churches.


Joel Betow 09.25.08 at 3:29 am

Well, DH, hardly any churches have been seriously sanctioned. The law is not enforced very much regardless of political views. The IRS in practice generally does little more than send out warning letters. I doubt that more than 1/100 of 1% of all U.S. churches have had their tax exemption pulled.


dh 09.25.08 at 7:06 am

Well why are all the ones who cry about it happen to look away at Jesse Jackson and and Sharpton? Seems like a true double standard to me. Again I believe no church should have their tax exemption revoked for these type of things so for me I seem to have a more consistent view as apposed to those who support the IRS revoking the exemption.


dh 09.25.08 at 7:08 am

In my previous post I defined looking away as not mentioning Jesse Jackson and Sharpton in ones examples and only mentioning those who have a political slant different than either Jackson or Sharpton.


Joel Betow 09.27.08 at 12:37 am


There has been a good deal of publicity about Jackson and Sharpton.

In 2004, Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a complaint against John Kerry, Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson related to church involvement in the presidential candidate.

As far as you doubting me about U.S. law on church involvement in politics, why don’t you just research it yourself instead of telling me you “doubt” my views or interpretations.


dh 09.27.08 at 4:28 am

I believe the double standard is clear. The press only mentions the right and not Sharpton, Jackson and other with regard to Seperation of church and state. Again I believe Seperation of church and state referred to national religion not a seperation of church and state that inhibits the free access of religion which the current law does by inhibiting what religion supports which is evangelism and the call of the Great Commission. “How can they hear in whom they haven’t heard? and how can they hear without a preacher?”

The double standard is evident and whoever in a church who wants to indirectly support a condidate I have no problem with.

I understand that few have been sanctioned. I’m focusing on the particualr groups which are and the ones that are singled out are the opposite of Sharpton, Jackson and the like. That is truly unfair and to put aside like you do seems rather strange in light of the facts.


Joel Betow 09.27.08 at 6:20 pm


I’m glad you have great confidence in your choices for political office, but let me tell you, I’ve picked some really bad choices in my lifetime. Why should I inflict my bad choices on my congregations?


dh 09.27.08 at 8:21 pm

Well tell that to all of the many many people who support seperation and church in the way you do to stop overlooking Sharpton and Jackson in their politcal schemes. The fact remains that the the group that is singled out in the 1/100 of 1% (assuming that you are correct, one in which I doubt) are a super majority within one particular group. I’m really sick and tired of the double stanrd on this issue. You may not be part of the double standard being your 180% different than me. I still see no problem with churches doing this but if a person has laws like this then the revoction of the tax tax free status should reflect equally among all groups. If they are dealing with 1/100 of 1% then all groups within that should be singled out not just religious right alone in the super majority.

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