The Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 was heralded by progressive Christians and many other Americans as a huge advance for social justice, but it didn’t satisfy conservative Christians. By the 1960s, conservative Christians started opening segregation academics, private schools in the South opened by white parents to avoid desegregated public schools like Jerry Falwell’s Lynchburg Christian Academy. It was a move by conservative Christians to keep their children “pure” and away from black students, progressives, and those who taught the “anti-God” science of evolution.
Randall Balmer, a historian studying the origins of the conservative Christians’ rise in the United States, points to 1969 as a turning point. In May of that year, a group of black parents in Holmes County, Mississippi, sued the Treasury Department to stop three segregation academies from obtaining tax-exempt status. In 1970 President Richard Nixon ordered the Internal Revenue Service to adopt a new policy denying segregation academies tax-exempt status, and a federal court upheld the decision in 1971. Bob Jones University didn’t drop its ban on interracial dating until 2000 and didn’t regain its tax-exempt status until 2017. Bob Jones University administrator Elmer L. Rumminger told Balmer in an interview for POLITICO Magazine that the IRS actions “alerted the Christian school community about what could happen with government interference….That was really the major issue that got us all involved.”
From “Just Faith: Reclaiming Progressive Christianity” by Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons – Broadleaf Books