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After threat of lawsuit, Princeton seminary excused student from ‘whiteness is sin’ anti-racism training

After the threat of a lawsuit, Princeton Theological Seminary excused a student from its mandatory anti-racism training earlier this year.

The student, Timothy Keiderling, was able to negotiate a compromise that got him out of the anti-racism training, which teaches that being white is “something to repent for” and “whiteness is a form of structural sin,” Real Clear Investigations reported this week.

Keiderling complained the mandatory trainings did not allow for debate or disagreement, which stood in contrast to the private seminary’s promotional literature and student handbook pledging free speech — grounds for litigation.

Keiderling asked the seminary president for “an exemption from all upcoming trainings,” calling them “antithetical to PTS’s mission and vision” and saying they “will impinge upon our freedom of thought, and … present a profound threat to freedom of conscience.”

He added: “As fellow followers of Jesus, we have no business treating each other differently based on our race. Don’t we remember that in Christ, these distinctions have no place anymore? Or what else did the Apostle mean when he wrote that ‘in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free’? The problem of racial injustice cries to heaven. But dividing us from each other is not the way to right the wrongs.”

When the seminary president replied that the trainings are mandatory, Keiderling — who was advised by the Academic Freedom Alliance, Princeton Professor Robert George, and renown free speech attorney Samantha Harris — doubled down.

“[M]y point that the training to which I object violates representations of academic freedom made by PTS on which I relied in accepting admission, and which I believe represent legally enforceable terms of the contractual relationship between PTS and me,” Keiderling responded.

After that, seminary leaders agreed to let him out of the trainings and instead read Ibram Kendi’s “How to Be an Anti-Racist” and other anti-racist works and write an essay by Feb. 26 “with an emphasis on how I might apply the lessons … to my own work and ministry while still upholding the values and beliefs I cherish,” Real Clear Investigations reported.

Keiderling graduated in May with a master’s degree in New Testament Studies.

Read the full Real Clear Investigations piece here.

MORE: Princeton seminary conducts racially segregated mandatory racial bias training

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.