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Louisiana College to open law school

By JORDAN BLUM
Advocate Capitol News Bureau
Published: Aug 16, 2007 - Page: 11A

Louisiana College in Pineville plans to announce today its desire to open a “biblical worldview” law school with classes starting in 2009.

Louisiana College President Joe Aguillard said the school will fill a “niche” in Louisiana to train defenders of conservative Christian values in the courtroom and politics.

The new law school would fall in line with other Christian conservative law schools, such as the late Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University School of Law and televangelist Pat Robertson’s Regent University School of Law, both in Virginia.

Such law schools say they prepare many graduates for government and politics, some of whom controversially hold key positions in the Bush administration’s U.S. Department of Justice.

“We’re aware of those (schools),” Aguillard said Wednesday. “But ours is based on the mission of our university.”

Aguillard said the law school will “unashamedly embrace” the nation’s “biblical roots” but still prepare graduates to pass the bar exam and practice law in Louisiana or nationwide. “We teach our students to have a passion to change the world in the name of Christ,” he said.

Some anti-Christian courts have improperly interpreted the U.S. Constitution on issues involving religious liberties and family values, Aguillard said.

Louisiana College, founded in 1906, calls itself a Baptist institution. Its trustees are chosen by the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

Louisiana College requires all of its faculty to “accept Jesus Christ” and was the scene of protests over an alleged lack of academic freedom as the college became more fundamentalist and conservative in recent years.

Aguillard called “erroneous” allegations of restricted academic freedom leveled some faculty members.

The 1,000-student Louisiana College was removed from academic accreditation probation at the end of 2005, months after an administrative overhaul that brought Aguillard in as president.

Other law schools in the state did not hesitate to separate themselves from Louisiana College.

There are no law schools in the state north of Baton Rouge.

LSU Law Center Chancellor Jack Weiss said Louisiana College has a right to fill a niche if it perceives one exists.

“The truth will emerge from a multitude of tongues,” Weiss said. “If there are different perspectives on law, so be it.”

The Jesuit Catholic-based Loyola University College of Law in New Orleans has no religious “litmus test” for faculty or students, said Larry Moore, associate dean of academic affairs.

The college’s law dean is an Orthodox Jew, Moore said. Four other Jesuit colleges in the U.S. have Jewish law deans, Moore continued.

“We have a very different perspective from some of the fundamentalist schools,” Moore said, naming Regent University and the conservative Catholic Ave Maria School of Law in Michigan.

“I have no problem with it,” Moore said. “We just choose to go in a different direction.”

Aguillard said Louisiana College actually used Ave Maria’s dean as a consultant.

Louisiana College hopes to hire a law dean next year and enroll up to 40 students in 2009. That could eventually expand to 300 students, Aguillard said.

The law school is being named the Judge Paul Pressler School of Law after the Baptist fundamentalist Houston judge.

The law school also will pursue accreditation with the American Bar Association.

“They are a really difficult organization with which to acquire accreditation,” Aguillard said. “I really respect that.”

Although the college will soon offer some master’s programs, Aguillard said, the law degree could become the college’s first graduate degree offered.