Louisiana College, a school affiliated with the Louisiana Baptist Convention, announced on Aug. 16 its plans to start a new law school to be named after Southern Baptist leader Paul Pressler. The school, which will be called the “Judge Paul Pressler School of Law,” will start classes in 2009.
“Founding a law school is a monumental undertaking but one that we are working on diligently,” said Louisiana College President Joe Aguillard. “Opening a conservative, Christian law school will fill a niche in the state of Louisiana, and also the nation.”
Aguillard argued that the school would help students as they train to practice law with a “biblical worldview.” He added that the school will “unashamedly embrace” the country’s “biblical roots.”
“We teach our students to have a passion to change the world in the name of Christ,” he explained.
Aguillard noted that the school will seek accreditation with the American Bar Association and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. It is estimated that the total cost for the new school–including building construction and law library development–will cost between $15 million and $20 million.
Pressler, who was present at the Aug. 16 announcement, stated, “I am overwhelmed and humbled.”
Along with Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson, Pressler led the movement often known as the “conservative resurgence” or “fundamentalist takeover” of the SBC. Pressler declared in 1980 that the movement was “going for the jugular.” His 1999 book, A Hill on Which to Die: One Southern Baptist’s Journey, offered his reflections on the controversy. In 2002, Pressler was elected as first vice president of the SBC.
During the 2000 Louisiana Baptist Pastors’ Conference, Pressler declared that the work to “awaken the people” of the SBC was “not over.” He also claimed that churches leaving the SBC were doing so because they did not completely believe the Bible.
Pressler served as a state district court judge in Texas for eight years and then as a Texas Court of Appeals judge from 1978 until 1992. Pressler is also a member of the Council for National Policy, a secretive conservative political organization.
Pressler was a member of the SBC/BWA study committee that recommended the SBC’s withdrawal from the BWA. He claimed that the SBC should leave because they “want to fellowship with Baptists who believe the Bible.”
In 2004, Pressler delivered a keynote address at a meeting of the International Baptist Network, where he stated that fundamentalist independent Baptists “inspired us and influenced us” during the internal SBC conflict.
Louisiana College’s proposed law school has already been compared to those at the late Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University or Pat Robertson’s Regent University.
Earlier this year, Regent’s law program received scrutiny after graduate Monica Goodling, a former senior aide to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, became a part of the controversy surrounding the firing of federal prosecutors. Goodling resigned and initially pleaded the Fifth Amendment after being called to testify before the House Judiciary Committee. After receiving immunity, she testified that political consideration played a role in the firings, which is a violation of federal law.
After Kay Coles James, dean of Regent’s government school, became the director of the Office of Personnel Management for the Bush administration in 2001 and hiring rules were changed in 2002, numerous Regent law graduates were hired by the Justice Department. However, Regent is ranked as a “tier four” school by U.S. News & World Report, which is the lowest score.
Regent’s law program is designed to provide a “legal education integrated with Christian principles” and to help graduates become “Christian leaders who will change the world for Christ.”
Brian Kaylor is communications specialist with the Baptist General Convention of Missouri.