As the church politics swirl around this and other sites, I am not the only person who finds the parallels to academe very striking, not least in the viciousness of the battles. Of course, our modern conception of a university arose from something on the monastic model, and there's a reason our academic gowns have such similarities to clerical robes and vestments.
It's trendy to see universities as hotbeds of liberalism, and while that may be true in some faculties of the humanities, it is too facile to apply that across the community. In the sciences, law and business schools, there are a lot of quite conservative faculty and in the boards of trustees and upper administration, more than a few of Republican bent. The media stories of "attacks" on conservative students are actually very uncommon examples, and outside of a few highly politicized disciplines and issues, the ideological beliefs of the faculty are largely irrelevant to their colleagues or their careers.
Indeed, one hallmark of the university is the presence of all those ideas, and not surprisingly, a lot of squabbling. The ideal of the university as a marketplace of ideas that are forged and refined in an atmosphere of open debate is, in real life, pretty solid. We don't restrict admission or faculty recruitment to a single viewpoint. Students are generally free to challenge and the vast majority of faculty will focus on the quality of the argument rather than its content. The only absolute requirements are a respect for the facts, and a willingness to listen. That's been my experience in the many academic institutions where I have spent my career (I am a professor of science).
Indeed, it's the conservative schools that are far more likely to insist on a uniform ideological viewpoint. This has become clear to me lately as my stepson (The Boy) applies to university and to our surprise, he and several friends were interested in "Christian" schools. Now, I grew up Catholic (as has The Boy) and I know more than a few who have gone to Catholic universities, which are often the bane of the conservative hierarchy and largely support a vigorous spirit of intellectual inquiry.
But such inquiry does not exist at the colleges The Boy's friends have looked at. At least one school explicitly requires the faculty accept an evangelical view of Christianity which is a requirement they consider more important than a doctorate in the field, and further requires that the instructors incorporate "Christianity" into every class, be it philosophy or physics. This same school considers homosexuality the same as incest or pedophilia, and will expel a gay student who so much as holds hands, or states his/her desire for a romantic relationship with, a person of the same sex. It's not even having sex, simply the desire for a relationship, that will do it. (This is in their student handbook).
Students there will not meet faculty or other students who are atheist, agnostic, Jewish, Muslim, or other faiths, let alone from any liberal Christian traditions, thus eliminating well over half the population. They won't meet GLBT faculty or students either.
Why would students want to go there ? We find that the boys are largely interested because they have a better chance of playing college sports; they think the people are nice and the rules aren't really enforced (dream again, lads!). The girls, because their parents want them to be protected against liberal values (I think it is a total fear of female sexuality). Still, if their values cannot survive the give and take of an actual university, it seems to me those values are pretty weak to begin with. We remain vehemently opposed to The Boy attending a school that is so narrow in outlook and so counter to everything we are.
Meanwhile, to my mind, these are not universities, not the marketplace of ideas, but cloisters. Indeed, there is no willingness to engage other viewpoints, only a desire to bar the doors and keep them out. So we see in the battle between conservative and liberals in the churches as well. The liberals are preaching inclusion, and trying to bring even those of violently opposite viewpoints to a table together, under a common roof for discussion and yes, argument. The conservatives are vehemently opposed to this and promote a purity code that will exclude those that disagree or challenge their ideas. They impose a self-segregation to ensure they are not contaminated by The Other, and retreat into the cloister.
And just as with the university or the broader society, the separation of a class of people from the whole diminishes everyone and destroys the fabric of our culture. If there is no unifying "we" there remains only "our side" and "the other". And who cares about "them"?