In February, reporters from The Houston Chronicle and The San Antonio Express-News published a report that revealed a sex abuse scandal in the Southern Baptist Convention on par with the one that has plagued the Catholic church. They discovered over 700 victims and a pattern of cover-ups spanning decades.
Four days later, Dr. Jousha Dara the Dean of the School of Human Behavior at Louisiana College and a Republican candidate for the Louisiana Senate gave a sermon in which he urged women to “mow their lawns” (a reference to pubic hair) in order to keep sexual partners satisfied and warned them against having too many sexual partners, saying that a “house” where people enter and exit all the time are called “crack houses.”
It’s worth noting that although he refers to himself as “Dr. Dara” on his church’s website, Dara earned a law degree from Southern University and has never earned a Ph.D., M.D., or any other doctoral degree.
Though Louisiana College usually uploaded videos of chapel services to their YouTube account, Dara’s sermon was never published. Later, the entire account, including archives, was deleted. Those who have asked for a copy of the sermon, including the school’s Title IX coordinator, were denied.
Dr. Russel Meek, an assistant professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at the college was shocked.
“The Southern Baptist Convention was in the midst of a reckoning with sexual abuse,” Meek wrote in an email to the college’s administration. “One must wonder what role is played [by] the misogynistic view that women are merely sexual objects.”
Meek shared his concerns, as well as those that had been expressed by students and colleagues to Louisiana College administrators. In an email later obtained by the Bayou Brief, Dara issued an apology of sorts, blaming his comments on his “warped sense of humor,” while the Louisiana College’s communication director Norman Miller stated the comments were “evidence of differences in cultural perceptions and nomenclature.”
Just over twenty minutes later, Louisiana College President Rick Brewer emailed students and faculty urging them to follow the instructions of Matthew 18:15-17:
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
On February 25th, Meek met with Brewer, Vice President of the Integration of Faith and Learning Philip Caples, and Vice President of Academic Affairs Cheryl Clark. Meek provided full audio of this meeting to Bayou Brief reporters here.
During the meeting, Brewer and Clark admitted that they felt “uncomfortable” with Dara’s comments. However, they became hostile towards Meek after he referenced an op-ed he had written (but not yet published) titled “No Woman is a Crackhouse,” refuting Dara’s remarks and questioning the administration’s response.
“Reducing women to sexual objects who must take care of their physical bodies in order to attract a suitable husband [is] simply incorrect,” Meek wrote. “A human’s worth is in their being made in God’s image, not in how many people they have had sex with…”
“…In addition, one wonders how victims of sexual harassment are to feel safe in a place that rebukes them for complaining about misogyny preached in the school’s chapel. Is a rape victim supposed to confront her rapist privately before seeking “more ‘official’ redress”? I know such questions are absurd, but Brewer’s email was sent in the context of concern over degrading and sexualized comments about women. How can we protect the abused from the powerful if the powerful are able to hide behind Matthew 18?”
Brewer and Clark both worried over how such criticism would help the school. Clark attempted to deflect, reminding Meek that he had previously complained about his salary and that publishing his criticism would damage the school’s ability to successfully raise money that might be used to increase faculty salaries. Brewer, however, was more direct.
“If you publish this,” he said, “you will be disciplined for insubordination.” Later, he seemed worried about the potential fallout, saying, “If this gets on the internet, it’s viral.”
Three days later, Meek submitted his resignation.
Jenn Bentley is a freelance journalist and editor whose work has been featured in publications such as The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News, Examiner.com, and others. Follow her on Twitter: @JennBentley_