STOKING FIRE: Fundamentalist College Proud of Close Ties to Limbaugh

It’s good to have friends. Just ask Rush Limbaugh. As advertisers have scrambled to distance themselves from the ultra-conservative radio host in the aftermath of Limbaugh’s vile attack on law student Sandra Fluke, those that stayed achieved BFF status from the Premiere Radio Network, the company that syndicates the 61-year-old former pill-popper’s daily ramblings.

Among the Limbaugh Loyalists was Hillsdale College, a 168-year-old private Christian school located in Hillsdale, Michigan. Hillsdale’s claim to fame is that it takes neither state nor federal aid. This means that its 1350 undergraduates are ineligible for subsidized loans or Federal Supplemental Opportunity or Pell Grants. According to Hillsdale’s website:

“In 1975 the federal government said that Hillsdale had to sign a form stating that we did not discriminate on the basis of sex. Hillsdale College has never discriminated on any basis, and has never accepted federal taxpayer subsidies of any sort, so the College felt no obligation to comply, fearing that doing so would open the door to additional federal mandates and control.”

And what intrusive mandates they are, insuring that students are protected from discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, sex, and age. The Department of Education’s 2011 annual report states that approximately 6300 post-secondary institutions — including the lion’s share of religiously-affiliated programs, from liberal Georgetown to conservative Liberty, Oral Roberts, and Regent Universities —received federal aid last year, paving the way for more than 17 million students to enroll in school. Only a handful — among them Hillsdale, Pennsylvania’s Grove City College, and Virginia’s Patrick Henry College — refused government assistance. further explains Hillsdale’s profound antipathy for government involvement in higher education.  “Government aid means government control,” the site begins. “Government forces Christian colleges and seminaries to teach what the government wants, admit whom the government wants, and hire whom the government wants.”

The anticipated horror of government’s purportedly heavy hand is vividly rendered and the site stokes fears of “activist judges” pushing well-meaning fundamentalists into hiring — or admitting into the student body — atheists, feminists, or members of the LGBTQ community, should they apply and be otherwise qualified, of course.

The site can barely contain its revulsion over the supposedly ghastly impact of such requirements. Best to sidestep all forms of government intrusion, it concludes.

Indeed, since it is unregulated by government’s all-knowing eyes and ears, Hillsdale, Grove City, and Patrick Henry are not bound by anti-discrimination laws and can basically teach whatever curriculum they choose, reject students who don’t fit a desired profile, and hire teachers and administrators who conform to narrow belief systems. They’re also free to promote a vast array of conservative extra-curriculars. For example, in addition to their classes, Hillsdale students are encouraged to participate in the annual March for Life each January and are urged to join weekend pickets at an Ann Arbor Planned Parenthood. They’re further primed to volunteer at local Crisis Pregnancy Centers, join the county Right to Life chapter, and link hands in a Life Chain along Highway M-99. Lastly, their classroom instruction is supplemented by a subscription to the right-wing Imprimis Magazine —published monthly on campus, with articles touching a host of conservative themes: The liberal assault on freedom of speech, the decline of moral education, and the ways Hollywood poisons the minds of American audiences, to name a few. Lastly, students are invited to rub elbows with right-wing luminaries at the publication’s annual fundraising dinner. Past speakers reflect the journal’s status in conservative circles. Charles Murray, Ronald Reagan, Paul Ryan, Margaret Thatcher, Clarence Thomas, and, you guessed it, Rush Limbaugh, have all spoken at the yearly gathering. 

Grove City College is philosophically similar—if less well connected–to Hillsdale and also markets itself to evangelical teens and young adults. Like Hillsdale, its refusal to take government money means that administrators and faculty can push whatever political or social agenda they deem appropriate. Predictably, support for anti-abortion activism is prominent. In fact, the achievements of alumni Nick Freiling and Gret Novillo Glyer are highly touted on the college homepage — and their example is used to recruit like-minded students. As founders of a group called One Sonogram, Freiling and Glyer fundraise to buy sonogram machines for Crisis Pregnancy Centers throughout the country. The goal? “To end abortion by providing as many free sonograms as possible so women can see their child before deciding to abort their baby.”

Patrick Henry, whose curriculum is geared to “preparing Christian men and women who will lead our nation and shape our culture with timeless Biblical values,” is similarly oriented. What’s more, the three schools focus on instilling ethical absolutes. Classes celebrate free market economics, reject relativism, and lambaste secularism for fostering moral decay and weakness. 

Needless to say these precepts are similar to those put forward by Limbaugh, so it is not surprising that Hillsdale refused to buckle during the Spring brouhaha over birth control, sexuality and who is, and isn’t, a slut. While many advertisers quickly denounced the cigar-chomper’s overt misogyny, Limbaugh’s evangelical base rallied to keep the advertising dollars flowing. Indeed, Hillsdale was joined by national supporters including Chrysler, Nissan, and Fox Broadcasting.  

The Hollywood Reporter estimates that Limbaugh earns $50 million a year and notes that his contract runs through 2016, making his program a safe bet for those who want to promote themselves to conservative Christian listeners. This explains Hillsdale’s decision to stay on the Limbaugh bandwagon. By using the airwaves to advertise their brand of higher education — free from pesky rules against discrimination and bigotry — Hillsdale can reach thousands of college-aged born-again evangelicals, their parents, and friends. From their vantage point, it must look like a match that was heaven sent.          

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  • oak-cliff-townie

    Hey wait just a second , For all his faults Rush has been a champion of Marriage between a Man and a Woman  And has done it 4 times to show how well that  works .

  • juror-number-eight

    Bad article.

    I don’t wish to embarrass anyone, but your argument hinges on the presupposition that Hillsdale is a “Christian” or “evangelical” college. It is not. It is non-religious. Did you research?

    Hillsdale was, I’ve read, the first American college to prohibit in its charter “all discrimination based on race, sex, or religion.” I suspect you omitted this fact because it is antithetical to the cut-and-dried racism/sexism we expect of a “right-wing” institution. You feared it would kill your rhetorical flow.

    I’ll stop there, but I’m hoping that we can expect better of such journalism in the future. There is no need to twist and bend the truth to get ahead.


  • colleen

    first American college to prohibit in its charter “all discrimination based on race, sex, or religion.”

    Because here they are  championing a  sexist, homophobic misogynist, racist hate monger who is popular amoungst the right because he opposes those very values with aggression, viciousness and no discernable sense of shame whatsoever.



  • juror-number-eight

    No simple answer to that. Hillsdale College does not condone Rush’s vitriol, that much is sure. From what I gather, the school is also not what Rush or Fox News or any other major “conservative” voices would consider ideological pure (I’m not sure if even Rush is completely aware of this. The author certainly isn’t). Its brand of conservatism is traditional. But for a mutual love of the U.S. Constitution, Hillsdale and Rush Limbaugh put aside their differences and work together.

    If more left-leaning figures in this country had had the spine to stand up for the Constitution, Hillsdale College would be a left-leaning institution. Only that part is simple.

    Even if she had understood the situation, the author was in the wrong to respond so rudely. To criticize a man who demeaned a college student while she herself demeans college students? Hmmm…

  • purplemistydez

    Their ideology is discriminatory.  That is why the school does not want to use government money because they could not discriminate against whomever they want.  The right wing loves to spit on the constitution trying to legislate their religion into public policy.  Hillsdale is another school trying to promote a christian nation propaganda with the support of a right wing nut job.  The author is not demeaning the students.  She is criticizing the school and their right wing agenda.

  • juror-number-eight

    In chronological order: Hillsdale was founded by New England abolitionists. Fact. It was the second college in the nation to grant four-year degrees to women. Fact. It admitted black students immediately, graduating its first prior to the abolition of slavery and two decades before Harvard did so. Fact. Frederick Douglass lived and lectured there during the Civil War. Fact. Hillsdale defied federal orders to racially segregate its ROTC unit during WWI. Fact. The 1955 football team refused to play in a national bowl game (despite an undefeated record) when they learned that black players would not be allowed on the field. Fact. Hillsdale has never turned a student down on account of race, gender, or religion (if you can prove otherwise, please do so).

    So I ask: Do any of these things sound “discriminatory” to you? To me they do not. Can you name examples of discrimination that is occurring there today?

    Look up “Grove City College v. Bell” (1984) and the events surrounding it. It was Hillsdale College, not the federal government, that terminated funding to Hillsdale College; its anti-discrimination clause (1844) was created 130 years before the gov’t began to play a part in higher education (1975). Simply put, you have confused cause and effect. Which is fine, but when mistaken, you should be honest and admit as much. It was upsetting that I had to dig up all this research for everyone (including the author) because no one was willing to be a little open-minded. Hillsdale College has no right-wing agenda.


  • colleen

    So you don’t disagree with me, per se.

    An arrogant and completely inaccurate assumption on your part. 

    Its brand of conservatism is traditional. But for a mutual love of the U.S. Constitution, Hillsdale and Rush Limbaugh put aside their differences and work together.

    This rationalization makes even less sense than usual (which is saying a lot) Mr Limbaugh’s homophobic, woman-hating, racist, fuck the poor, abusive rants and life style choices are in the best tradition of American conservatism.

  • juror-number-eight

    I wasn’t trying to be arrogant. You simply asked me a follow-up question. That wasn’t “disagreeing” with me.

  • patteel

  • jennifer-starr

    I’ve seen the quality of Live Action’s  ‘Investigative Journalism’–so far I’ve yet to be impressed. 

  • juror-number-eight

    Do you deny that Ms. Bader is being insincere?

    It doesn’t matter what reputation “Live Action” has (I am not at all familiar with the site); its rebuttal was quite apt. Hillsdale’s non-discrimination history, its response to the Limbaugh controversy ( ), that it is not a “fundamentalist” college, and that it does not “supplement” its classes with Imprimis are all matters of fact. Easily researchable. Why did the author not do so?


  • juror-number-eight

    When someone uses the term “traditional conservatism,” they mean: “a political philosophy emphasizing the need for the principles of natural law and transcendent moral order … organic unity, agrarianism, classicism and high culture, and the intersecting spheres of loyalty.” This is sometimes called “Burkean conservatism,” and you’d be hard-pressed to accuse Edmund Burke (1729-1797) of being a “hateful misogynist,” etc. etc. Hillsdale espouses this universal teaching, and without making rude, misleading comments. Rush Limbaugh is not always as lucky.

    Do you see the difference?


  • em

    Hillsdale College is a good neighbor and is an asset to our community. They are much more than the “bastion of conservatism” reputation. Preborn babies are people too! They have the right to life and liberty!

  • formerhillsdalestudent

    Yes, Hillsdale has a commendable history of non-discrimination policies, but there is so little diversity currently in the college that I don’t think these arguments are very valid anymore. I went to Hillsdale. I was a founding member of the College Democrats at Hillsdale. I left the college because I felt discriminated against. When I was at Hillsdale, I was told by the chaplain of the college to shut down my student group; he was afraid for our safety and did not think a liberal organization belonged on campus. We fought that, and that is why that group still exists today. During an election year, I had my liberal stickers and posters outside my dorm room door; they were defaced daily. I received a death threat while at Hillsdale. I felt like I walked around with a scarlet “L” for liberal on me when I went there. I had professors fail me on papers because they disagreed with my arguments. Discrimination still exists on that campus, but there are so few people who actually disagree with the commonly held principles there (and those people are too afraid to speak up) that most people are oblivious to this discrimination. I’ve been in the belly of that beast, and it was not a pleasant place for a left-leaning, non-Christian person.

  • romancapitalist

    Sorry about the repost that was here.

  • hillsdalestudent

    Their ideology is discriminatory.  That is why the school does not want to use government money because they could not discriminate against whomever they want….Hillsdale is another school trying to promote a christian nation propaganda.

    Hillsdale is not a Christian school; it is a nondemoninational school founded on Judeo-Christian values, and all are welcome. Again, please do tell me how Hillsdale can discriminate against people without collecting any information on race, religion, and sexual orientation.


    The idea that Hillsdale promotes “Christian nation propaganda” is laughable, especially in light of the college’s recent outreach towards its budding Jewish community. Hillsdale encourages all people to practice their faith in peace, and respects people with different views.

    Source:, student experience at Hillsdale.

  • hillsdalestudent

    Hillsdale’s mandate does NOT lead to discriminatory selection. There are people of different religions and orientations at Hillsdale; in fact, the administration just approved the creation of a new Jewish group on campus last semester. You don’t hear loud clamoring about minorities currently as Hillsdale because the majority of us are not there to seek attention. We’re at Hillsdale to grow and learn.

    At Hillsdale, people are people, not statistics. The college does not even collect race or religion information from students. Will someone please enlighten me as to how the college rejects people who don’t fit a religious, racial, or sexual profile when the college doesn’t have that information? Has the entire admissions staff been replaced by psychics?

    Hillsdale College prohibits discrimination as a condition of its founding- in fact, it was the first college to do so in Michigan, and possibly the entire US. Hillsdale has admitted African-Americans and women since BEFORE THE CIVIL WAR. Hillsdale is not unrestrained to do whatever it wants; it chooses rules that are based on the higher things and not the mandates of bureaucrats. I would reccommend Arlan Gilbert’s two volumes on the history of Hillsdale, especially Historic Hillsdale College,as an excellent guide to Hillsdale’s philosophy about discrimination and government control.

    It is worth mentioning that opinion on Rush Limbaugh is split on campus. There are many who do not approve of Rush’s brand of conservatism.

    Also, last I checked, any college was free to offer whatever extracurriculars it wanted to. Will the author be running a smear piece on Oberlin because they offer pro-abortion and gay-marriage groups? Let’s be clear here: Students for Life is a good group, but it’s just that– an optional group which students are free to completely ignore if they choose.The administration doesn’t keep the group running; the students do, and without student interest, the group would die out. Is Ms. Bader suggesting that Hillsdale is wrong to let students pursue political activism? If a student is interested in volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center, should the college prohibit it? Is Ms. Bader seriously suggesting that Hillsdale students should stop helping women in need at the center so the college can appear apolitical?

    One final point: Ms. Bader refers to Imprimis as a supplement to classes, which is incorrect. Imprimis is a publication mailed to subscribers; students are not automatically subscribed, and classes do not require students to read Imprimis.

  • hillsdalestudent2

    If you were at Hillsdale in 1955, I’m afraid you have no authority to comment on what is “currently” going on there.  Luckily, I am a current student and am therefore qualified to shed light on the current situation. 


    Currently, no “left-leaning, non-Christian person” would be treated that way at Hillsdale.  To inspire even a fraction of that abuse, they would have to be an extremely ill-mannered, disrespectful person. 



  • hillsdalestudent2

    This article is a blatant misrepresentation of Hillsdale College.  If Ms. Bader had valued accuracy, her invective would have crumbled. 


    The LiveNews article by Calvin  Freidburger is well done.  (Please forgive the pun.)  I point you in that direction for a dose of accuracy and some points I don’t have time to cover.  Here’s what I do have time to cover…


    1.       This must go first:  Just because the government aligns with your beliefs NOW, does NOT mean it always will.  Imagine that a wacky Christian fundamentalist group became powerful in our government.  Would you want THEM mandating everything about American post-secondary education?  Freedom in our education system is something everyone should want.    


    2.       A lot of people at Hillsdale do not appreciate Rush Limbaugh.  As far as I can tell, the administration maintains the college’s connection with him because they’ve decided that A) access to his vast audience and B) the fact that he and the college are on the same side of a huge political battle outweigh C) the students’ and faculty’s general disapproval of Rush’s tactics. 


    3.      Hillsdale is different from Grove City and Patrick Henry because it has no religious affiliation.  Ms. Bader is wrong in making “Christian” a dirty word in the way she does (discrimination, anyone?), but she is inaccurate in labeling Hillsdale as an unequivocally “Christian” school.  The college attracts a high percentage of Christians, but they would let you worship a tin can in the corner of your dorm room if you wanted to. 


    4.      The government’s “anti-discrimination” laws actually ENFORCE DISCRIMINATION.  (They make it easier for minorities to get into college; they make it easier for minorities to pay for college.  That is discrimination based on race.)  As was mentioned by my fellow student above, Hillsdale does not even collect information about its applicants’ race.  Thus, Hillsdale MUST be one of the least, if not the least, discriminatory college in the country.  Admittedly, there is not much diversity in Hillsdale’s student body.  Lack of diversity, however, does not imply the presence of discrimination.  It is natural for a conservative college to attract conservative students, so that explains the lack of political diversity (exacerbated by the fact that there are FAR fewer conservative colleges than liberal colleges in the United States).  And as for race:  If a good college offers you a full ride because you’re a racial minority, why would you go to Hillsdale, where you may very well have to pay full tuition?  For this reason, I have great respect for anyone of a racial minority whom I encounter at Hillsdale. 


    a.       By the way, ALL the minorities listed can be found at Hillsdale.  I, personally, have found them.  I’ll also note that there are more women than men in the student body, in case I am correct in sensing an implication by Ms. Bader that the college is sexist.  (Most colleges are sexist, you know.  Against men.) 


    b.      If Hillsdale teaches anything about discrimination, it is that every person is valuable not because of their race, sexual orientation, intelligence, or gender, but BECAUSE THEY ARE HUMAN.  That pure conviction is something liberals tend to miss. 


    5.      Finally:  What Hillsdale College is actually about, at its very core (no pun intended, for you fellow Hillsdalians), is a way of life and learning.  There are of course some very politically charged people running around, and it would be silly not to have strong opinions in the present political climate.  But on a day-to-day basis, most of us are just concerned with living our lives well.  It is unfortunate that we must fight in order to do so in peace. 

  • formerhillsdalestudent

    I left Hillsdale in 2006. You hit my point about 1955 right on the mark; the Hillsdale of 1955 (the most recent example of non-discrimination policy everyone seems to boast about) is not the Hillsdale of today.

    I’m glad you have that much faith in your colleagues that you truly think no abuse or harrassment exists at Hillsdale, however naive that may be. I do take offense to your “blame the victim” statement; I was harassed and threatened by people I had never met and it was solely based on the political group I affiliated with on campus.

  • juror-number-eight

    I’m sure you were. But the author is alleging institutional discrimination; what you described sound like mere petty, isolated schoolyard antics. I don’t appreciate you trying to blur that line. That is, especially since rumors ring true that conservatives put up with equally bad treatment (and worse) at Harvard, Brown, Williams, etc, which (far more than Hillsdale) are very well-known institutions and widely expected to be the apex of open-mindedness and academic prestige. Even Harvey Mansfield can’t catch a break nowadays, and he’s taught for half a century.

    The Hillsdale of today is not even the Hillsdale of 2006, it seems.