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Questions Surround Unregulated Institutions

HURST — Sitting in his new office — the sparsely decorated basement of an unassuming 9,000-square-foot building just outside Fort Worth — Christopher Cone cut to the chase during a discussion of academic accreditation.

“It isn’t necessary, and it doesn’t benefit anybody,” said Mr. Cone, the president of Tyndale Theological Seminary & Biblical Institute.

The former is certainly true in the case of Tyndale, a private, Bible-based institution with only religious course offerings. The seminary won freedom from state regulation over the granting of degrees in HEB Ministries Inc. v. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the little-discussed 2007 Texas Supreme Court decision that Mr. Cone called “a key victory for Christian education in Texas.”

“It was a monumental thing,” said Mr. Cone, who has been president of Tyndale since 2006. “The government has no authority to dictate what is quality religious education. The biblical text — that’s our authority; that’s our standard.”

But critics of the decision say it may have opened the door to turning Texas into a breeding ground for unregulated diploma mills, with institutions allowed to grant degrees without approval from the state or a recognized accrediting body.

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