updated 11/21/2008 4:07:46 PM ET 2008-11-21T21:07:46

A fundamentalist Christian University has apologized for racist policies including a one-time ban on interracial dating that wasn't lifted until nine years ago and its unwillingness to admit black students until 1971.

Bob Jones University founded in 1927 in South Carolina said its rules on race were shaped by culture instead of the Bible, according to a statement posted Thursday on its Web site.

The university, with about 5,000 students, didn't begin admitting black students until nearly 20 years after the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling found public segregated schools were unconstitutional.

"We failed to accurately represent the Lord and to fulfill the commandment to love others as ourselves. For these failures we are profoundly sorry. Though no known antagonism toward minorities or expressions of racism on a personal level have ever been tolerated on our campus, we allowed institutional policies to remain in place that were racially hurtful," the statement said.

The interracial dating ban was lifted in March 2000, not long after the policy became an issue in the Republican presidential primary. Then-candidate George W. Bush was criticized when he spoke at the school during one of his first campaign stops.

Still receiving questions on race
Bob Jones University President Stephen Jones decided to issue the apology because the school still receives questions about its views on race.

The leader of the South Carolina National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said the civil rights group welcomed the statement.

"It's unfortunate it took them this long — particularly a religious, faith-based institution — to realize that we all are human beings and the rights of all people should be respected and honored," said Lonnie Randolph, president of the association's state chapter.

Randolph said that when Jones became president three years ago, he asked the civil rights leader not to hold the decisions made under his father and grandfather against him.

Jones is the great-grandson of the school founder, Bob Jones. He took over for his father, also named Bob Jones, in 2005.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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