When Paul Roof got fired from Charleston Southern University, it only confirmed what many people have said for years: Baptists and beer just don't mix.

Roof, a sociology professor at the Christian liberal arts school, said on his Facebook page last week that he was canned after his elaborately bearded face appeared on Holy City Brewery's new Chucktown Follicle Brown ale.

The beer promotes Roof's Holy City Beard and Moustache Society, which does a lot of charity work for women's cancer awareness.

Of course, since it's beer, it also kinda promotes drinking.

Now naturally, most people assume that this is all about morals - that the Baptists didn't want one of their own to be the face of that heathen firewater.

That includes the national media, which has taken the story and run with it. Roof may now have the most famous beard this side of ZZ Top.

Which is great but doesn't pay real well.

Roof is a nice guy, he does good work in and out of the classroom, and his actions did not warrant a nuclear option.

So it's too bad that the folks of Charleston Southern made this decision. Even though they say it's not about beer, that's what some people think.

And unfortunately that only reinforces perceptions of the Christian school that, frankly, it does not deserve.

Image control?

Earlier this week, Roof was at the Center for Women to drop off a check for the Lowcountry Women With Wings program, which raises awareness of women's health issues.

In the past five years, the Beard and Moustache Society has donated more than $30,000 to the center.

If everyone with copious amounts of facial hair did such good work, what a wonderful world it would be.

Roof said that, despite his troubles, "First and foremost, the charity is on my mind."

"As a Christian and a sociologist, I think it is important to help those in need."

Roof didn't want to talk about his dismissal from CSU. But his supporters will tell you this isn't his fault - he does not own or control the image used on the beer can.

That's true. A photographer took his picture when he was gussied up at a national competition last year. The can sports the image.

And in fact, it's nearly impossible to recognize Roof as the same bearded gent on the Chucktown beer. He isn't even named on the can, although his organization is.

But Roof posted the image on his Facebook page, and that's apparently when the trouble began.

No beard problems

Charleston Southern officials said Tuesday the firing has been misunderstood.

"It should be clear that the matter involving Dr. Roof is, in no way, premised upon the actual consumption of alcohol," the university said in a statement. "Second, the matter has nothing to do with the presence of facial hair."

Well, yeah. Roof has taught with that beard a long while.

Fact is, it appears this has more to do with the school's conflict of interest policy, which prohibits "direct or indirect financial interest or obtaining of a personal gain or advantage; or an adverse or potentially adverse effect on the interests of the University."

A lot of companies have such policies. And it's that "adverse effect" part that likely is at the root of Roof's dismissal.

The question is: could Roof have stopped this?

Who knows. Did he want to? Good question.

Unfortunately, the lawyers will sort it out.

The real issue here is that this story, much more so than any beer can, is hurting the reputation of a college that does some good work.

Charleston Southern is not Bob Jones University. They aren't strident, right-wing ideologues who go out preaching politics disguised as morals. They are simply a good, private university that promotes Christian beliefs alongside real academics. They have proven that time and again. It's unfortunate they didn't turn the other cheek here.

There is a real sense of community at CSU. The students and staff are among the nicest people you'd ever want to meet. And Roof fit in well.

If the professor violated a policy, seems like it would have been better to simply warn him, reprimand him, or ask him to take down the Facebook posts. Because the end result here is hurting both Roof and the school.

And neither of one of them deserves it.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com