Freedom of Conscience Spurned at Liberty U, Whining Ensues by Falwell

Is this the start of a wave of censoring the work of students?



Certainly one would expect Liberty University to insist on all its students voting and campaigning for Republicans, but their tax-exempt status might be at risk. Then there’s the case of the sixth grader who wrote a report about Harvey Milk, only to get stifled.

The story broke last week, that Liberty University had revoked the priveleges of the student Democratic Club. Supposedly College Democrats don’t adequately conform to the mission of the school. Here’s the report from the Boston Globe:

Liberty University will no longer recognize its campus Democratic Party club because its parent organization stands against the conservative Christian school’s moral principles.

The club, which has about 30 members, will no longer be able to use Liberty’s name, hold on-campus meetings, or be eligible for student activities money.

“I think it does the university a great disservice to stifle one side of the discussion simply because we are Democrats,” said Maria Childress, the club’s adviser and an administrative assistant at the school.

Brian Diaz, president of Liberty’s Democratic club, said he was informed of the school’s decision in a May 15 e-mail.

“The candidates supported are directly contrary to the mission of Liberty University,” the e-mail said.

Liberty has had a College Republicans club for years. The Democratic club formed in October and worked aggressively to elect President Obama.

“They . . . let the Liberty University College Republicans stay on campus, but they don’t let us,” said Diaz, 18, who will be a sophomore next year. “Sounds like censorship to me.”

I suppose Mr. Diaz is wrong, at least if you are like me and think censorship is more properly discussed when the government denies the right of free speech. And while the federal government provides aid in terms of tax breaks and student loans to Liberty University, I’ll let the ACLU handle those issues. The marketplace is good enough for me, and in the marketplace of ideas I’m willing to bet that the quality of students applying to Liberty University will go down if this policy remains.

The reactions to Liberty’s announcements are interesting, though. DNC Chair Tim Kaine wonders why Liberty University attacks the liberty of its students. Candidate for Governor Terry McCaulliffe echoes Kaine’s sentiments, evidently thinking this is an issue that will play in Virginia. (Careful, Terry, you just might not know your constituents all that well.) But, as usual, the best reaction is from the right wing whack jobs, this time by Jerry Falwell, Jr., President of Liberty U. His is a whining, backpedaling mess of an apologia, justifying nothing. Here’s a sample from Christian Newswire:

While the students in the college Democrat club are pro-life and support traditional marriage, the constitution of the club pledged support to advance the Democratic platform and candidates. The 2008 Democratic platform has taken an extreme turn to the left on social issues. For the first time it supports federal funding of abortion and repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a law passed overwhelmingly by a bi-partisan Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton. Liberty University will not lend its’ name or financial support to undermine marriage or to promote abortion.

While students are free to meet on campus, debate and discuss politics of every stripe, the University will remain true to its’ core principles and not lend its’ name or fund groups that work to undermine the principles that make Liberty attractive to so many people. Liberty brings many diverse speakers to campus. Last year Senator John McCain’s brother spoke to the students along with Virginia Democratic Governor, Tim Kaine. Dr. Bernice King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke to our students this Spring about how her opposition to same sex marriage put her at odds with her family and her political allies. Ted Kennedy also spoke at Liberty in 1983.

We encourage our students to bring positive change to all political parties, Democrats, Republicans and Independents. We hope our students challenge all political parties to remain true to the core moral values consistent with the Christian mission of the University. To blindly support any candidate solely because of party affiliation irrespective of their moral views is wrong. Liberty would never endorse a Republican student group that supported abortion rights. Liberty stands for certain core values; not for a political party.

I love how Falwell had to go back 26 years to find an example of a major Democratic figure Liberty University hosted. He whines earlier in the press release about the media, a move which seems a typical talking point, and then backpedals, noting that the Democratic Club is allowed to meet, just isn’t recognized. Even though the members of the club are pro-life, and therefore not supportive of the planks of the Democratic Party to which Falwell objects, Falwell still revokes the club’s official status. Evidently this policy isn’t effected by the Republican Party’s programmatic support of torture. There’s the rub, and what makes this demonstrably so political that Falwell risks his university’s tax-exempt status. For he claims to be against torture as well, and yet Republicans are heavily involved in torture over the last eight years, including in the torture of syntax in their whiney excuses for their behavior (see Cheney, Dick).

Will this become a common occurence in our nation, the stifling of student voices because they don’t fit the narrow “Christian” viewpoint of extremists like Falwell? The case of the sixth grader in California whose report about Harvey Milk led her school to send out permission slips is tangentially related here. The school was overzealous, certainly, in reacting to Milk’s homosexuality rather than recognizing Milk as an historical figure in California worthy of the students’ investigation. The ACLU is involved, of course. Whining and backpedaling will surely encue. Meanwhile, College Democrats at Liberty University are told by their school’s President that their freedom of conscience doesn’t count, and a little girl in California is told that her attempts at scholarship just aren’t good enough.

Read the original article in The All Spin Zone

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