Saturday, May 23, 2009

Follow-up: Liberty University Bans Young Democrats From Campus (updated)

I just wanted to provide an update on Liberty University's banishment of the Young Democrats. The Richmond Times-Dispatch offers clarity to Liberty's position via Jerry Falwell, Jr. Money quote:
Falwell said yesterday that the school never has allowed Democratic clubs on campus because of the school's pro-life policy.

"Last fall this group was approved by an administrator who really didn't check with anybody else, and he misread the policy. Now, we have a more specific policy."

Falwell said the school "did not disband the club, but we can only endorse a club that supports the university's doctrine and mission."
It's still a weak retraction from their earlier position, and in effect, Falwell throws Mark Hine, the Vice President of Student Affairs, under the bus.

Yesterday, to my knowledge, McAuliffe and Deeds responded to the incident, but, again, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that all four gubernatorial candidates responded to the event. Brian Moran's spokesperson, Jesse Ferguson, said that Moran is "deeply concerned that Liberty University is stifling choice and freedom of speech." From the McDonnell campaign:
Tucker Martin, a spokesman for Bob McDonnell, the all-but-official Republican nominee for governor, said that as a private institution Liberty can make its own decisions about officially recognizing clubs and organizations.

But "Bob McDonnell personally disagrees with this specific decision by the school because our political process is strengthened by the free and robust exchange of ideas," Martin said.

Echoing a similar tone, The Roanoke Times offered their thoughts on the incident, sternly warning Liberty not to earn a reputation in which education comes at the expense of the exchange of ideas.

Brian Diaz, President of the formerly recognized Young Democrats, was on The Rachel Maddow Show last night, and you can view his interview with Rachel here. The Democratic Party of Virginia made a video with the contact information to Hine, if you are inclined to voice your disappointment. Also, the Virginia Young Democrats have a petition - please sign - asking Liberty University to support the First Amendment rights of the Young Democrats on campus.

While the outrage of Democratic bloggers has remained constant since yesterday (with excellent new posts by Anonymous is a Woman and Fake Virginia), unfortunately the prominent and respected Republican blogs within the state have remained silent, outside of saying the Left is having a hissy fit.

Update: WSLS reports that Falwell is trying to compromise with the Young Dems, willing to reinstate their organization if they re-charter under the Democrats for Life, a single issue pro-life Democratic organization. Falwell got this advice from Republican gubernatorial candidate, Bob McDonnell (hunh?!?). Diaz and Childress, appreciative of the spirit of compromise, are inclined to reject the offer, as they wouldn't be able to help pro-choice Democratic candidates under this compromise.

Update 2: Falwell writes this op-ed clarifying Liberty's rationale.

(h/ts Lowell, Barry Butler, Fake Virginia)


Kent H said...

As a Liberty alum and current seminary student, I was concerned about what I heard coming out of the many media outlets about the existence of a Democratic club on campus, etc. So I did some reading.

As I think I've proven over the past several months on this blog, I so appreciate and desire good dialogue, competing ideas, etc. I was concerned when Liberty seemed to be violating what I feel is a cornerstone of American political life. But things, as I've learned, are not always as they seem. The following are excerpts from a response email to me from the Chancellor's office of Liberty:

"Liberty University is a distinctly Christian university with a stated mission of training Champions for Christ. Students and parents appreciate and support the values of the University.

Officially recognized student clubs and organizations that bear the name of Liberty University are expected to uphold the standards and principles of the University and act in a manner consistent with its mission. For nearly two years the University has been evaluating how best to advance its mission and to support student organizations. In order to avoid the problems encountered by other faith-based educational institutions involving student organizations, Liberty University has adopted a policy that governs such groups.

The policy states, in part: 'No student club or organization shall be approved, recognized or permitted to meet on campus, advertise, distribute or post materials, or use University facilities if the statements, positions, doctrines, policies, constitutions, bylaws, platforms, activities or events of such club or organization, its parent, affiliate, chapter or similarly named group are inconsistent or in conflict with the distinctly Christian mission of the University.'

While students may meet on campus, debate, and discuss important and controversial issues of the day, Liberty University will not lend its name or fund organizations whose stated purpose is to promote and advance issues that are contrary to its Christian mission.

Over the last several decades, Democratic clubs have existed at Liberty University as unofficial student clubs not endorsed by the school. Last Fall, the College Democrats asked that the university to officially recognize their club. They promised to support only pro-life candidates and their charter provides that the club supports the right to life. Unfortunately, the club supported candidates over the last 8 months that support abortion rights. As a result, Liberty University converted the club’s status back to that of an unrecognized club. It was not banned as so many press outlets irresponsibly reported. The club can continue to exist and meet on campus like other clubs and student groups that are not officially recognized by the university. They cannot use Liberty University’s name, will not receive the small financial subsidy that officially recognized clubs receive and they cannot hold public events on campus. There will be no other restrictions on their activities. Liberty University encourages free speech and open debate on its campus and free speech will not be restricted.

Liberty University is not singling out the Democratic Party in this action. If a Republican club supporting abortion sought endorsement from the University, it would be denied. The sanctity of life is one of Liberty University’s non-negotiable core values and it simply cannot lend its name or financial support to any group that actively works against Liberty’s core values."

This club violated its original charter agreement and was therefore restricted in so far as its recognition was concerned. You may not like that but an agreement is an agreement.


Dillon said...

As I understand it, official recognition of the student democrats club has been withdrawn, not their right to freedom of speech. The problem is that when you ban an organization that thinks differently from you, you also are actually banning freedom of speech. Totalitariam regimes do not allow criticism of their government or their leader. Universities SHOULD be allowed to ban organizations or students that advocate or practice violence or immoral behavior, but they should never be allowed to ban an organization because of it's views and opinions on issues that the rest of the country is talking about, debating, and deciding on daily. All government support, grants, and loans to Liberty University should be stopped immediately until students are given back their freedom of speech. Right wing Christian groups should realize that their practices of mind control on young people (or any people for that matter) will always have the opposite effect they intend--it will trun more people away from them than it will bring to them.

Kent H said...

You missed the point and made a rather large logical jump. The existence of the club is allowed. Free speech has not been inhibited in any way at all. But Liberty has chosen not to pay the club to have its several opinions and propogate those opinions by using the university's name and promotion power within its several circles. The university would hold that promoting and supporting pro-abortion candidates is a morality issue that LU cannot help in any way out of conscience sake.
The mind control crack is a joke and you really should check the kool aid you're drinking. Just a thought.
Government loans, etc. are made to individual tax payers as a privilege of citizenship for educational purposes at the wish of the recipient. A school's official opinions on any subject cannot be taken into account or I would like several other schools checked out. Let's just start our own little witch trial of academic persecution and threaten their right to obtain monies from such loans. Oh yeh, great idea!?!


Drew said...

I updated this story, see post, with an op-ed by Falwell.

Anonymous said...

If they are so "pro-life" (not that I am not pro-life) are they having each female checked to make sure she did not have an abortion?

And if they are so 'pro-life' did they protest against an invasion by a president who lied to us to start the invasion?

Why do they call it "Liberty University?" They need to look up the definition in the dictionary.

They need to change the name to "Limited Liberty University."

They make a blanket statement and think that all Democrats are not pro-life. And believe that all Republicans have never had an abortion.

Jesus Christ would have let them in. But then again, Jesus was killed for 'going against' what religious people though was right, too.

I wonder how many pro-life people have ever gone to an orphanage and helped out, or to a state home for the mentally challenged?

I did... But I guess they are just in it for the fight, and not for the sacrifice.

Liberty University is turning into a joke.

Kent H said...

To "yet another anon"
You obviously have never been around LU or Lynchburg. The Thomas Road Baptist Church (founding church) and Liberty University and Seminary are hugely active in care ministries - a fact I was shocked by when I rolled into town in '95.
The school and church have founded Elim Home for addicts, the Godparent home for unwed mothers, care and spiritual support ministries to a few dozen nursing homes in and around Lynchburg (Senior Saints Ministry). They are the most humanitarian and ministry-minded church and school I've ever seen and I would recommend you look it up. There's an awful lot of simple motive questioning and heart-condemning out of a simple ignorance of the facts on the ground at LU. But that is not totally unexpected these days I'm afraid.