Friday, May 22, 2009

Liberty University Bans Young Democrats From Campus

The Lynchburg News & Advance reported that the Young Democrats were kicked off of campus because the platform of the national Democratic Party was at odds with the moral principles of the university, despite the fact that the campus chapter was against abortion and held traditional views of marriage. In an email, the President of the Young Democrats, Brian Diaz, was told that the goals of Liberty University and the Democratic Party "run in opposite directions:"
“The Democratic Party platform is contrary to the mission of Liberty University and to Christian doctrine (supports abortion, federal funding of abortion, advocates repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, promotes the “LGBT” agenda, hate crimes, which include sexual orientation and gender identity, socialism, etc.)”
Liberty officials say this was not a suppression of free speech, and also that the group, specifically, was not being punished; they were part of a larger, offending organization. As such, the club could no longer carry the University's name, meet on campus, and advertise for events. According to faculty advisor Maria Childress, implicit in this message is that you cannot be a Christian, a representative of Liberty, and a Democrat all concurrently.

Since the article ran, Democratic reaction has been strong and fierce. Statewide bloggers picked up the news early (Jim White, Barry Butler, Lowell, CobaltVA, StarCityHarbinger), many of which questioned the legality of the move, while one leading Republican statewide blog stated that Democrats were having a hissy fit. Gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe held a conference call with Diaz and Childress, in order to stand up for the banished youth. In an updated News & Advance article, Gov. Kaine, another gubernatorial contender, Creigh Deeds, and LG candidate Mike Signer all released statements condemning Liberty's behavior. University President Jerry Falwell, Jr., also released a statement, somewhat of a retraction:
"That club still has the right to exist,“ Falwell said, although it cannot use the university’s name in its activities.

“They still can meet on campus,“ in certain rooms, he said. “There is absolutely no animosity at all toward any of these kids.

“They are good, Christian kids who sit with me at ball games. I just hope they find a pro-life family organization to affiliate with so they can be endorsed by Liberty again.“
I asked a childhood friend and now the state's Young Democrat's Executive Director, Christie Ann Bieber, for her reaction. She states:
I am deeply saddened by the University's position that Christianity and the view of the Democratic Party are diametrically opposed to one another. The Baptist church I grew up in taught me the principles of love, tolerance, and helping those that are less fortunate. Democrats are not more or less sinful than Republicans. We are all sinners, and we will all be held accountable for our sins by God. Choosing to shut out the Young Democrats on the Liberty campus will not stop students from questioning how their faith aligns with politics. In fact, I believe it will lead to them asking that of themselves even more. Through questioning our beliefs and seeking the truth our faith will grow stronger.

There can be not doubt that Liberty suffered a black-eye today, and in reaction to the public backlash, they went into damage control mode, half-heartedly rescinding their banishment. I, however, get agitated when Christianity is boiled down to the issues of abortion and homesexuality - while there are legitimate disagreements therein - despite the more pronounced biblical and gospel calls for a loving, peaceful, and tolerant behavioral ethic. And, I can't wrap my mind around why the campus chapter, who broke with the national party over these issues, was punished for the "sins" of the national party, if not for outright political motives. Both are shameful actions, and the younger generations, because of these types of actions, are leaving the Christian faith - becoming 'nones' - and the Republican party in droves. Actions like this, fairly or unfairly, are long-term losing strategies for the conservative movement and the Republican party.

This past weekend, Obama called for open hearts, open minds, and fair-minded words when dialoging over these issues. Liberty University, sadly, missed or misunderstood this point.

11 comments:

Drew said...

I heard this rumor this past weekend, but because of my extremely busy week, I was unable to follow the lead. Now, after the story broke, I seemingly am Johnny-come-lately with retread thoughts.

Hokie Guru said...

I seriously have to wonder if they will be eligible to receive federal funds due to this decision... especially, their Title IV eligibility.

fishingincrisis said...

Leaving aside the legality issue and whether is jeopardizes federal funding, I agree with Drew that it was simply a stupid move on a number of levels. 1) It makes the Virginia GOP look bad, especially among the youths, which is a group that the Republicans are really going to have to make inroads in if they want to win in November. 2) It's a stupid for the Christian Right, who throw out any claim to a pragmatic understanding of the intersection of faith and politics - and while this was just Liberty, this will reflect on the entirety of the Christian Right. 3) Its incredibly stupid of Liberty - I mean, what did they think was going to happen? There was basically no outcome of their decision that wouldn't involve them being condemned and mocked on a state and national level, and the fact that the story broke this morning and they were already walking back from their decision by midafternoon just confirms that they had no idea what they were doing. What's clear is that they weren't thinking about any sort of broader political and religious implications falling from their decision, which calls into question even further the intelligence of the people running the show at Liberty.

Barry Butler said...

Thanks for mentioning me in your post. I have just uploaded two videos on Off K Street. One is from the Rachel Maddow Show and the other is a DPV video.

http://offkstreet.blogspot.com/2009/05/update-liberty-university-political.html.

One other thing I would like to mention, or more a rhetorical question to chew on. How deafening is the silence from the GOP Statewide Candidates?

We should probably give them through the weekend to figure out how close they want to stand next to Jerry Jr. and Liberty University. They need to be careful. They might just get burned by the Flames!

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Liberty University should be further embarrassed by the fact that there are pro life Democrats, like Senators Harry Reid and Robert Casey, and also Virginia Governor Tim Kaine. Furthermore, there is a group called Democrats for Life.

While it's true that most Democrats are pro-choice, there is no litmus test that says you'll be thrown out of the party for disagreeing on this issue. And considering the LU chapter was pro-life, this was a bogus excuse.

Drew said...

Excellent point, AIAW. I was talking to Kent H, Liberty Grad and commenter here, and I mentioned that our party is not lock-step in this issue - I used Casey as the prominent example - and there are many good Democrats who disagree with the national position on this issue. To me, this is another example of the big Democratic tent right now. We welcome the Kaine's, the Casey's, the formerly recognized Liberty University Young Dems into our party and into a dialogue on this issue.

Kent H said...

To quickly respond to Hokie Guru, Liberty University is a private university that receives no federal assistance.
If by "federal funds" you mean the FAFSA and federal student aid dollars, they are paid back or out of delegated tax dollars that are distributed to private citizens and are not as such "federal" like in the case of funds received directly like UVA or NC State, etc.
Just a little clarification.

Anonymous said...

Kent H said:
> Liberty University is a private university that receives no federal assistance.
> If by "federal funds" you mean the FAFSA and federal student aid dollars, they are paid back or out of delegated tax dollars that are distributed to private citizens and are not as such "federal" like in the case of funds received directly like UVA or NC State, etc.

RE: Kent H.
That's a distinction without a difference. According to the Higher Education Act Amendments of 1998, any institute of higher education that receives Pell and FAFSA money cannot discriminate. It does not matter how it is collected or distributed. Plus, LU receives the Virginia Tuition Assistance Program funds, which carries the same requirements as the Federal money.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad Liberty stood up for their beliefs it seems like only liberal media and Democrats want to hush the pro-life movement. How can We BITCH about our army men and women getting killed in war when abortion clinics kill millions every year? Barry Butler wrote about Liberty getting burnt by flames that sure sounds alot like Bill Ayers to me

Barry Butler said...

Don't get excited and read too much into things. They are called the Liberty University Flames (their nickname, mascot, etc.). Get it? People that stand too close to incendiary and extremist people like Rush Limbaugh and the crowd at Liberty can get burned. Just like standing too close to a stove and not being mindful of where you are and who you are with. You need to be careful. That's all I was trying to say.

Be careful throwing out comparisons like that, you might be compared to someone like Sarah Palin.

As far as Democrats and "liberal" trying to silence the pro-life movement, I don't remember seeing or reading about pro-choice supporters assasinating pro-life supporters. Who's trying to silence whom?

Anonymous said...

When you say extremist you should say Bill Ayers, Rev.Wright and that crowd, by the way how is that CHANGE working out for You. Obama is throwing money at problems and not fixing anything.He gave Chrysler billions to keep them afloat and keep jobs now they are BANKRUPT money wasted. GM has gotten 20 billion already and they still went BANKRUPT more lost jobs NOW HE SAYS HE WILL GIVE THEM 30 BILLION more and AIG oh my what a waste of money .Please compare me to Sarah Palin thats a compliment compared to the bunch we have in Washington now . When George Bush was in office all i heard from the far left was the talk of failed policies of Bush i wonder what you will be saying when Obama gets done wasting money and nothing has been fixed? T.E.A. from Will