Friday, May 22, 2009

Liberty University bans College Democrats; founder Jerry Falwell would be pleased

Conservative University Founded by Jerry Falwell Bans College Democrats Club
The club is barred from using Liberty University's name, advertising events and holding meetings on campus
May 22, 2009

RICHMOND, Va. -- Liberty University has ordered its fledgling College Democrats club to shut down, saying the group stands against the conservative Christian school's moral principles.

Club president Brian Diaz said he was shocked to be notified by e-mail last week that the club was being banned by the private university in Lynchburg founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell. The university first recognized it in the fall.

"We were shocked, as well, that (the club) even got accepted. It was huge, and we were glad that Liberty did that," Diaz said in a telephone interview from Orlando, Fla.

The club is barred from using Liberty's name, advertising events and holding meetings on campus. Violators could be reprimanded and face expulsion for repeated offenses.

Vice president of student affairs Mark Hine said in the e-mail sent to Diaz on May 15 that the Democratic party violates the school's principles by supporting abortion, socialism and the "'LGBT' agenda," referring to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. The e-mail said that even though the campus group "may not support the more radical planks of the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party is still the parent organization of the club on campus."

Mathew Staver, the dean of Liberty's law school who also is overseeing a review of university policies, said the decision stemmed from a new policy governing student groups. No other groups have been affected, including the campus Republican organization, he said.

Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. said the club's previous recognition by the school was "an oversight by an administrator" who didn't thoroughly consult school policy.

He said he likes the group's members and knows they mean well, but that the university has received "lots of complaints from parents and donors" about the club's existence.

"They're great Christian kids. I hope they'll find a Democratic organization that is pro-life and pro-family so they can become endorsed," he said in a telephone interview.

The 30 members of the Democratic club, which was started in October, canvassed neighborhoods to promote Barack Obama's presidential run and called voters from phone banks. Diaz said it's natural to wonder if the group was somehow being penalized for those activities.

Staver denied that Liberty was targeting the Democrats. The university won't prevent the group's members from interacting on campus, he said, but they can't hold meetings as the Liberty University College Democrats.

In a conference call with reporters, club adviser and 2004 Liberty graduate Maria Childress said she was unsuccessful so far in arranging a meeting to plead her case with the chancellor.

She said the Republican Party and its platform is "preached on every avenue" to a captive campus audience. During last fall's presidential campaign, she said, GOP viewpoints were expressed in the absence of any Democratic perspective...

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