Liberty University is getting a bit of a reputation for being a hotbed of controversy–first over Liberty's decision to allow controversial conservative pastor Mark Driscoll to speak there earlier in the month, and now for Liberty's choice to have GOP presidential hopeful (and Mormon) Mitt Romney give the 2012 commencement speech scheduled for May 12. Liberty Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr., gave the following announcement:
In announcing Romney’s visit on Thursday, Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. likened Romney’s visit to those of past Republican presidents.
“We are delighted that Governor Romney will join us to celebrate Commencement with Liberty’s 2012 graduates,” he said in a statement. “This will be a historic event for Liberty University reminiscent of the visits of Governor, and then presidential candidate, Ronald Reagan to Liberty’s campus in 1980 and of President George H.W. Bush who spoke at Liberty’s 1990 Commencement ceremony.”
Some students are charging that Liberty is violating its own Christian teachings by allowing Romney to speak there. CNN adds:
By Friday morning, more than 700 comments had been posted on the school's Facebook page about the Thursday announcement – a majority of them decidedly against the Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr.’s invitation, citing that the school had taught them Mormonism isn’t part of the Christian faith.
“I can’t support Romney and I am happy I decided not to walk (in the commencement) this year,” wrote student Josh Bergmann. “Liberty University should have gotten a Christian to speak not someone who practices a cult. Shame on you Liberty University.”
Janet Loeffler, a 53-year-old freshman at Liberty, expressed her anger at the decision when contacted by CNN. She also sent a copy of the page of the freshman textbook “The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics” which includes the passage, “Mormon doctrine stands in stark contrast to Jewish and Christian monotheism, which teaches that there is only one true God and that every other ‘God’ is a false god.”
The Boston Globe reports that Romney is hoping to consolidate his conservative GOP base with the commencement speech; however, that may already be happening. The Washington Post cites a poll by the Pew Research Forum that has Romney with a huge edge among white Catholic and evangelical voters (73 percent to 20 percent). If the outrage at Liberty spreads, Romney may lose that edge. In a YouTube video posted yesterday that has at this time only one view, a Liberty University student who calls himself "will39family" announces his withdrawal from the school because Romney is speaking there:
With drawing from Liberty University after I discovered that our mormon presidential candidate Gov Romney is delivering a commencement address at the university on 12 May. I strongly believe that our Christian leadership has a responsiblity to put Christian leaders behind the pulpit AND podium to address our Christian graduates. By virtue of the fact that we're Christians and know what God's word says, means that we're double accoutable for compromising God's will/word. God bless you.
In the student's video below, the student explains why he chose Liberty, after "prayer and discernment," and how he felt called by God to withdraw because he feels Liberty is straying from their Christian calling by approaching Romney to ask him to speak there. Allow a moment or two for the video to load: