Liberty University Defends Decision to Invite Donald Trump to Speak on Martin Luther King Day

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

LYNCHBURG, Va. — The president of Liberty University, which is stated to be the world’s largest Christian educational institution, is defending the school’s decision to invite Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to speak during its Martin Luther King Day convocation.

“We chose that day so that Mr. Trump would have the opportunity to recognize and honor Dr. King on MLK day,” President Jerry Falwell, Jr. told reporters, noting that King had once stated that a person should not be judged by “the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

“Liberty stands for that principle and I believe that Mr. Trump does as well,” Falwell said.

As previously reported, on Jan. 4, Liberty announced Trump’s upcoming appearance, and later provided guidelines for attendance as the university expects record crowds at the Jan. 18 event.

“Since Donald Trump last visited Liberty, our family has stayed in close contact with him and with his top aide, Michael Cohen,” Falwell said in a statement. “We are thrilled that they are taking time out of their extremely busy schedule to return to Liberty.”

But some students have planned a peaceful protest on that day, stating that Trump’s values are antithetical to King’s.

“Mr. Trump uses speech to divide along racial lines, gender lines, ethnic and national lines, and between those with disabilities and the healthy,” demonstration organizer Eli McGowan, a law student a Liberty, wrote on social media. “He encourages violence against the innocent and the peaceful. He acts as someone above forgiveness and reproach. All of these indicate he is not an acceptable option for a speaker on a day meant to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man who sacrificed himself in the pursuit of peace, love, and equality.”

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Falwell told the Lynchburg News & Advance on Tuesday that dissenting students “can do what they want outside, but they are going to be making fools of themselves.”

However, it is not only current students at Liberty who have expressed disapproval. Alumni Joel Ready of Ready Media also recently opined on social media that since Trump claims to be a Christian but denies it with his behavior, he should not be permitted to speak at the school.

“I’m deeply disappointed to hear that Liberty University has invited Donald Trump to speak at convocation,” he wrote.

Ready pointed to 1 Cor. 5:9-13, which reads in part, “I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.”

“Trump is the grotesque personification of everything that is wrong with American political discourse, and his repeated claims that he is a Christian should disqualify him from speaking at Liberty,” Ready wrote.

He said that he would instead like to see Liberty officials challenge Trump on his lifestyle, such as his three marriages, as well as his views on Planned Parenthood and his casino empire.

“I wish I believed that Liberty would make an effort to engage him on his contradictory stances, his recent financial and political support of Planned Parenthood, his unapologetic serial monogamy, how he built much of his fortune by preying on the addictions of the weak in his casinos or perhaps his godless views that he shared so gleefully the last time he was at Liberty to speak,” Ready stated.

But Liberty’s Student Government Association also posted on social media, although not specifically mentioning Trump, remarking that inviting those with whom the university may disagree helps its Christian witness.

“As a student body, we should be open to hear any influential person in their field of work. Regardless of whether we agree with their views and opinions, it is our responsibility to show Christian hospitality and respect,” the status read. “Showing someone who we disagree with hospitality and respect doesn’t forsake our values as followers of Jesus but helps our witness. Allowing our minds to be challenged as a result of others viewpoints should cause us to look to Scripture in search for truth.”

Ready stated that he has nothing against varying viewpoints and did not oppose the unbelievers who have spoken thus far, but opined that those who claim to be Christians should be held to a higher standard.

As previously reported, Trump raised concerns among some last July after having difficulty responding to a question at the Iowa Family Leadership Summit as to whether he has ever sought forgiveness for his sins.

“That’s a tough question,” he replied. “I am a religious person. People are so shocked when they find this out—I’m Protestant. … I go to church. I love God and I love my church.”

“But have you ever asked God for forgiveness?” interviewer Frank Luntz repeated, evoking laughter from the audience.

“I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so,” Trump stated. “I think if I do something wrong, I think I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”

The Republican presidential candidate further outlined to CNN’s Anderson Cooper days later that he doesn’t always see a need for forgiveness.

“If I make a mistake, yeah, I think [repentance is] great. But I try not to make mistakes,” Trump said. “Why do I have to repent, why do I have to ask for forgiveness, if you are not making mistakes? I work hard. I’m an honorable person. I have thousands of people who work for me. I have employed tens of thousands of people over the years.”

Some have also remarked that Trump has used more profanity than any other candidate they have seen run for the office of president.

“Over the course of his time on Twitter, including in some cases after he announced his presidential candidacy, Trump has tweeted or retweeted profanity on his account more than 100 times,” reports the Washington Post.

“[Trump’s swear] words render him unfit to be a presidential candidate, let alone president,” wrote radio host Dennis Prager in a National Review article entitled “Donald Trump’s F-Bombs” in 2011. “Any fool can curse in public. … Leading Republicans need to announce that there is no place in the Republican party for profane public speech. You cannot stand for small government without standing for big people.”

Commentator Michael Brown additionally noted concerns with Trump’s repeated practice of cutting others down to make himself look good, as well as “the issue of pride, the sin that is often at the root of a host of other sins (Is. 14:11-15), the sin which God resists (James 4:6), the sin which leads to destruction (Prov. 16:18).”

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  • April J

    If you’re looking for a Christ-like candidate, Mr. Trump is the opposite, regardless of his skin color.

  • Ruth Davis

    People of color with children at Liberty university. Now is the time to get your issues on the table . Come with pen and paper with your questions on policies and where you fit in the political arena as A A’S .

  • Becky

    There’s no need to ask who is or isn’t a Christian really, for you’ll know them by their actions. A Christian follows the steps of Christ and has the same mind as Christ (1 Peter 2:21; Philippians 2:5).

    Furthermore, this world isn’t for the believers. We’re to be Christ’s disciples, but it’s not for us to immerse ourselves in the ways of the world. The world doesn’t adhere to the Word of God, which is why it will be destroyed. Christ said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” John 18:36.

    This world and its worldly systems belong to Satan (Rev 12:9). Why should a Christian vote for a system that is filled with corruption and goes against God (1 John 5:19)? Why should a Christian vote for a system that will eventually be destroyed by God (2 Peter 3:10-13)? Christ used His precious time on earth teaching others The Way unto salvation (John 14:6; Matthew 18:11). He is our perfect example and we are to follow the ways of our Savior and not the ways of the world (Matthew 10:34-39; Luke 14:27). Our mission, during our short stay on earth, is to spread the gospel (Matt 28:18-20).

    • John_33

      It’s true that we are not to be part of the world, but it’s undeniable that righteous people have done much good in government positions. I think of the prophet Daniel and Joseph from the Bible. In modern, democratic times, William Wilberforce comes to mind. The only way that holy men can do any good is if God enables them, and those men did a lot of good in their positions. We shouldn’t say that God will never work through government since He often does. God can decide to put good leaders in power, and we can choose to vote for them.

      • Becky

        Christ didn’t involve himself in politics. His answers/questions to the pharisees/saducees/roman authorities were always based on his word and not on their politics. Daniel and/or Joseph didn’t act politically, they acted religiously. They obeyed God according to his word and not according to man’s politics. Religion and politics aren’t synonymous.

        God is the one that sets up the ruling/authoritative powers and not our votes. He solely decides who will or will not be in those positions (eg Romans 13; Daniel 4, 5). Our votes determine who and what we follow. For example, a presidential candidate may stand against abortion, but support “same-sex marriage”. That’s what it looks like across the board, some stand for good while still upholding evil. So, is that what a Christian should vote for…truth mingled with error…good mingled with evil? Not according to the bible. We’re commanded by Christ to follow him and he told us how. As you well pointed out, Christ told us not to be a part of this world, (eg John 15:18-25) and politics belongs to this world.

        • John_33

          Thank you for your input.

          Christ’s mission was not to participate in the government, but His mission was also not to get married or have children. I understand we are to be like Christ in all things, but are we to infer that we ought not to marry because He didn’t?

          I absolutely agree with you that Daniel and Joseph acted according to God’s word and not according to man’s politics, but Daniel was a servant in the kingdom of Babylon. Joseph was second in command. They had real authority and real responsibilities in their governments. Why can’t we have righteous leaders today? If He did it before, then He can do it again. I also absolutely agree that God sets up ruling authorities and not our votes, but that doesn’t mean that we are not allowed to participate in casting votes. I think it’s a good thing if we use our votes to express our positions against evil and for good. If there are no good candidates in the field, then I agree with you that we shouldn’t vote, but I believe that there’s a time and place for everything.

          • Becky

            Thank you, as well.

            It’s not solely because Christ didn’t involve himself in politics, it’s also because he commanded us not to be a part of this world. Marriage is a holy institution created by God. However, politics isn’t…it’s of this world.

            Daniel and Joseph didn’t campaign for those positions. God allowed their circumstances to place them there for specific reasons (eg Genesis 50:19-21). If there are righteous leaders, they’re there because God placed them there. Either we believe what God says, or we don’t.

            How do we use our votes to express our positions against evil and for good when the very candidates we vote for still uphold evil (eg for “same-sex marriage” but against abortion)?

          • John_33

            I agree with you. God chooses the leaders, and He chose Daniel and Joseph to go into government for His purposes. As for today, if you see a leader that you cannot support out of conscience due to their positions, then I don’t think they should be voted for. That might make voting rarer, but it’s about glorifying God.

          • Dale Woodson

            If you decide which candidate to vote for based on single issues like abortion or same-sex marriage, then you’re not thinking through the political process… What you should vote on is a huge myriad of issues: the economy, how countless millions of Americans are in poverty, the wars around the world we are/aren’t a part of, etc., etc…

            Voting on abortion or same-sex marriage is a complete waste of your entire personal political power on issues that are decided by the Supreme Court and NOT the president. So you’re wasting your vote on the off-chance that a Supreme Court member dies and gets replaced during a President’s 4 (or 8) year term… And then maybe in 15-20 years enough justices would get replaced to change the law…
            That’s what a lot of candidates are banking on… They have almost zero power to do anything about these individual issues, but get millions of votes for saying they care… Then they become president and these issues get swept under the rug and forgotten. And then you’re left with the “real” person you voted for (whether that be good or bad) that does nothing about the issues that so many people based their decision on…

  • thelordlives2011

    If Liberty University wants to invite Donald Trump that is their privilege. Everyone else who is complaining NEEDS TO SHUT UP.

    • gizmo23

      There vill be no dissent or opinions allowed, in the name of liberty

  • Josey

    This is the problem I have with Trump.
    1 John 1:5-10 vs5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

  • Westley Williams

    They should have invited Ben Carson.