The president of the world’s largest Christian college admitted today that it was his idea to invite Mitt Romney to deliver this weekend’s commencement speech at the university, and that he plans to also invite Obama before the election.
Jerry Falwell, Jr., who became president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia following his father’s death in 2007, stated that he had contacted one of Romney’s advisers to pose the idea. Interestingly, the adviser was Mark DeMoss, who is a professing evangelical Christian and president of The DeMoss Group, a marketing company that assists a number of high-profile Christian ministries nationwide. Falwell stated that DeMoss felt that the invitation was a “great idea” and recommend that he officially invite the presidential nominee.
“We are delighted that Governor Romney will join us to celebrate Commencement with Liberty’s 2012 graduates,” the university’s website states. “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.”
Like his father, Falwell’s decisions to invite and promote those of different religions have raised a lot of eyebrows. Last year, Falwell invited Glenn Beck, also a Mormon, to deliver the commencement speech and awarded him with an honorary Doctorate of Humanities degree. In 2007, then Republican nominee John McCain gave the commencement speech to students.
His father stated in the 1980’s, “I’m a fundamentalist, but I believe in a pluralistic America. … We may have differing theological positions, but we must never allow this to separate us as Americans who love and respect each other as a united people.”
Today, Falwell, Jr. admitted that since the school’s inception in 1971, the vast majority of speakers at the university’s graduation ceremonies have purposefully not been Christians. He bemoaned that he does not understand why there is so much negative reaction to his invitation to Romney, including the fact that some students have threatened to forego the graduation ceremony. Liberty students are not able to choose who speaks at their commencement ceremonies.
“Liberty is to evangelical Christians what Notre Dame is to Catholics and Brigham Young is to Mormons,” he stated, “I don’t think Obama giving the commencement speech at Notre Dame would be a big deal, so it’s interesting to see people surprised Governor Romney would address Liberty’s graduates.”
In fact, Falwell divulged that he himself plans to invite Obama to speak to the 30 thousand member university, and that he has done so in the past. “I can assure you the president will be given another opportunity to visit Liberty before the election in November,” he stated. “I know our students will look forward to his remarks as well.”