LYNCHBURG, Va. — A reported 1,300 students, faculty and alumni of Liberty University have signed a statement objecting to university President Jerry Falwell Jr.’s ongoing vocal support for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, stating that Falwell does not represent the views of students and faculty.
“Donald Trump does not represent our values and we want nothing to do with him,” the statement, released on Wednesday, reads in part. “… He has made his name by maligning others and bragging about his sins. Not only is Donald Trump a bad candidate for president, he is actively promoting the very things that we as Christians ought to oppose.”
As previously reported, Falwell endorsed Trump in January, and has repeatedly defended the candidate as bearing the fruit of a Christian.
“I’ve seen his generosity to strangers, to his employees, his warm relationship with his children,” he said on CNN’s “Legal View With Ashleigh Banfield” in February. “I’m convinced he’s a Christian. I believe he has faith in Jesus Christ.”
Falwell made similar comments to Fox talk show host Sean Hannity.
“He may not be a theological expert and he might say two Corinthians instead of second Corinthians, but when you look at the fruits of his life and all the people he’s provided jobs, I think that’s the true test of somebody’s Christianity not whether or not they use the right theological terms,” he contended.
Falwell likewise defended a photograph he posted in June of he and his wife posing with Trump in the candidate’s office, which had a Playboy cover displayed on the wall among other framed covers and awards.
“Honored for same hypocrites who accused Jesus of being a friend of publicans and sinners to be targeting me over a decades old mag cover!” he Tweeted.
This week, while admitting that Trump’s words in a 2005 video were concerning, Falwell also remarked that no one is any better because “we’re all sinners.”
“It was completely out of order. It’s not something I’m going to defend,” he said, adding moments later, “[But] we’re all sinners, every one of us. We’ve all done things we wish we hadn’t. … We’re never going to have a perfect candidate unless Jesus Christ is on the ballot.”
Now, some students at Liberty are publicly expressing dismay over what they see as a minimization of the matter.
“Any faculty or staff member at Liberty would be terminated for such comments,” Wednesday’s statement read, “and yet when Donald Trump makes them, President Falwell rushes eagerly to his defense—taking the name ‘Liberty University’ with him. ‘We’re all sinners,’ Falwell told the media, as if sexual assault is a shoulder-shrugging issue rather than an atrocity which plagues college campuses across America, including our own.”
“It is not enough to criticize these kinds of comments. We must make clear to the world that while everyone is a sinner and everyone can be forgiven, a man who constantly and proudly speaks evil does not deserve our support for the nation’s highest office,” the students wrote.
They said that they wished to release the statement to make clear to the nation that there are many at Liberty University who do not share their president’s views.
“Because our president has led the world to believe that Liberty University supports Donald Trump, we students must take it upon ourselves to make clear that Donald Trump is absolutely opposed to what we believe, and does not have our support,” the statement concluded.
“We are not proclaiming our opposition to Donald Trump out of bitterness, but out of a desire to regain the integrity of our school,” it advised. “While our president Jerry Falwell Jr. tours the country championing the log in his eye, we want the world to know how many students oppose him. We don’t want to champion Donald Trump; we want only to be champions for Christ.”
Read the statement in full here.
Falwell has since responded to the statement/petition, asserting that the students are mistaken and are disobeying Christ’s teachings not to judge.
“I am proud of these few students for speaking their minds, but I’m afraid the statement is incoherent and false,” he said in a statement. “I am not ‘touring the country’ or associating Liberty University with any candidate. I am only fulfilling my obligation as a citizen to ‘render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s’ by expressing my personal opinion about who I believe is best suited to lead our nation in a time of crisis.”
“This student statement seems to ignore the teachings of Jesus not to judge others, but they are young and still learning,” Falwell stated.
He also dismissed the statement as representing a “very small percentage of the Liberty student body of 15,000 resident students and 90,000 online students.” Statement author Dustin Wahl, a junior at Liberty, told the Washington Post that 1,300 students, faculty and alumni have signed the statement thus far.
John Jay, the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, once said, “Providence has given our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as privilege and interest, of a Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”