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Liberty's choice of Romney leads to angry student response
Students at Liberty University bow in prayer during commencement in 2007. Current students were angered by the choice of Mitt Romney for the 2012 graduation speaker.
April 20th, 2012
06:16 PM ET

Liberty's choice of Romney leads to angry student response

By Laura Bernardini and Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – Liberty University students and alumni are accusing the Christian school of violating its own teachings by asking Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints whose adherents are called Mormons, to deliver its 2012 commencement address.

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.”

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Loeffler’s daughter, Sarah Misch, 33, of Unionville, Virginia, who is also a student at the school said, “I am glad I am not graduating this year. I would not want to end my studies at a Christian university by being sent in to the world at commencement by a Mormon. We came to Liberty because of our faith in Jesus; not for political reasons.”

Holly Stanton Morgan, another student, posted to Facebook, “I am glad that my husband and I won’t be attending his commencement. Mormonism is not Christianity. My commencement is next year. Hopefully they choose more wisely.”

Mark DeMoss, a Liberty graduate, member of the Board of Trustees and a senior adviser to the Romney campaign, said on Friday, “We have had a Jewish commencement speaker, we have had a Catholic commencement speaker, and so, I think people are certainly entitled to their opinion. Social Media certainly provides an outlet for people’s opinions, but I think it is a great thing for the university.”

DeMoss also noted that the night before graduation is the annual Baccalaureate and that event will feature an evangelical Christian speaker.

Liberty University was founded as Lynchburg Baptist College in 1971 by the influential pastor and Moral Majority co-founder Jerry Falwell. He founded the school to be a Christian university for evangelical believers, according to Liberty’s website.

Today, Liberty brands itself as the largest evangelical university in the world, with 82,500 students enrolled either on campus or online.

Liberty University would not comment beyond the press release it sent out Thursday announcing Romney would speak. There will be 14,000 graduates for the May 12th ceremony. The University announced that it expected 34,000 guests.

Previous commencement speakers included previous Republican presidential candidates Sen. John McCain in 2006 and Ronald Reagan in 1980.

The relationship between Mormons and evangelicals has been tested as of late. With Romney as the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party, many political commentators are asking whether the evangelical base, an important voting bloc to the GOP, will come out for Romney.

If those votes hinge on how evangelicals see Mormonism, Romney may need further outreach to the evangelical community. A recent Pew Research Center survey finds that nearly half (47%) of white evangelicals say that Mormonism is not a Christian religion. Sixty-six percent responded the Mormonism and their religion are “very or somewhat different.”

The charge of Mormonism as a cult is not a new one for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Michael Otterson, head of public affairs for the Church, wrote about the word in a 2011 column.

“As part of the rhetorical warfare that has come to characterize modern American political discourse, it was only a matter of time before someone once again used the term “cult” to describe The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Otterson wrote. He went on to describe the word as a, “a neat, shorthand and rather lazy way of putting a whole group into a box.”

The nation’s largest evangelical denomination, the Southern Baptist Conference, lists the LDS Church as a cult. They specifically cite differences in theology surrounding salvation, baptism, belief in the Trinity, and marriage. A major sticking point between other Christian traditions and Mormons is the Book of Mormon, which Mormons believe is divinely inspired scripture and on par with the Bible. Other Christians do not recognize the Book of Mormon as scripture.

CNN reached out to a LDS church spokesman for further comment but they demurred, stating that the story was a political story.

A Romney spokesman did not respond to questions about the issue.

Not all Facebook comments were negative, though. Tom Johnson added, “Mitt Romney has been invited to give a motivational speech, not a religious sermon. His religious beliefs do not have anything to do with his ability to give a motivational speech at commencement.”

And Kathy Creech added, “I, for one, am pleased that the future President of the United States will be speaking there!”


soundoff (1,597 Responses)
  1. PriceG3

    Well, let us try again. Two points: First, the early founders of the church developed the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds to establish the basic rules of the faith, one of which is that God is one God, revealed through the roles of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There are hundreds of Christian denominations and even the non-creedal ones adhere to this principle. The Church of Latter Day Saints does not. This is not to say that their members are not good, devout people, nor that Mr. Romney would not make an efficient President, but they do not belong to a legitimate denomination as described by foundational Christian creeds

    Secondly, although I have reservations about churches that put forth Liberation Theology, as did Mr. Obama's church in Chicago, I do not doubt his belief in Christ, even though I do not agree with all of his political policies. He is certainly not a Muslim. I suppose I have angered both conservatives and liberals now, but those seem to me to be the facts.

    April 21, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • skytag

      And what evidence do you have that those creeds are correct?

      April 21, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • PriceG3

      For Skytag: Granted, there is an element of trust involved with the Creeds; however, we do have the evidence of the nearly two thousand years during which the basic principles have been believed, as well as the fact that today, they still stand with hundreds and hundreds of denominations as diverse as the most elaborate Roman Catholic service to the simplicity of the Mennonites. This is not to say that Mormons have absolutely no relationship with God,rather, that their understanding of His plan of salvation differs a great deal from the Christian interpretation. Their lifestyles are, of course, very similar to those of Christians, and even in Christians circles the debate continues as to whether their theology has a salvific impact; and I think no one would question the goodness of their hearts and intentions.

      April 21, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  2. lies from the right but mostly hate

    Sue is your last name McCarthy

    April 21, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • gar

      And her middle name is PeaBrain...

      April 21, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  3. PriceG3

    I do rather wonder what happened to my contribution?

    April 21, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Hank

      I ran into the same issue.. just asked for some clarity on a list of Mormon beliefs I had heard.

      April 21, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  4. danielwalldammit

    How long ago was it that, several on the right were complaining about left wingers going after Romney for being a Mormon?

    April 21, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • skytag

      Who knows? They say so much stupid stuff it's hard to keep track of all of it.

      April 21, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  5. KC

    Isnt real Christamity about loving thy neighbor and just love in general? If all these people were real Christians, why so much hate and discrimination. Stop being hypocrites

    April 21, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • danielwalldammit

      ...unless of course such pettiness really is what Christianity is about.

      April 21, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Nii

      When Haawaians say they are not Ja.pa.nese it is not discrimination. Nor is it hatred for a Canadian to say he's not American. I am not a Mormon but a Christian. The cross is hard enough to explain without adding Temples, poshumous baptism, magic underwear, Book of Mormon, etc.

      April 21, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • skytag

      They're all frauds, so hypocrisy is to be expected. Every religion is a narrative a group of people have decided to believe because they like it better than the alternatives. I've never seen a Christian prove Mormons aren't Christians. All they can do is explain why they don't consider Mormons Christians, but not one of them is authorized by God to pass judgment on who is an isn't a Christian.

      April 21, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • skytag

      Nii: "When Haawaians say they are not Ja.pa.nese it is not discrimination. Nor is it hatred for a Canadian to say he's not American."

      Since these people are talking about themselves these examples are non sequiturs. If Mormons said they weren't Christians I'd believe them. What you say about their Christianity carries no weight with me, and if they said you weren't a Christian I wouldn't listen to them either.

      April 21, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  6. Derik D

    The students wanted Ron Paul by a large majority, and were force fed Romney.

    April 21, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  7. Nii

    Yippee! Glad to hear it! I like it when an atheist says the same.
    Even better when Ayatollah Khameini says it. Hope you all attend Fuller Theological Seminary next year.

    April 21, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Nii

      Also when a Xtian denomination is declared in error it is still considered Xtian. As a Protestant de RCC, Eastern Orthodox, Copts, Jacobites n Arians (not Aryans) r Xtians tho heresies. A Gnostic sect like LDS has never been considered Christian. Even in the Epistles Gnostics are spoken against.

      April 21, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  8. Derik D

    Ron Paul 2012
    3omney has NOT won the nomination by any stretch, so donkt be fooled into beliving the media hype.

    April 21, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  9. Keith is a dummy

    Why no mention of God living on planet Kobal? Will he bring his magic undies to the commencement? Maybe they will strap Shamus' skeleton to the roof of one of his wife's(not wives!) Cadillacs and tool on down there. He is probably in the mood for some more grits, anyway!

    April 21, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • KC

      Before you criticize anything, you should probably study up on the matter first. If not, your make a fool out of yourself and come off sounding pretty stupid. You should probably base your critcisms off more than just wikipedia or south park.

      April 21, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  10. Nii

    ROC
    De problem with de Romans as with de Greeks was that their form of Paganism cudn't compete with Judaism or Xtianity. De Jews were less troublesome cos they tended to keep to themselves. Xtians collapsed temple economies by heavy prosyletizing efforts. De Roman aristicracy was hurt in the pocket.

    April 21, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  11. Laverne

    If this story was about Obama and religion, the comments would not be as mild nor accepting, I'm just saying.........there is a double standard that always is front and center when it comes to Obama with regard to religion even though he has said over and over again he is a Christian!

    April 21, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  12. Michael

    I'm a Mormon and I'm a Christian too!

    April 21, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Nii

      Sounds like Hitler!

      April 21, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • "just sayin" is a dummy

      Ahhh..... a "doubledumb".

      April 21, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • danielwalldammit

      Yes, well now that Catholics and Protestants have learned to get along more or less, they all need a new whipping boy, don't they? Cause nothing brings people together like opposition to someone else.

      April 21, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Sue

      hahahahahahaha...............Silly liberal.............

      Go to realclearpolitics dot com and look at the averages of ALL polls...........Romney is tied/winning or closing in!! The information from the polls shows that Independents and white voters are going to Romney!!

      And, just think.............Romney and the superpacs just started exposing and campaigning against Obama........Obama has been campaigning non-stop for over 5 years!!

      Did you know..........Gas was $1.79/gallon when Obama took office. Gas has gone up OVER 100% since Obama took office...........If you did not know, you will know/understand this very soon.............Because Romney and the superpacs will make the voters aware of this in all states before the election---ESPECIALLY the swing states!!

      April 21, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • skytag

      "Silly liberal"

      Belittling liberals is childish.

      April 21, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • skytag

      "Did you know..........Gas was $1.79/gallon when Obama took office. Gas has gone up OVER 100% since Obama took office"

      "Post hoc ergo propter hoc, Latin for "after this, therefore because of this," is a logical fallacy... Post hoc is a particularly tempting error because temporal sequence appears to be integral to causality. The fallacy lies in coming to a conclusion based solely on the order of events, rather than taking into account other factors that might rule out the connection." — Wikipedia

      Did you know gas was $4.12 at the end of July 2008? The only reason it was $1.79 when Obama took office was because the price dropped $2.50 a gallon in the last four months of 2008 because of decreased demand caused by the recession, after which is started right back up. You people are fools, brainwashed to believe all manner of nonsense about our president because you aren't smart enough to know a bogus argument when you hear one. Your attempt to attack him here only shows that you are uninformed, or you are intellectually dishonest. You have nothing here that can be legitimately used to attack Obama.

      April 21, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Sue

      hahahahahaha............Pull out those records/stats on how much gas was the entire 8 years under the Bush Administration........

      Then, pull out the records/stats of how much gas was under 4 years (almost) under Obama.

      I can GUARANTEE you that Romney and the superpacs will be reminding/making voters aware of how much gas was when Obama took office!!! hahahahahaha..........PACK YOUR BAGS Obama!!

      Gas has gone up OVER 100% since Obama has been in office

      Gas was $1.79/gallon when Obama took office

      April 21, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  13. Scott Tibbs

    Polls have shown that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say they won't vote for a Mormon.

    April 21, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Sue

      You DEFINITELY got that right!!! Republicans will DEFINITELY vote for a Christian Mormon, before they will vote for 4 more years of a Muslim in the White House!!

      And, Independents (who are now supporting Romney, based on all polls)--–do not listen to the garbage put out by the Democrats and MSM regarding Romney's religion. As a matter of fact, I believe that them attacking Romney on his religion, actually pushes more Independent voters to Romney!!!

      April 21, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Terence

      Sue – Is not a Mormon she's a moron.

      April 21, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Scott Tibbs is a dummy

      All the polls I have seen show NOBODY wants to vote for THAT mormon!!!

      April 21, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Scott Tibbs

      You can't even choose a unique pseudonym, STIAD? Really?

      April 21, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • skytag

      Sue, get a clue. Obama is not a Muslim. The only people who believe that are brainwashed fools. Based on your comments you have spent way too much time listening to the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, and too little time educating yourself about issues. The degree to which you are unabashedly ignorant tells me you are almost certainly a member of the Tea Party.

      April 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • skytag

      Sue, in my personal experience some of the mostly rabid opponents of Romney because of his religion are Republicans who say they'll sit out the election and not vote if Romney gets the nomination.

      April 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  14. Terence

    At least Obama is a proper Christian. Just saying...

    April 21, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  15. white boys for Obama

    Here is the million daollar question, If Bishop Romney wins, Does he put his hand on the Plyg Bible or the Real one when sworn in???

    April 21, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • Informed

      Mormons believe the Bible to be the word of God. To be clear, the Bible published by the church is the King James Version.

      April 21, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • EJ

      Informed....which version was it that taught racism and bigotry and is it considered to be the word of God?

      April 21, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Nii

      EJ
      Don't tell me you have not heard of the Joseph Smith Translation! Besides Oxford University Press Publishes KJV. How do I know? I'm Anglican. It is our official Bible.

      April 21, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • skytag

      Nii: If you ask a Mormon to show you his Bible he will show you a KJV. There is a Joseph Smith "translation," but it's not what Mormons use as their official Bible and the changes in it are relatively minor judging from the few examples I've had shown to me. In any case, there are many translations of the Bible these days, and I don't hear you claiming anyone who doesn't use the KJV isn't a Christian.

      April 21, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  16. Rob, San Francisco, California

    When will muslims start being investigated for all of their vast and atrocious hypocrisies?

    April 21, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  17. Sue

    PLEASE go to Yahoo and type this in your search bar................

    Raila Odinga + Christians

    Raila Odinga + Obama

    Raila Odinga + overthrows government

    April 21, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • skytag

      Please go away. Brainwashed people have nothing of value to contribute to the conversation.

      April 21, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  18. Dandini

    IF LDS walk like a Christian and talk like a Christian...

    National Study of Youth and Religion, 2005, UNC, Chapel Hill (U.S. Adolescents Ages 13-17) - The Study found that Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) youth were more likely to exhibit Christian characteristics than Evangelicals (the next most observant group)

    A national 2010 Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey aimed to test a broad range of religious knowledge, including understanding of the Bible, core teachings of different faiths and major figures in religious history: on questions about Christianity and the Bible, Mormons scored the highest. They also scored second only to Jews in knowledge of Judaism. [Overall, Mormons understand their own doctrines and the Bible better than other Christian denominations.]

    2011 survey... According to Pew, "Mormons exhibit higher levels of religious commitment than many other religious groups, including white evangelical Protestants... Looking at basic, core religious beliefs, 98 percent say they believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ… While previous surveys have clearly established LDS agreement with certain key Christian doctrines — 90 percent of Mormons believe in God, 91 percent believe the Bible is the word of God and 98 percent believe in life after death…

    2012 – A new study from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Indiana University- When it comes to the time they spend volunteering, the average adult American LDS member contributes as much as seven times more than that of the average American. The published findings further indicate that these “prosocial behaviors” are reflective of Latter-day Saint teachings, which emphasize Christian service and charity to others.

    April 21, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Nii

      Ok! But I know Ahmadiyya Muslims who exhibit better "Xtian behaviour" than evangelicals. Also the Ismailis have the Agha Khan Foundation. I KNOW MUSLIMS WHO WUD PUT MORMONS TO SHAME ON CHRISTIAN BEHAVIOR AND DOCTRINE. Does that make them Christian?

      April 21, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • skytag

      You can't reason with religious bigots.

      April 21, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • skytag

      Nii, who made you the arbiter of who is and isn't a Christian? And your question about Muslims was profoundly stupid.

      April 21, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  19. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    Republikkklan party will be the new whig party on Nov 6 2012.

    April 21, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Rockgod28

      Little history lesson.

      The Klan was filled with Democrats and if you did any research at all you would know it was the Republican Party that opposed them from the Civil War onward to the Civil Right Movement.

      There is a your clue, now go be a detective and solve the crime of your ignorance.

      April 21, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Niko_in_Richmond

      Rckgod28 – you are tight. However, you failed to mention that right after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, those Democrats bolted from the the party and joined the Republicans. There was a major political re-alignment right about that time where the Party of Lincoln no longer seemed to support the principles that he once proclaimed and, as you stated, were the guiding principles of that party until the Civil Rights Act was passed.

      Now, you be a good detective and go research that.

      April 21, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Rockgod28

      Senator Robert Byrd.

      Lifelong Democrat of 92 years and highly placed member of the Klan.

      Voted against the Civil Rights Act in 1964.

      A perfect example because as a member of the Klan, even former member, he never bolted from the Democratic Party for the Republican Party.

      So I guess I am a good detective and I should bill you for getting you a clue.

      April 21, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  20. Steele

    We must not forget that Christianity, during its early years, was itself considered a cult.

    April 21, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Nii

      STEELE
      Xtianity was a Jewish Sect, Nazarenes, which eventually outgrew de parent religion. Xtians worshipped with other Jews until de 3rd century. That is why we attend Church service on Sunday. Saturday was for Jewish Xtians 2 attend synagogue which were non-denominational. Cult? Never.

      April 21, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Rockgod28

      Agreed.

      To the point that Christians were killed for their belief in Jesus Christ that Romans considered to be strange and sinister.

      Have a great day!

      April 21, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Nii

      ROCKGOD
      The Christians were punished by the Roman government because of economic rather than any theological reasons. An example is in the Book of Acts when the Temple of Ephesus was threatened with extinction by Christian evangelism. Pliny de Younger's discourse with Tiberius is clear on this too.

      April 21, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Rockgod28

      And you proved my point.

      Thank you.

      Mormons were an economic powerhouse and still are economically powerful which is why the political power of Mormons, particularly Joseph Smith's presidential run in 1844 had to be brought to a violent end.

      Good luck trying that type of extermination again today.

      April 21, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.