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. cccr4education

    Hello world, the flack about Romney is not his religion but the fact Liberty University students support Ron Paul forf president, there is currently a heated fight in the GOP over the Republican nominee in August between Romney and Paul nationally not covered by MSM including CNN is playing “Wag the Dog” (great movie to rent).

    So far Minnesota has elected 20/24 national delegates to the August convention, but the media has posted Ron Paul only has a couple national delegates from Minnesota, and America has no idea from MSM the delegate facts. Many shocked folks coming in August within the GOP.

    April 22, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  2. Paul Brown

    Nii, why are you striving to create contention over the points of Christ Doctrine?
    Jesus Said:
    28 ... There shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been.

    29 For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of acontention is not of me, but is of the bdevil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

    30 Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things ashould be done away.

    31 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.

    32 And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear brecord of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.

    33 And whoso believeth in me, and is abaptized, the same shall be bsaved; and they are they who shall cinherit the kingdom of God.

    April 22, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  3. Nii

    A Christian is a person who believes that Jesus of Nazareth is the Jewish Messiah. He also believes that the Bible is the standard for determining the truth of any future Revelation. Lastly he does not hold any doctrine which is secretive. He seeks to follow Christ and His Apostles only.

    April 22, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  4. Nii

    I like religions of all types even Mormons and Atheists. We are all humans but I just object to blurring definitions to further my cause. I wish every one is a Xtian but its just not possible. Even if we baptise all the dead and yet to be born. However I believe we can love each other as ourself.

    April 22, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  5. Nii

    I'm not an Evangelical. Reading comprehension isnt hard either. I basically said Mormons were not xtians there. If u cant understand that how do u purport 2 answer me? I don't 've 2 b Evangelical to say Mormons r not Xtian. Just go to any Xtian n tell him the full extent of ur beliefs. Google.

    April 22, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • danielwalldammit

      And how would telling a Christian the full extent of your own beliefs help to establish that Mormons aren't Christian?

      April 22, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Jerry

      They think Jesus is a god. Christian!

      April 22, 2012 at 11:31 pm |

    So I grew up Mormon served a mission, but since then have lost a little interest in religion. As I read these comments I am reminded why. Now I don't agree with all the teachings of the LDS faith, but one thing I know is they are Christians and are really good people in general. If this so called Christian school really teaches the hate that is being expressed in these comments, then we should wonder who really lacks Christian attributes. Why so much hate? So before someone thinks I am a Mormon homer, just relax like I said I don't agree with the Mormon faith with all things either, but I have never sat through church or my seminary classes and been taught to hate another religion.

    April 22, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Mary

      Me neither DRCOLO!

      April 22, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Jerry

      More moderate believers should voice their opinion here. Usually it's all shouting from the extremeists. Good

      April 22, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Nii

      I know Mormons 'll cry "HATRED!" whenever they r told they r not Xtians. De Muslims have seminaries n go on missions. Bhuddhists sometimes have more Xtian attributes than Xtians. That doesnt make them Xtian. I dont hate u 4 telling u our position on Mormonism. I'm helping u. Investigate yourself.

      April 22, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • otto

      When personal beliefs are based on conjecture, speculation and assertions but are treated as 'fact', truth will never be found, only asserted.

      April 22, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  7. Politics can influence anything

    Good now we can invite Obama!!!

    April 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  8. Nii

    Mormonism is a modern form of Gnosticism. On Good Friday most of the Atheist noise about Christianity's pagan roots came from Gnosticism. This was a fusion of several pagan legends(Joseph Smith's Papyrus) and Christianity. True Christianity was a Jewish Sect that outgrew the parent religion, Judaism

    April 22, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Berk

      What the hell do atheists have to do with this story?

      April 22, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Dr.Cole

      Joseph Smith's Papyrus??? Sorry, it's not papyrus, try again.

      April 22, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  9. W.G.

    Mr. DeMoss is a Wolf in sheeps clothing . He Sold out Liberty Univ. and Christianity to legitimize Romney .
    Maybe in the end when the anti-christ comes this will be the way he takes over the 3rd. temple in Jerusalem ?

    April 22, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • danielwalldammit

      ...and other alarmist hyperbolic ...stuff.

      April 22, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  10. W.G.

    ITo rockgod28 – It is a term used to define the Father , Son and holy Spirit . Please read Matthew 28:19
    You can´t pick and choose What you want out of the Bible but look at the complete word . Oh, and While we´re at it where did Joseph Smith ever get that Jesus and satan were brothers ?

    April 22, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • Faith-Isn't-a-Preacher

      Great are the words of Isaiah. 14:12-17
      Who is the Son of the Morning?
      Men and women are the Sons and Daughters of God? Whether they are in a fallen state or not. But as a good shepherd the Lord seeks to redeem them.

      April 22, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Rockgod28

      I might have missed the word Trinity somewhere in Matthew 28:19. I did notice three names, not one name or the word Trinity. The word Trinity is not in the Bible at all. Which means if the word is not in the Bible where did it come from?

      From a group of men, not direct communication from God or revelation from God, created the word Trinity.

      So if the Bible doesn't teach the Trinity and the word is not in the Bible without Divine Authority how can the doctrine of the Trinity be taught?

      April 22, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  11. Joe The Plumber

    Libety and Christian seem odd words to be associated with intolerant students.

    April 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • DoNotWorry

      Liberty is the right of people to vote their conscience. If their conscience is against voting for Rmoney because he is a Mormon, so be it. My conscience is against voting for Rmoney because he has spent 20 years looting America and I don't want to give him the keys to the kingdom. So be it. Liberty.

      April 22, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • W.G.

      To Joe the Plumber – Only to those who no nothing about Christianity

      April 22, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Faith-Isn't-a-Preacher

      DoNotWorry – Really? Corporations, like individuals, do what they can to survive. No thanks to Globalization and the global re-distribution of wealth, people and businesses have to compete globally or go out of business or just plain fail. Go check WIKI's take on Globalization. It explicitly states that the Midwestern State's manufacturing decline is due to Globalization. Have we forgotten that Bush Sr. embraced 'The New World Order' in one of his speeches and Obama is promoting Globalization at the expense of the U.S.A.?

      April 22, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  12. biologixco

    Google: The White Horse Prophecy
    Learn why Republicans are voting for President Obama
    A real Christian would NEVER vote Romney 2012!

    April 22, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  13. biologixco

    Any Christian worth his salt knows that the book of mormon is blasphemous.
    And try as you might (will!) to REWRITE the history of polygamy within the mormon "church"
    along with prayer to Kolob and Joseph Smith and the wearing o' the magic undies.
    You will figure out:
    Mormonism is closer to SCIENTOLOGY than any branch of Christianity!

    April 22, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • DoNotWorry

      Mormonism is nothing like Scientology. You know very little about either if you say so.

      April 22, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
      • biologixco

        its a cult just like scientology...

        April 22, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • Faith-Isn't-a-Preacher

      biologixco – Into 'Fiction' much?

      April 22, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      All believers should face reality – you are all members of cults. The only difference is the degree of wackiness!

      April 22, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
      • biologixco

        mormonism is more like a scientology cult than mainstream Christian religion.

        April 22, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
  14. Reality

    It is very disturbing that religious narrow- mindedness, intolerance, violence and hatred continues unabated due to randomness of birth. Maybe, just maybe if this fact would be published on the first page of every newspaper every day, that we would finally realize the significant stupidity of all religions.

    April 22, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • biologixco

      Mormonism is not a "religion"

      April 22, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • W.G.

      To reality – Please show me in te Bible where it says we must tolerate False teachings like the mormans teach in the Book of Jude and and books of Peter it says we must watch out for People that teach another Christ . Which is what Mormons do .
      It says that we must not tolerate them and not even show Hospitality to them or in GODs Eye we share the same sin .
      As Christians we must love the sinner but not tolerate the sin .

      April 22, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Alice

      Isn't this story about the clash between two narrow-minded, intolerant, and bigoted religions; Mormonism and Evangelicalism?

      April 22, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Reality


      It is very disturbing that religious narrow- mindedness, intolerance, violence and hatred continues unabated due to randomness of birth. Maybe, just maybe if this fact would be published on the first page of every newspaper every day, that we would finally realize THE SIGNIFICANT STUPIDITY OF ALL RELIGIONS.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
  15. biologixco

    Wait til America finds out about Romney
    The dog he strapped on top his car.
    Laughing at unemployed Americans
    Secret Swiss bank accounts
    His prayer to Planet Kolob
    And the PINK MAGIC UNDERWEAR he wears!
    Reporters are gonna have a field day!
    Mitt Romney is a HIGH PRIEST and ELDER of the mormon cult.
    Say NO to Romney2012~!

    April 22, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • DoNotWorry

      Magic underwear is not PINK. You had more credibility before you said that... it made you sound stooooopid.

      April 22, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Paul Brown

      I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for 53 years. I have never heard of anyone praying to Kolob. If you are going to be an intolerant bigot, at least find something real to rail against.

      April 22, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  16. Kara

    Im a Liberty student.
    We have been taught that mormonism is a blasphemous cult.
    These accusations arent totally baseless.
    The polygamy record alone is shameful.
    But look at Romney's record.
    He laughs at firing American workers?
    Finds comedy in the plight of his fellow man? (gasp!)
    I wont be going to that speech.
    And I bet alot of my fellow students wont be there either
    Liberty University officials better be careful.
    This could cause an uproar that could be Liberty's very downfall.

    April 22, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Alice

      A lot is actually two words dear. Can you get a refund on your college education?

      April 22, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Mary


      April 22, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  17. Kolobian Brainwasher

    Im gonna buy me a Mercury
    Strap my dog up on the roof
    And cruise down to Planet Kolob

    April 22, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
  18. Kolobian Brainwasher

    Im gonna go put on my mystical magical underwear and go out in my yard and see if I can spot Kolob in the night sky.
    Dancing around in my magic undies! woo hoo!

    April 22, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • Paul Brown

      Your mockery does not sound very christian. Are you a student at this christian school?

      April 22, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Berk

      I thought he was a Battlestar Galactica fan? 🙂

      April 22, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  19. Jeremy

    I am a student at liberty university. These views towards Romney speaking are not unanimously held. There are 12,000 plus students at this university and only a select few were cited in this article. i know personally of many who are not only not only accepting him as speaker but are happy of the fact that he is speaking this year. Liberty has teamed up with many religions who we do not see eye to eye with in order to accomplish a common goal. It is impossible to please everyone and so to jump on a school fo not doing so is comical. also, those who commented above me, i believe this is fo comments on the article, not ad homen attacks on the religions thmselves.

    April 22, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  20. mikstov33

    Every body needs to just calm down.Obama will get his 4 more years,then the Antichrist will win in 2016.(Not Romney!) By the way, some believe the Pope is the antichrist.But we have already had a catholic president who was shot in the head.

    April 22, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • Nii

      As 4 me I don't care who speaks so long as it is useful n a successful businessman is good.
      However de Mormons must stop telling people that they r better Xtians than us. Or insult others that they r bigots. Our name Xtian is insult enuf than 4 them to rub in their 125yo salt.
      Muslims dont do so.

      April 22, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Berk

      Huh? Evangelicals telling another Christian group not to claim a higher status as Christians. That's rich!

      April 22, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Nate

      Nii, what is an Xtian? I have heard of Christians, but have yet to learn about Xtian. Please enlighten me.

      April 22, 2012 at 2:20 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.