home
RSS
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.”

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

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. KC

    In Luke, Jesus directly answers how Christians should handle such situations.

    Luke 9:49-50
    "And John answered and
    said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad
    him, because he followeth not with us.
    And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us."

    Even if you truly believe that Mormons are not Christian, they do all of their works in the name of Christ. Jesus himself instructed his disciples NOT to forbid such people from practicing their faith, and says that they are acting "FOR US". Jesus is pleading for UNITY, and all I hear from the whiners at Liberty is DIVISIVENESS.

    April 23, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • biologixco

      Mitt Romney is the epitome of mormon christianity when he laughs about firing American workers. Now THERE are the REAL mormon values. Secret Swiss bank accounts, pray to planet kolob and wear your magic undies. Yup.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:33 am |
  2. biologixco

    $$$<<<The TRUE mormon god!

    April 23, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  3. biologixco

    Have you seen the "I'm a Mormon" TV ads designed to placate the American electorate? Just WHERE do you think these commercials originate? Madison Avenue in New Yawk? Nooooo. Salt Lake City! The War room! Mormons are trying to control the message. Make sure they are portrayed in a positive light. We dont see a commercial of Warren Jeffs and his 5 polygamist wives! The FLDS is an offshoot of the LDS

    April 23, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  4. biologixco

    Mormonism is blasphemous.
    Any Christian worth a pinch of salt would NEVER vote Mitt Romney2012!

    April 23, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  5. Where's the Liberty here?

    Does Liberty University has no liberty to choose a speaker?

    April 23, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  6. Intellibronc

    Reading a majority of these myopic comments, I thought I was on the illiberal huffington post or some other rag. Single issued sheeple will keep this marxist dictator in for another 4 years of destruction. If you can't see the big picture, you have no business voting or graduating. Keep your nose rings in sheeple,,,,,,pathetic.!!!

    April 23, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • Primewonk

      "Marxist dictator"? Are you freaking nuts? On a global scale, Obama is a conservative.

      April 23, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • biologixco

      You must've taken one too many spins in that Mormonian Brainwasher

      April 23, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  7. biologixco

    What are mormons REALLY up to?
    Google: The White Horse Prophecy
    Say NO Romney 2012!

    April 23, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • Delegates

      What a lonely cause you have, pity!!

      April 23, 2012 at 10:31 am |
      • biologixco

        Not that lonely, bub. Millions agree with me. once America learns why mormonism is a cult, Americans will turn away from Mitt Romney

        April 23, 2012 at 10:50 am |
      • biologixco

        Lets have a pity party!
        Then we can all run around in our magic underwear and spew phrases from the book of mormoon

        April 23, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  8. biologixco

    Mitt Romney does not espouse Christian values.
    Let alone mormon values
    Say NO to Romney2012!

    April 23, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • Delegates

      What a lonely cause you have, pity!

      April 23, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • SandyLester

      Romney does in fact practice mormonism at its highest level.
      He is one of the highest of the high without being one of the "12", there is nothing he says or does that contradicts mormonism.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:25 am |
      • biologixco

        Yeah, right. Romney is the HIGH PRIEST and ELDER of this cult! Google: The White Horse Prophecy. Understand the danger of mormons in our government

        April 23, 2012 at 11:27 am |
      • biologixco

        Thats why he laughs when he fires thousands of American workers in his "Vulture Capitalism" schemes.
        Yessiree, mormon values at work there. Real Christians care about the plight of their fellow man. Romney is not a real Christian

        April 23, 2012 at 11:30 am |
      • biologixco

        Mormon Christian values: Vulture Capitalism
        Steal from the poor to give to the rich.
        Ah yes, good 'ol mormon christian values!

        April 23, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  9. Elizabeth

    Way to be "good Christians"! I dont like Romney either, but dont like him for his politics, not his religion. Christ didnt judge on religion, neither should they. Especially going to a "Christian" university. They are aspiring to be more "Christ like." Grow up & learn some religious tolerance. Obviously they havent & arent ready to graduate.

    April 23, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • ?

      I am all for religious tolerance. However, I will never be for cult tolerance. Know the difference.

      April 23, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • momoya

      Indeed.. The difference is membership numbers.. If it's batsh!t crazy and only about 2-5 thousand believe–it's a cult.. If it's batsh!t crazy and a couple hundred thousand or million believe–it's a religion.

      April 23, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Alice

      Jesus said that the only way to avoid hell was to become Christian. Sounds pretty judgmental to me.

      April 23, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • biologixco

      Those Liberty kids can recognize a cult when they see one.

      April 23, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • AtheismIsCrap

      And I recognise a crap when I see one.

      April 23, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  10. MarkinFL

    That's right. Get angry. Don't vote for that cult member.

    April 23, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  11. Ted Fields

    Fairy tale wars.

    April 23, 2012 at 9:39 am |
  12. ?

    For the millionth time. Do your own research about the origins of the Mormon church. Read about Joseph Smith. Read about Brigham Young. These men were con artists, pure and simple. Bernie Madoff with a church. Do you realize that the United States Army was going to drive the Mormons out of Utah and into Mexico? And if the Civil War hadn't started, they would have? Brigham Young had 55 wives. Many of whom were still married to other men. Is this a mainstream religion? Learn about the Mormon church before you vote for Romney. It seriously matters.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • Primewonk

      How many wives did Soloman have? How about David?

      Sorry, but ALL religious sects are cults.

      April 23, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • ?

      You compare Solomon and David with Brigham Young?? Brigham Young was a con artist and a fraud. Think before you type.

      April 23, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • Primewonk

      @ ? – ALL religions are cults. Sorry.

      April 23, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • momoya

      ?

      Actually, he was comparing moral values–by giving an example of two specific people..

      April 23, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Jerry

      On the scale of weirdness and abuses Mormonism is only slightly higher ranking than the so-called "mainstream" religions.

      April 23, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  13. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things,.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • Jerry

      Are you a green troll, or a purple one?

      April 23, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.
      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.
      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!.!

      April 23, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  14. Lilly

    PA, NC, CT, RI, NY, DE tomorrow is your opportunity to have your voice heard. Vote Rick Santorum and send a message to the establishment. Make sure you know what delegates are supporting Rick. We are counting on a great turnout. http://deborahwrightblog.com/2012/04/22/dont-surrender-the-power-of-your-vote-to-the-establishment.aspx

    April 23, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Who's Rick?

      April 23, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  15. Reality

    “John Hick, a noted British philosopher of religion, estimates that 95 percent of the people of the world owe their religious affiliation to an accident (the randomness) of birth. The faith of the vast majority of believers depends upon where they were born and when. Those born in Saudi Arabia will almost certainly be Moslems, and those born and raised in India will for the most part be Hindus. Nevertheless, the religion of millions of people can sometimes change abruptly in the face of major political and social upheavals. In the middle of the sixth century ce, virtually all the people of the Near East and Northern Africa, including Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt were Christian. By the end of the following century, the people in these lands were largely Moslem, as a result of the militant spread of Islam.

    The Situation Today
    Barring military conquest, conversion to a faith other than that of one’s birth is rare. Some Jews, Moslems, and Hindus do convert to Christianity, but not often. Similarly, it is not common for Christians to become Moslems or Jews. Most people are satisfied that their own faith is the true one or at least good enough to satisfy their religious and emotional needs. Had St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas been born in Mecca at the start of the present century, the chances are that they would not have been Christians but loyal followers of the prophet Mohammed. “ J. Somerville

    Bottom line: Romney is Mormon because he was born Mormon. Should we hold this against him? After all, BO also believes in "pretty/ugly wingie thingies, bodily resurrections and atonement mumbo jumbo.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:07 am |
    • ?

      No, but we can sure stamp it out now

      April 23, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • Rockgod28

      @?

      "Stamp it out now."

      You can't get any more legal in stamping our Mormons that Missouri Executive Order 44 in 1838 which made it legal to kill Mormons to drive them out of the state. Neither is sending an army in 1857 to Utah on false reports of rebellion against the US.

      Stamp it out has been tried and has failed many times. Care to try again?

      April 23, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  16. W.G.

    Mr. DeMoss Sold out Liberty Univ . For money and Politics . To give some type of credibility to Romney .
    So he brings in a mormon to speak at Liberty´s commencement speech . Will he tell everyone there a few
    mormon Beliefs ? That they ( the mormons ) BELIEVE satan was the brother of Jesus ? Will he preach
    ANOTHER JESUS than what Paul and the Apostles taught ? Because they ( the Mormons ) do not believe
    that Jesus IS GOD . I guess this is what the Bible means by "even fooling the Elect" !

    April 23, 2012 at 8:03 am |
    • Janeway

      You have been misinformed about the LDS religion. We believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost as ONE God. Jesus is God as He was the Creator and Jehovah of the Old Testament before His birth on earth. The primary difference is we also believe that the Father that Jesus prayed to and talked about is real not just a personality of Jesus. You may not accept the Father as real but that doesn't mean Jesus is not God to us. Simply put, the Godhead or Trinity as you call it is one in purpose and the Catholic belief is the Godhead or Trinity is one is substance. This argument is almost 2000 years old and I cannot belief that salvation is dependent upon a perfect understanding of the Godhead as we probably would not understand it if He explained it to us. Disagee but at least get it correctly. No, we do not believe that Jesus is God the Father, We believe He is God the Son, Creator, Jehovah.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  17. Mitt does not display Christian behavior or values

    I think for most of the christians outraged, it has less to do with the mormonism factor and more to do with his lack of integrity or honesty. This man does not live by christian principles. Men like Romney are the ones Jesus expelled from the temple:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQwrB1vu74c&feature=related

    April 23, 2012 at 3:12 am |
    • biologixco

      MItt Romney does NOT espouse Christian values, but he sure espouses MORMON Values!
      Like laughing when thousands of Americans lose their jobs.
      Mormons could care less about the plight of their fellow man.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  18. john mccord

    For educated people,you sure don't think straight.Nor,do you follow God's word on how to treat your fellow man.Mormon was a prophet in the new world who put together the book called the book of Mormon.The church is called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints.The people are referred to as Latter Day Saints not,Mormons.You say they are a cult.They believe in Yeweh ,God,The heavenly Father The Creator,The one Jesus calls Father.We also believe in Jesus Christ,the son of God,the savior.He died on the cross for the sins of the world.He rose in three days.He is Jesus,son of Mary.We believe in the Holy Spirit.or,Holy Ghost,if you prefer.We study the King James version of the Holy Bible.We also study the book of Mormon which is a history of the jewish people who came to the new world about 600 b.c. We believe the Trinity is three separate persons where as you believe they are one.If that is what you believe,that's fine..Question.Why did Jesus always pray to God if him and God are one? Why did God say, this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased if they are one?Why at the last supper did Jesus say he would send the comforter if they are the same?Why did Jesus say on the cross,My God,My God why hast thou forsaken me,if they were one.?Our problem my friend is with the muslims.I am sure this is a subject you will not touch.You will claim it is understanding other peoples religion and having respect for it,a respect you will not grant to others who worship your God. But then the people who worship Yaweh will not cut your head off. There are some protestant churchs who claim Christians and muslims worship the same God.. Not only is this false,it is extrenely stupid..muslims believe Jesus,son of Mary will be the prophet of the anti Christ.The cult members in the L.D.S. do not believe this.You good Christians really need to wake up.The last days are are here.

    April 23, 2012 at 3:05 am |
    • jsizzleX

      If u would like Biblical answers to your questions or would like me to clear up what u think you know about lds doctrine, hit me up at thethinkeasy.info. U have taken the bait my friend.

      April 23, 2012 at 3:16 am |
    • Emma in Baltimore

      Adam was created without sin. However, when he ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, he came to know sin, and he became spiritually dead to God (the wages of sin are death). In order for us to approach God, an animal sacrifice was necessary to serve as a temporary atonement for are sins (again, the wages of sin are death). Anyone born of Adam's decent would be born of sin, so no one along his line could live a perfect life and atone for sins. So in order for God to reconcile us unto Himself, He needed to allow His Son to empty Himself of His Godhood and become a human so that He could live a perfect life and allow Himself to be a sacrifice for us all (for God so loved the world). That is why He is called the Lamb of God - He is God's pure a perfect sacrifice whose life was laid down as atonement for the sins of mankind. Atonement by an animal's sacrificial blood was temporary, but atonement by God's pure and perfect sacrifice is eternal (He died once for all).

      The Comforter that you refer to is the Holy Spirit. When we accept God's gift of atonement, we become saved and become alive to God - this is what is meant by being born again. When this happens, we become children of God and are adopted into His family, with Jesus being the first born among many. At that time, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit who guides us in our ways.

      There is only one true God, but the Godhead is three - that's why in Genesis He says, "Let us make mankind in our own image," stated in the plural form.

      April 23, 2012 at 3:58 am |
    • fred

      @Emma
      You said: “so no one along his line”

      What other lines are there?

      April 23, 2012 at 6:53 am |
    • W.G.

      You say mormons believe in Jesus , so do demons , you say that you people believe He is the Son of God .
      But the Apostles preached He was Truely fully Man an GOD . That´s why we´re Christians because we
      believe as the Apostles believed that Jesu was Fully Man and fully GOD . A man cannot die for our sins
      I´m truely sorry but mormons are not Christians .

      April 23, 2012 at 7:24 am |
    • fred

      @WG
      Are you the president of the christian sect identification agency?

      April 23, 2012 at 7:54 am |
    • Primewonk

      Emma wrote, " Anyone born of Adam's decent would be born of sin, so no one along his line could live a perfect life and atone for sins. "

      Cool. But my MRCA in the male line was Y Chromosome Adam. He lived ~80,000 years ago in Africa. Since your Adam had no association with my Adam, I was not "born of sin".

      April 23, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • Jerry

      You expect "educated people" to follow "God's word"?

      April 23, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  19. arrowman11

    This Liberty student doesn't reject Romney. Mitt's our man. Romney 2012!

    April 23, 2012 at 2:33 am |
  20. jsizzleX

    Mormons ARE NOT Christian. No lds doctrine can be found in Biblical text. http://thethinkeasy.info/2012/02/12/mitt-romney-super-mormon/

    April 23, 2012 at 2:09 am |
    • Rockgod28

      When you find the word TRINITY in Biblical text let me know.

      🙂

      April 23, 2012 at 2:28 am |
    • W.G.

      To ROCKGOD28 That´s it ? That´s your argument ? You are following a Cult like Mormonism and you are going
      Risk your Soul over a term used to describe the Father and Son And Holy Spirit ? The Bible never says the word
      G _ – A – _ Y but we know what the TERM means and that ´s one of the reasons God destroyed Sodom and Gemorah .

      April 23, 2012 at 7:56 am |
    • Rockgod28

      To: W.G.

      Without divine authority or revelation adding words and terms are forbidden. You don't get to make up terms, add word or additional definitions or doctrines to your faith because according to your belief system the Bible is the ultimate authority. As the ultimate authority according to your system of belief and interpretation of the Bible adding words or terms is forbidden because then you are preaching another gospel.

      So no TRINITY for you or other modern terms because they are not in the Bible. Mormons on the other hand have apostles and prophets that are guided and directed by Jesus Christ who DO receive divine revelation and have divine authority to give the members of our faith terms, doctrine and definitions from God.

      Have a good day. May the Lord Jesus Christ bless you to follow his teachings Luke 6:27-37.

      April 23, 2012 at 9:58 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26
Advertisement
About this blog

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.