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. Chris Willett (Buffalo, NY)

    "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."

    When are religious people going to grow up and realize that the fight over who has the best delusion is simply backward and barbaric? If there were a God, I would call on him to save us from his followers.

    April 23, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • biologixco

      Save us from Mitt Romney and THE WHITE HORSE PROPHECY!

      April 23, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • hammer

      biologixco you are just stupid

      April 23, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • biologixco

      But you KNOW Im right!

      April 23, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  2. Terri

    @biologixco.... I can't stand by and watch a religion being attacked. It's sick and wrong. You've been doing it for days and it must stop now. You are creating contempt for a religion you obviously know nothing about. I've spoken my peace, now I'm off to my Bible study class and to repent for my anger toward ignorant people like you.

    April 23, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • biologixco

      You go to your church class. Dont take too many spins in that Kolobian Brainwasher dear!
      Have a wonderful Spring day!!

      April 23, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Liza

      It's safe to say biologixco will never be a diplomat. Or anything of note, come to think of it.

      April 23, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • biologixco

      Well Liza. I can tell you I wont be wife #6 like you

      April 23, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • Liza

      My husband could pummel your a#$. And his one and only wife could too lol.

      April 23, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  3. biologixco

    Terri, go change your magic diapers.
    I think they're wet...

    April 23, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Kelsie

      Since you seem so uneducated, here- enlighten yourself:

      April 23, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
      • biologixco

        EXmormon.org is the only place I need to go to understand the mormon "religion"

        April 23, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Liza

      You would. Idiots never seek the truth.

      April 23, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
      • biologixco

        Now Im an idiot?
        Whatever happened to love for your fellow man?

        April 23, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Liza

      Oh is that your stance now? Is that what you've been doing on this board?? You really are an idiot. In a picture dictionary your face would be next to the word idiot.

      April 23, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
      • biologixco

        Im actually a free thinking college grad with a very high IQ

        April 23, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • Liza

      A college grad who believes in magic diapers and professes that mormons do the same? LOL dude, you keep digging yourself in. You're an idiot, no getting around it. Oh wait, did you go to the Lynching college? That explains it.

      April 23, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
      • biologixco

        Google: Magic Underwear.
        I doth not lie.
        Its a secret mormon cult ceremony, i dunno

        April 23, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • Liza

      And a high IQ trusts Google... keep digging. Worlds biggest idiot. It is now official.

      April 23, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
      • biologixco

        World's biggest! woo hoo!
        Ive FINALLY made it!

        April 23, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  4. biologixco

    Got a job, got a life....

    April 23, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Terri

      Boy do I feel sorry for her, married to such a bigot. I'm so glad my husband is at work right now, working hard to provide for his family rather than using spiteful speech online to attack others' beliefs. It is so juvenile!!!!!

      April 23, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
      • biologixco

        Are you wife #1, or wife #5?
        Im confused.

        April 23, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Liza

      That poor woman... Just don't procreate ok??

      April 23, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
      • biologixco

        You're just the jealous wife #3, huh?
        Jealous, because my wife doesn't have to share her man with 4 other women (wink)

        April 23, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Liza

      LOL jealous?? You probably have her tied up in the basement. And some job you must have, posting your rage between flipping burgers.

      April 23, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
      • biologixco

        You mormoons have a wild and vivid imagination huh?
        Now get your mind out of the gutter, dear.

        April 23, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Liza

      You're such a loser- you tell me to get MY mind out of the gutter?? Have you read what you've been saying?? You're in serious need of a slap. I would be happy to oblige.

      April 23, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
      • biologixco

        Little too much starch in your magic panties, huh?

        April 23, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • Liza

      LOL yes the starch is magic. I bet you haven't washed your undies in months!

      April 23, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
      • biologixco

        My religion doesn't require me to wear them 24 hours a day and never take them off like your religion does.
        My religion doesn't require them to have masonic or daemonic symbols like yours does either.

        April 23, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Liza

      And yet, you stink. Figuratively and literally bahahaha

      April 23, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
      • biologixco

        I smell April Fresh.
        Just like Downey

        April 23, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • Liza

      Oh I'm so glad you let your wife out long enough to do your laundry. Did you leave her a plate of food?

      April 23, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
      • biologixco

        I slide it under the door to her

        April 23, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • Liza

      I knew it lol. You must be in the 1% of the a#$holes who really should be in jail. I'd make a citizens arrest and free her if I knew where you live.

      April 23, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
      • biologixco

        She's right here.
        Reading your statements.
        Rolling on the floor laughing...at YOU

        April 23, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
      • biologixco

        Did you wet your pants?
        You do know they make magic Depends for mormons, right?
        Even for big bottom girls like you...

        April 23, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • Liza

      SWEET that makes two of us!! Jokes on you d$%#$ bag. HAHAHAHAHAHA

      April 23, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
      • biologixco

        Your a naughty little mormon tart arent you?

        April 23, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • Liza

      You wish sicko. Stop dreaming about other women and get a real job.

      April 23, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
      • biologixco

        No, its "Get a haircut and get a real job"
        But I dont need a haircut...and I have a real job

        April 23, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Liza

      I would LOVE to have this conversation in person, my husband too. Where do you live??

      April 23, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
      • biologixco

        You might not want that.
        I might feel threatened and I live in a state with a "Stand your Ground" law.

        April 23, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • Liza

      I bet you'd pee your pants first. How lovely and American of you, threatening me. And so VERY Christian. You're a liar, an idiot, and now chicken sh%$.

      April 23, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
      • biologixco

        You're so....mormon

        April 23, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • Liza

      Why thank you. I also forgot peeping tom. Ewww. Go floss your teeth.

      April 23, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
      • biologixco

        Didn't know there was anything such thing as a little mormon hussy like you. Learn somethin' new everyday!

        April 23, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
  5. Terri

    @ biologixco....if you want to participate in religious bigotry, GO SOMEWHERE ELSE!!!!!!!!!!

    April 23, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • biologixco

      Mormons hate the Truth, like a vampire hates sunlight

      April 23, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  6. Terri

    @biologixco....get out of your parent's basement, get a job, get a life, and do something productive for this country. Your online attacks and lies about another religion are not beneficial.

    April 23, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  7. Voice of Reason

    How about a fair debate between you two? I would moderate and listen to both sides without name calling.

    April 23, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • biologixco

      Fair debate? Thats not in the mormon lexicon. Refute and dispute. Obfuscate...now thats the mormon way

      April 23, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  8. biologixco

    You gave me a great NEW idea!
    MAGIC Huggies!
    We could put all kinds of masonic and demonic symbols on them, hire a mormon priest to bless them like a Rabbi, mark them up $5 and they would be a hit with the stay at home mormon moms!
    I'll be a millionaire just like Mitt Romney! (woo hoo!)

    April 23, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • abinadi

      Trust me on this, biologixco, you are no Mitt Romney.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:59 am |
      • biologixco

        Yes, but the evil principle is the same. Magic Huggies!
        Maybe Mitt can market them!
        Hey, maybe we can get some "Im A Mormon" commercials going and we could sell them from coast to coast! (kinda like the mormons trying to sell Mitt Romney)

        April 23, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  9. Terri

    Please CNN, get BIOLOGIXCO off for abuse on this blog. Enough with the attacks on Mormons.

    April 23, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • biologixco

      I love my fellow mormon Americans;
      Its their "religion" and its blasphemous principles I despise...

      April 23, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • abinadi

      Maybe we should just ignore him. Let him mutter and peep to himself.

      April 23, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • abinadi

      He seems a lot like those really despi cable Baptist ministers who sit outside on the way to conference and shout obsceni ties at us.

      April 23, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Liza

      Ew don't love me- I depise you with or without your principles. Your principles suck lol.

      April 23, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  10. Terri

    BIOLOGIXCO is lying. My guess is he is most likely an ex-mormon (possibly kicked out for adultery or apostasy) or possibly a Baptist who has an ax to grind with the Mormon church. This is not the way to handle your contempt, to overtake blog comments with your lies and slander.

    GET OFF!!!!!

    April 23, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  11. biologixco

    You must have had an "accident" in your magic undies. (tee hee)

    April 23, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • biologixco

      Next time try Depends.
      They might even have a "magic" variety

      April 23, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  12. biologixco

    Ill tell YOU whats EVIL and ABUSIVE, lady!
    How bout laughing at firing thousands of American workers?
    Stealing from the poor and giving to the rich?
    Now there's the mormon way

    April 23, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  13. Terri

    Stop the evil attacks.
    Stop the lies.
    Stop the abuse.
    Stop the slander.
    Stop the harassment.

    April 23, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • biologixco

      Took one too many spin cycles in that Mormonian Brainwasher huh?

      April 23, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Voice of Reason

      How about I moderate a debate between you two?

      April 23, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Liza

      @Terri- don't get so mad, he's an absolute idiot. It's really quite funny nonsense. Someone who proclaims to be in the 1% and have a free thinking mind... YEAH RIGHT lol we all believe you bahahaha.

      April 23, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • knight4444

      how old are you? OMG your whining is so endless

      September 3, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  14. biologixco

    Im EVIL and ABUSIVE for pointing out the TRUTH about your mormon christianity.
    There's nothing Christian about mormonism!

    April 23, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  15. Terri

    He's been harassing contributors and Mormons for days on this post.
    He is evil and abusive!!!!!
    He has nothing intelligent to offer, only lies and slander.

    April 23, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • biologixco

      UH-OH! Mormon goon squad is after me!

      April 23, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • J.W

      There are a lot of people I would like to get rid of on here, but that is not possible.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  16. biologixco

    Mitt Romney's mormon Christian values:
    While running the Damon Corp, MILLIONS of $$$ went missing in a massive Medicare fraud.
    Mormoon Christian values at work
    Steal from the poor, give to the rich
    Robin Hood in reverse!

    April 23, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • knight4444

      Man you're great! you're simply exposing these cult members with truth and humor and their crying like babies! Keep up the good work! and don't worry about @LIZA husband! it's kinda hard to fight somebody with a diaper on!! LMAO

      September 3, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  17. KC

    biologixco can filibuster the truth all he wants, but that doesn't change the words of Jesus.

    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."

    No true Christian can condemn Mitt Romney or the Mormon church, since they do all of their works in the name of Christ. Which is more powerful, your love of Jesus and his teachings, or your hatred of Mormons?

    April 23, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • biologixco

      Let's see, you work in the LDS "War Room" in Salt Lake City?
      Paid LDS shill?

      April 23, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  18. biologixco

    Warren Jeffs for Veep!

    April 23, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • biologixco

      10 wives per man
      And a chicken in every pot...

      April 23, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Ting

      How about Obama/Pope Benedict 2012

      10 boys for every man. See how that works? Ridiculous huh?

      April 23, 2012 at 11:48 am |
      • biologixco

        Obama is not Catholic. Couldnt happen. On the OTHER hand...Warren Jeffs is a cozy little part of the LDS mormon church. a Romney/Jeffs candidacy is a much more likely occurrence

        April 23, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Ting

      The point is, pick a religion any religion and you are going to find some bad people. You are stereotyping. The best choice for Romney is to pick an in-the-closet atheist. Someone who pretends to be Christian. I'm sure there are many on capitol hill. You know what? There are some bad atheists out there too. Imagine that.

      April 23, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
      • biologixco

        Atheists aren't bucking to insert their HIGH PRIEST into the Presidency of the United States.
        Mormoons are!

        April 23, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  19. biologixco

    Mitt Romney's mormon christian values.
    Vulture Capitalism: Steal from the poor and give to the rich. Richie Rich.
    How 'bout those Christian values?

    April 23, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  20. biologixco

    Mitt Romney's mormon christian values:
    Strap the dog on top the car for a 8 hour ride.
    How do you think he will treat the masses of low income Americans?
    Like dirt on the ground.

    April 23, 2012 at 11:34 am |
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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.