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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. biologixco

    Mitt Romney is a HIGH PRIEST and elder of the mormon "church"
    He prays to Kolob and wears Magic Underwear.
    He is the leader of a CULT.
    Why would we EVER elect a cult leader president?
    Just say NO to Romney2012

    April 28, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  2. Kenjitheman

    Romney 2012 all day long. Muhammad obamas days are numbered. allah hu ahkbar

    April 27, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • biologixco

      Romney sucks.
      Once America discovers Planet Kolob, Magic Underwear and The White Horse Prophecy,
      MITTEN WILL BE TOAST.
      President Obama nipped Bin Laden in the bud.
      President Obama led us out of the Bush Depression.
      President Obama is a NATIONAL HERO.

      April 28, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • biologixco

      Romney sucks.
      Once America discovers Planet Kolob, Magic Underwear and The White Horse Prophecy,
      MITTENs WILL BE TOAST.
      President Obama nipped Bin Laden in the bud.
      President Obama led us out of the Bush Depression.
      President Obama is a NATIONAL HERO.

      April 28, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • biologixco

      Romney bytes knob.
      Once America discovers Planet Kolob, Magic Underwear and The White Horse Prophecy,
      MITTENS WILL BE TOAST.
      President Obama nipped Bin Laden in the bud.
      President Obama led us out of the Bush Depression.
      President Obama is a NATIONAL HERO.

      April 28, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  3. johnwmorehead

    This is a fascinating article that brings a couple of key issues to the forefront for evangelicals. First, in a pluralistic public square, and one which has resulted in a Mormon candidate for president, there is a need to better understand new religions like Mormonism, not so much as "cults," but instead in more balanced and less pejorative terms as religious cultures. Second, the reaction of the Liberty students is surprising in that Chancellor Falwell has been involved in a relationship and dialogue with a high profile Mormon figure in Glenn Beck. It appears that the openness to interreligious relationships and conversations has not trickled down to the student population. At the Evangelical Chapter of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy (www.fidweb.org) we work to prepare evangelicals, including university students, for interreligious relationships and conversations without compromise and in civility through our resources, including the Loving Our Religious Neighbors curriculum. We hope that this incident at Liberty might become a learning opportunity for moving forward in more informed, civil, and Christlike ways.

    April 24, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • T.J.

      the fact that this university can have a man who DENIES THE BLOOD ATONEMENT FOR OUR SINS , shows that as Jesus said..."even the elect could be deceived". WAKE UP AMERICA......Mormonism is a cult because they deny basic Christian doctrine. research mormonism....they believe Jesus was the BROTHER OF LUCIFER...HELLO!!!!! that means they believe Jesus was a Created Being...because Lucifer was created...but he fell......Christ was NEVER CREATED.....HE ALWAYS ExiSTED IN THE ETERNAL GODHEAD. So if He was never fullly GOD on that CROSS...but just a MAN......His shed blood could not TAKE AWAY THE SINS OF THE WORLD ANd i trust and believe that in the 'day of calamity' (which is soon approaching) that He will preserve me and protect me and sustain me. I fully believe that if Christians will vote for Romney they might as well get in line and take the mark of the beast...for it is rapidly approaching. As all the nations of the earth are totally bankrupted one will give voice to a "plan" to relieve the word of all it's debt. WE'LL GO CASHLESS...all the countries will cheer and gladly receive the mark for there will be no buying or selling of any kind in this "new system:" without .... that 'sign of allegience"............the mark of the beast. I'll trust God to drop me manna from heaven before i deny the Lord and accept the mark. Thonk about these things...9-11 was our wake up call...our call to repentence....read the new book the HARBINGER and you'll see that America is walking the same path as the ancient israelites...OUR ONLY HOPE IS JESUS .

      April 28, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  4. biologixco

    Brothers can still be friends.
    Warren Jeffs isn't such a bad guy
    Time to heal the rift between brothers of the FLDS and the LDS.
    Polygamy can once again rule the land

    April 24, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • biologixco

      Polygamy solves that sticky inbred problem?
      Doesn't it?

      April 24, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  5. biologixco

    I'm gonna soak up the sun
    Gonna tell everyone
    To lighten up
    (I'm gonna tell 'em that)
    I've got no one to blame
    For every time I feel lame
    I'm looking up o I'm gonna soak up the sun
    I'm gonna soak up the sun
    (Sheryl Crow, Im Gonna Soak Up the Sun, 2002. Check it out on Youtube)

    April 24, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  6. Bobbo

    Lol... Cult.... Its the pot calling the kettle black

    April 24, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  7. Terri

    BIOLOGIXCO IS BEING PAID TO SPAM CNN BLOGS.

    JUST LOOK AT THE COMMENT HISTORY OF ALL RELIGIOUS OR POLITICAL ARTICLES AND YOU'LL SEE HE SPENDS HOURS MAKING RUDE COMMENTS. HE SAYS HE HAS A JOB, BUT NO ONE WHO WORKS HAS TIME TO COMMENT ALL DAY LONG SO THIS IS OBVIOUSLY HIS JOB. HE WILL NOT DENY IT.

    April 24, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • biologixco

      THE SKY IS FALLING! THE SKY IS FALLING!
      AND MY CAPS KEY IS STUCK!
      MORMOONS HAVE TAKEN OVER MY KEYBOARD!
      HAAALP!

      April 24, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  8. biologixco

    Don't mind Terri folks,
    She just hasn't taken her Prozac yet today
    We might have to call the loony bin to pick her up

    April 24, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • biologixco

      Those mormoons and their Kolobian temper.
      Thank goodness for modern medicine

      April 24, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      biologixco -

      Those Christoons, with their constant res-erections
      Prozac is too mild of a medication for them
      Lithium, maybe?

      April 24, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
      • biologixco

        Thorazine!

        April 24, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  9. Terri

    BEWARE OF BIOLOGIXCO'S POSTS.

    HE'S PAID TO WRITE SLANDER AGAINST REPUBLICANS AND OTHERS ONLINE.

    April 24, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • biologixco

      Beware of the evil weevil boogeyman!
      BOO!

      April 24, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  10. biologixco

    I think Im gonna go put on my magic undies and go run in circles in my yard.

    April 24, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  11. Terri

    BEWARE OF BIOLOGIXCO....PAID TO WRITE RUDE COMMENTS ON CNN BLOGS.

    HE WAS ON ALL DAY YESTERDAY HARASSING REPUBLICANS AND CHRISTIANS.

    April 24, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • biologixco

      Isn't that like saying Im harassing OIL and WATER?
      There is no such thing as a CHRISTIAN republican

      April 24, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  12. biologixco

    Mitt Romney is an alien from Kolob.
    How can he run for President?
    You have to be born in the USA!
    He was born on Kolob?
    LET"S SEE THAT BIRTH CERTIFICATE!
    NOW!

    April 24, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • biologixco

      Probably an ILLEGAL ALIEN too!

      April 24, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Terri

      ABUSIVE COMMENT

      April 24, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
      • biologixco

        Let me get my violin out and play you a sad song

        April 24, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  13. biologixco

    Know the mormon's evil intentions
    Google: The White Horse Prophecy
    Mitt Romney is a danger to America
    Just say NO to Romney2012!

    April 24, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Terri

      SPREADING LIES AGAIN. NOT SMART ENOUGH TO INVESTIVATE THE TRUTH.

      April 24, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
      • biologixco

        Americans will figure out your mormon game
        MITTENS will be toast!

        April 24, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  14. Rockgod28

    To: Reality

    Barak Obama had had an epiphany, like lightning striking his brain, that religion is a menance and should be removed from American life beyond just taxation.

    How would you go about making a fundamental transformative change of America with complete government power to accomplish your goals?

    When your work is complete, what is American society to do with no religion to "waste the time" of its citizens?

    April 24, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • biologixco

      We could start where America left off in 1840.
      Put mormons on a raft sailing westward on the Pacific Ocean
      Buh bye

      April 24, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  15. Rockgod28

    To: Biologixco

    President Barak Obama has given you special government powers, because he is all about special government power, to do anything you want to Mormons to make the normal "non-cultish" American citizens, by any means necessary, what would you do to accomplish that goal of hope and fundamental transformative change? How will would you make this transformation last forever?

    April 24, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • biologixco

      Nauvoo2012!

      April 24, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Rockgod28

      Try again. You aren't making any sense.

      By the way Nauvoo, Illinios has been rebuilt and so has the Temple. So there is a Nauvoo 2012! It is a busy and productive city as a good example of Mormonism. You are welcome to tour the area and be educated about a part of American History.

      You can do better. Have a good day.

      April 24, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  16. Reality

    ONLY FOR THE NEWCOMERS:

    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.

    Warren Buffett, THE AGNOSTIC, for President !!!!

    Bill Gates, THE AGNOSTIC for VP !!!!

    April 24, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • RThomas

      Romney is a Mormon by choice not by birth. The religion goes against the core of the christian faith. God is allowing us to chose and tht choice will expose where our hearts lay.

      April 24, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • biologixco

      Warren Jeffs for VEEP!
      Romney/Jeffs 2012!
      10 wives per man and a chicken in every pot ! (woot woot)

      April 24, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • 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

      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 24, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  17. Nii

    De Gnostics werent called a heresy. They were just what they were Gnostics(teachers of a secret mystical way). Xtians even under persecution were able to defend themselves against Gnosticism by teaching de differences b/n de 2 religions. Mormons hate us saying they r not xtians cos it'll kill de LDS

    April 24, 2012 at 3:45 am |
    • Reality

      A prayer (repeatable pet-ition to the god of your choice)

      The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
      Jerusalem.

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
      ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

      Amen
      (References used are available upon request.)

      April 24, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • Nii

      Oh my! REALITY, I just found out I'm an atheist! Why? Oh because I hold similar views to Bill and Warren on religion. Why do I have to tell you that the Bible does not need to be true to work and you call me Xtian but when Bill Gates says it you call him Agnostic? It doesnt hurt to leave them be.

      April 24, 2012 at 9:19 am |
  18. Nii

    If Atheists wud allow Mu.ll.ah Om.ar to speak in Con.gre.ss as vi.siting leader then Romney has no problem. However the students see de docu.mented spiritual abuse in the Mormon Church some of which u saw right here. They call de students' xtianity an apostate religion. Shud they just smile n wave?

    April 24, 2012 at 3:22 am |
    • Nii

      Most Xtians dont mind people of other faiths talking to them. They do mind when they know that someone will be telling them nice words n his heart will be far away from them. I saw a post by dwight Rogers extolling de virtues of Mormonism yesterday. If u know we r so bad y do u want to use our name?

      April 24, 2012 at 3:32 am |
    • ***

      God, you're stupid.

      April 24, 2012 at 3:36 am |
    • Nii

      In the Ancient World Gnostic religions seemed much more acceptable to the people than Judaeo-Christianity since Jews and christians did not synchretize the worship of YHWH with other Gods. The world is back in such a cultural situation and Gnostics like Mormons, Scientologists, Santoria flourish.

      April 24, 2012 at 3:38 am |
  19. biologixco

    Read up on The White Horse Prophecy.
    What are the mormons REALLY up to?
    Understand why Mitt Romney can never become president.
    Say NO to Romney2012!

    April 24, 2012 at 2:14 am |
  20. usorthem3

    In fighting is funny, only the devout are so myopic in their understanding of humanity as to reject another for their faith. It just proves 2 Chronicles 15 13 That whosoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. So glad I read the Bible as a youth and let my eyes truly see it's heart. Thanks but no way.

    April 23, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
    • Harper

      I am a Christian and I do not reject one for their faith. However, since I believe in the Word of God I am sad that so many people are going to perish not trusting in the one who created them. This verse that you quoted is not the heart of our belief. God's love for all of us is so amazing. My prayer for you is that you will have an encounter with God that shows you how high, deep ,and wide is the love of Christ. The Bible says if you seek the Lord with your whole heart He will be found by you. (see Deuteronomy 4:29 and 1 Chronicles 28:9.) I can promise you that if you truly read His word with an open heart and you make a diligent search for Him; He will reveal Himself to you in the most miraculous way and you will realize the heart and message of His Word. God is not willing that anyone should perish; He loves us all immensley. My God has done so much for me and there has been so many miracles in my life that I know He exists and that He loves me! He loves you too and I hope you will give it a real try.
      "I sought the LORD, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them. Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him." Psalm 34:4-8

      April 23, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • Jerry

      Harper
      Actually, we're not trusting the literature (scripture) that claims there was one who created us. If you study the history of how the scripture was written, edited, selected, and finally interpreted throughout the ages you'd be skeptical too.

      April 23, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • Harper

      Jerry,
      Thanks for the response. I could never be skeptical about my God! He has helped me in so many ways. Miracle upon miracle and He has shown Himself to be trustworthy and faithful. He has a love for me that is really indescribale; it is an experience. He answers prayers and when I stand on His Word it is proven true to me over and over. My faith in Him cannot be shaken.

      April 24, 2012 at 1:25 am |
    • Maury Kay

      Kathy Creech, Romney will never be president.

      April 24, 2012 at 1:34 am |
    • momoya

      @Harper

      You sound EXACTLY like muslims when they describe how they could never be skeptical of their god and all that jazz.

      April 24, 2012 at 11:28 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.