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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. no

    Could be Romney is hiding his money like Judas Iscariot , remember Mormon's are deceivers are pretenders of the Christian faith, and they claim Jesus as a not the son of God the Father.
    It is good students are not happy with Romney and have a right in their faith to protest this poor choice and what is America thinking?

    April 21, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Jon

      Yeah! Right on. To learn the truth about what them mormons REALLY teach...check out http://mormon.org/.

      April 21, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • Joshua

      I find it funny how people think that Mormons don't believe in God or believe in another God. I have lived around and among Mormons for many years and I can say that they do indeed believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God and Saviour of the World. As I read the comments that are written about Mormons here and elsewhere it just astounds me at the ignorance of people who say that Mormons are a cult and devil worshipers and the such only because their Pastors told them so because of their own bogotry and ignorance. I lived in Utah for a couple of years and I can say that Mormons are indeed Christians in name and action. I now live in Florida and have run into a few Mormons here too and they act in much the same, kind and caring way that my neighbors did in Utah. For those of you who think otherwise...get educated in the matter by speaking to a Mormon, not your Pastor, or go online to http://www.LDS.org or http://www.Mormon.org to find out what they believe. Don't live your lives in bigotry and ignorance. Find out for yourself like I did.

      April 21, 2012 at 10:03 am |
  2. Jon

    Hypocritical bigots.

    April 21, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  3. John H

    It makes me chuckle that this is called "Liberty University" 🙂
    This entire discussion is surrounded by still-bound minds and by mentalities that are outdated by centuries, on all sides.

    April 21, 2012 at 9:31 am |
  4. govspy

    I could care less if I was at a Christian College or not, I wouldn't want Romney giving my university a speech no matter what. It's more than just his "faith" I have issues with.

    April 21, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  5. JOE

    We all have choices, you want to be a bumazz don't walk then.

    April 21, 2012 at 9:23 am |
  6. Westrockwill

    They're rejecting him as a speaker because he's Mormon? I would reject him for a whole bunch of other reasons.

    Also, "Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr." made me LOL. I'm sure he's doing a bang-up job.

    April 21, 2012 at 9:22 am |
  7. Phil Ollero

    Liberty College is so tiny that Romney should not bother talking to them .Liberty is a school of cultist. He should speak at BYU university which is 5 times bigger than Liberty. Or go to Byu Idaho Twice bigger than Liberty or Byu Hawaii.Evangelicals are close minded and condemns a Church they know nothing about. Most Mormons are former members of other churches such as Baptist, methodist, Catholics, Presbyterians,etc. I know, you'll say they were all blinded, all 15 million of them.

    April 21, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  8. Jason

    I'm shocked that there would be so much vitriole and hate taught by a Christian university. Oh wait, no I'm not. I forget that everyone uses the Bible as a weapon nowadays.

    April 21, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • AGuest9

      I was going to say – that's their M.O.

      April 21, 2012 at 9:44 am |
  9. RichC

    If Liberty has had other non-evangelical or Christian soeakers in the past, I don't see a big difference. I'm a Christian and don't think LDS teaching is the same, but it's a graduation speech, not a sermon. Lighten up folks!

    April 21, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • just sayin

      Yeah, all you darker-skinned people need to find some bleach. God bless.

      April 21, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • Nope

      nnnnope

      April 21, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • Jeff Rhee

      OMG what did you just say? I'm gonna tell! You are in soooo much trouble right now!!!!!!!!!!!!

      April 21, 2012 at 9:29 am |
  10. alphabatt1

    Hence begins the Neo-Inquisition. Christians throwing the Mormons to the lions. Gotta love it!

    April 21, 2012 at 8:52 am |
  11. We Agree!!!

    From the article"Jewish and Christian monotheism, which teaches that there is only one true God and that every other ‘God’ is a false god.”

    Agree 100%

    April 21, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • Colin

      Wow, you are so lucky! Out of al lthe gods, beliefs, religions, spirits, etc. you happened to have been born into a family that worships the right one.

      April 21, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • Juqpvtoyrd

      Why are then are there so many branches of Christianity? Subtle differences would cause that all are wrong but 1. I'm not saying that all demominations are bad, but I am saying there is always one truth.

      April 21, 2012 at 8:53 am |
  12. Portland tony

    This entire protest tells me one thing .....Some colleges have relatively low admission and academic standards.

    April 21, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • Juqpvtoyrd

      Thinking the same thing. When did ignorance become a collegiate requirement?

      April 21, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  13. Sportsnut23

    are christians always this stupid? cuz fuk, the comments are trash coming from them

    April 21, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  14. Rainer Braendlein

    @Frank Bund

    Even your brain is invisible, but I guess you have a brain.

    April 21, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • Sportsnut23

      lol what does this even mean

      seriously doesn't make any sense

      April 21, 2012 at 8:35 am |
    • wa77oo

      wat

      April 21, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • Jon

      This comment is awesome. I'm gonna get my 4-year-old to reply to this one. Classic. I honestly, without being the least bit sarcastic, cannot stop laughing. I'm going to post it on facebook.

      April 21, 2012 at 9:44 am |
  15. lastofall

    These as many other professing Christians are being deceived by false teachings that we are suppose to involve ourselves in worldly matter's, and as is evident are endlessly distracted from the will of the Lord, so that they have made themselves a friend of the world.

    April 21, 2012 at 8:06 am |
    • Frank Bund

      The lord? Where is he? I don't see him. Anywhere.

      April 21, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • Mike Blackadder

      Why should we involve ourselves in worldly affairs? Because we ought to seek justice in the world. Because as Christians we ought to take the life of Christ as an example. Christ warns us to keep our sights on the kingdom of heaven, to love God and to not conduct our life for love of worldly pleasures. That is not an instruction to be oblivious of worldly affairs.

      In our society politics is an avenue for seeking out justice and is the manner in which our society operates. This is certainly not evil in itself, and much preferred if you consider alternative models that have no such avenues for human expression.

      April 21, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  16. Rainer Braendlein

    Once the Jew Jesus met a woman from Samaria at the well of Jacob (John 4).

    Jesus was very thirsty from a long walk and said to her: "Give me to drink!" The woman refused, because Jesus was a Jew and the ordinary Jews despised the Samaritans (the Samaritans were somewhat supersti-tious).

    Yet the woman made a mistake, because Jesus was not a typical Jew, but a loveable Jew. He responded, he had given her Water of Eternal Life, if she had asked him.

    Jesus did not want to talk with the woman about the conflict of Jewish faith and Samaritan faith, but he showed her that she had a lack of love, which would be the consequence of the true faith.

    We can learn very much from this story.

    All false religions are bigoted. They tend to handicap believers of other religions (see how the woman handicaped Jesus by not giving him water, although he was in need). In contrast, Jesus had been ready to give her not only ordinary water, but living water. Jesus had not considered the religion of the woman, but only her need.

    Hence, if I am a Christian and born by Water and Spirit, I should help people in need independent from their belief. If my Muslim workmate needs an advice, I should give him an advice. If my Hindu neighbour is hungry, I should give him food. If my Mormon classmate is hurted, I should transport him to the hospital.

    The true Christian love is independent from belief, nationality, colour, social status, etc.. True Christian love is not bigoted, but sees the neighbour as a human being with full human dignity, which is loved by God and for which Jesus has died and resurrected or for which God delivered his Son and raised him from the dead.

    Concerning Romney:

    Romney is a Mormon bishop and they are of course bigoted. It is questionable, if Romney becomes president, if he will treat all poeple of America equal. I could imagine that he will prefer the Mormons (I cannot prove that).

    John 4:

    Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. 7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. 8 (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) 9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. 10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. 11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? 12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? 13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. 15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. 16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. 17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: 18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. 19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. 25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. 26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he. 27 And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her? 28 The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, 29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?

    April 21, 2012 at 8:06 am |
    • Sportsnut23

      anytime I see crap quoted from the bible I have to laugh because that whole thing is nothing but fiction crap

      April 21, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • alphabatt1

      You really need to get a life.

      April 21, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • Nope

      nope

      April 21, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • Yep

      Yep

      April 21, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • Peng

      "Romney is a Mormon bishop and they are of course bigoted."-

      Haha, I love it when whole posts are built off of false premises as if they are a matter of fact. "Of course" they're bigoted, right? Just goes without saying, eh? Let's try this one... "We can't trust anything Rainer Braendlein says because of course he is bigoted!" See... has about the same effect.

      April 21, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • Rockgod28

      "Concerning Romney:

      Romney is a Mormon bishop and they are of course bigoted. It is questionable, if Romney becomes president, if he will treat all poeple of America equal. I could imagine that he will prefer the Mormons (I cannot prove that)." ~Rainer Braendlein

      Here is proof how a Mormon will govern or should govern according to the doctrines and practices of the Mormon faith is in Section 134 of the Doctrine and Covenants.

      To answer if Mitt Romney will govern equally pay special attention of verse 9.

      April 21, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • Mike Blackadder

      Rainer, well said. Only I wouldnt assume that a Mormon bishop must necessarily be bigoted. Why no let his actions speak to what is in his mind?

      April 21, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  17. Reality

    ONLY FOR THE NEWCOMERS:

    Please post the following PowerPoint slide on all the doors at Liberty U:

    SAVING 2 BILLION LOST CHRISTIANS:

    THERE WERE NEVER ANY BODILY RESURRECTIONS AND THERE WILL NEVER BE ANY BODILY RESURRECTIONS I.E. NO EASTER, NO CHRISTIANITY.

    SAVING 1.5 BILLION LOST MUSLIMS:

    THERE NEVER WERE AND NEVER WILL BE ANY ANGELS I.E. NO GABRIEL, NO ISLAM AND THEREFORE NO MORE KORANIC-DRIVEN ACTS OF HORROR AND TERROR LIKE 9/11.

    SAVING 15.5 MILLION FOLLOWERS OF ORTHODOX JUDAISM:

    ABRAHAM AND MOSES PROBABLY NEVER EXISTED.

    (prob•a•bly
    Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell.)

    Added details upon request.
    ===============================================================================

    April 21, 2012 at 7:59 am |
    • Rockgod28

      "SAVING 2 BILLION LOST CHRISTIANS" ~Reality

      Why do you need to save 2 billion lost christian? What are you saving them for and how is it your responsibility?

      Let's say you succeed and you get your way to 'save' the billions of believers all over the world to the truth. Then what are you going to do?

      That we will achieve Utopia and somehow people will live in harmony without religion?

      I am sure this is news to you, but life isn't fair. It is in fact unfair. By blaming religion for people being unfair and that somehow will become fair without it is beyond reality into a world of fantasy.

      Good luck building a world of fantasy.

      April 21, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  18. Rainer Braendlein

    @Mirosal

    "Even if I were to meet YOU, we might get along, until you start telling me that I am inherently bad because I don't believe as you do." you said.

    You err. I would never tell you that you are bad, but that I am bad and received God's salutary grace, which improves my life and makes me able to love people.

    You may read John 4. The woman from Samaria was a proud Samaritan. She was really religious and called Jacob here spiritual father. However, Jesus destroyed here self-righteousness asking her for her husband (she lived in concubinage).
    After her talk with Jesus the woman did no longer profess that she was a perfect Samaritan believer, but that she had met Christ, who forgave her sins and gave her Water of Eternal Life, the Holy Spirit of Love.

    April 21, 2012 at 7:54 am |
    • Frank Bund

      What's this useless horse shit?

      April 21, 2012 at 7:58 am |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    April 21, 2012 at 7:39 am |
  20. Mr.Price

    I am graduating this year. I now will not attend the ceremony and want the refund for my commencement expenses. I will not be apart of someone who does not believe in the Trinity which is solid in Christian faith to speak over my life. YOU CANNOT GIVE A MOTIVATIONAL SPEECH TO "CHAMPIONS IN CHRIST" WITHOUT BRING UP RELIGION. The Mormon God IS NOT the Christian GOD. I am truly offended by Liberty University who has constantly IN EVERY COURSE taught us Christian princinples and values. It will be a daughting task to pridefully say I am an alumni of a school who went against its own defining principles and standards.

    April 21, 2012 at 7:27 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      As much as the moron oops mormon faith is crazy, it really does not differ from your faith or any other. Try getting an education at a real school...one that doesn't support the supernatural with unsubstantiated claims of a god who can't be proven to exist.

      April 21, 2012 at 7:54 am |
    • Prayer for the country

      God keep our land glorious... prayer that is the Canadian national anthem. Canada a Christian nation that endorses God every time they stand and pray their national anthem.

      April 21, 2012 at 8:06 am |
    • Sportsnut23

      canada isn't even a real goddamn country

      April 21, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • tnfreethinker

      Christian Taliban?

      April 21, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • just sayin

      canadians have no need to speak on american things. there's your sign.

      April 21, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • Nope

      nope nope nope

      nope

      nope nope

      nope nope nope nope

      nope

      nope nope

      nope

      April 21, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • Jon

      I'm with price. If you are going to spew bigotry about my faith and brainwash your "champions" during your so-called "education" process, why then would you invite someone from my faith to speak at graduation? Is this not hypocritical? If you are going to brainwash these "champions" to be bigoted, invite some other big-name bigot to your commencement. I'm actually offended that a Mormon was considered to speak...if I were in Mr. Romney's place I'd decline to speak to a group of bigots.

      April 21, 2012 at 9:53 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.