April 23rd, 2012
04:43 PM ET
Liberty University responds to Romney controversy, angers online students
By Dan Merica and Laura Bernardini, CNN
Washington (CNN) – Liberty University reacted over the weekend to a brewing controversy over the fact that the evangelical school has selected Mitt Romney, a Mormon, to speak at the school’s graduation.
In a statement from Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr., the school says that the complaints have significantly died down and that many of those complaining “had no affiliation with the university.”
“We have also noticed over the last few days that students with reservations about Romney's appearance at Liberty basically fit into one of two categories,” Falwell, Jr. wrote. “They were either strong supporters of other candidates who were seeking the Republican nomination or they were online students who were not as familiar with Liberty University's traditions.”
After last week’s announcement, hundreds of comments were registered under the announcement on Liberty’s Facebook page. While some were supportive of the decision to invite Romney, a number of respondents were angered and posted their frustration to Facebook.
As of Monday morning, the announcement was deleted from the page, along with all the comments.
“Complaints died down because they took the ability to complain down from the website,” said Janet Loeffler, a 53-year old freshman at Liberty who takes classes online. Loeffler was a frequent poster to the Facebook page.
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According Johnnie Moore, vice president of executive projects and spiritual programs, the post was removed because "people who had no affiliation with the university were using our Facebook page to air their grievances and to engage in conversations that violated our policies with regard to social media etiquette."
"We just decided to eliminate the post all together rather than let our page be the place where these arguments were taking place," Moore wrote in an e-mail to CNN. "With regard to our students, the university has a number of channels for our students and constituents to express feedback, and that feedback is attended to by Liberty staff who have input in, and understanding of, the university's operations and decision making."
Though the deletion of the post bothered Loeffler, it was the statement about online students familiarity with Liberty’s traditions that she says deeply offended her.
“It is just a complete lie. You cannot get through your first semester at Liberty Online without taking their Theology 101 and Apologetics 101,” Loeffler said.
Loeffler provided CNN with a copy of the page in the freshman textbook “The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics” which includes a number of passages on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly called Mormons. “Mormon doctrine stands in stark contrast to Jewish and Christian monotheism,” reads the passage, “which teaches that there is only one true God and that every other ‘God’ is a false god.”
Liberty's handling of the situation "has very much altered my thinking of Liberty,” Loeffler said. “I haven’t registered for my fall classes yet because of it. I am offended that they would talk to us like that, telling us that we just don’t understand.”
Many of the anti-Liberty comments, including Loeffler’s charged that Mormonism goes against the teachings of the school and claimed that the religion is a cult. The charge of Mormonism as a cult is not a new one for the church, however. In a 2011 column, Michael Otterson, head of public affairs for the LDS Church described 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.
Oyindamola Bankole, a 22-year old online psychology major at Liberty, said she was disappointed that the comments had been deleted from the website.
“I thought it was very cowardly,” Bankole said in an interview with CNN. “There were a lot of good conversations and debates and people were arguing both sides and I was shocked when they took it down.”
Bankole will be graduating this year from Liberty but has opted to walk in 2013. Though the school differs between online and on-campus students, all walk in the same graduation. This year, 14,000 students will walk and 35,000 are expected to attend as guests.
“Even though we're online students, it's still our graduation,” Bankole said. “The Liberty University Online students are going to be flying in, renting rooms in hotels, and going to the same graduation, so why does our opinion not matter as much? There are 70,000 online students compared to the 12,500 residential students, according to Liberty's website. Glad to know we're just numbers and income in their eyes.”
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.
This debate over Romney’s selection further tests the relationship between Mormons and evangelicals. 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.
Tony Perkins, a Liberty graduate and the president of the Family Research Council, said he sees the Romney speech as an opportunity.
"As Christians we can disagree strongly but we show respect and I think they will show respect for Mitt Romney," Perkins said on CNN's Starting Point Monday morning.
"They may not warmly applaud him and may continue to express differences and clearly there are differences theologically between Mormons and Christians, but here's an opportunity for Mitt Romney to talk about what he has in common with evangelicals and that is on the value issues," Perkins said.
But if the evangelical vote hinges on how evangelicals see Mormonism, Romney may need further outreach to the evangelical community. A recent Pew Research Center survey finds 47% of white evangelicals say that Mormonism is not a Christian religion, while 66% say Mormonism and their religion are “very or somewhat different.”
Loeffler and Bankole both look at this as a way for Liberty to help Romney with evangelical voters.
“This is nothing more than a political rally, at a time when graduates are having their lives dedicated to the work they were trained to do at Liberty,” Loeffler said.
In their statement, though, Falwell Jr. said over the past 25 years, many people have been invited to speak at graduation and “most of them did not share Liberty’s doctrinal beliefs.”
Graduation at Liberty, like at most colleges and universities, features a baccalaureate event before the final graduation. This year, Liberty has invited Luis Palau, a preacher that Liberty bills as "among the most influential Christian leaders of all time."
Mark DeMoss, a Liberty graduate, member of the Board of Trustees and a senior adviser to the Romney campaign, when reached on Monday made mention of Glenn Beck being the first Mormon to address Liberty graduates at commencement and added some background to how the decisions have been made.
“I remember the first time Falwell, Sr. decided to use a commencement speaker that was not evangelical because it was controversial to some at the time," Demoss said of Liberty's founder Jerry Falwell Sr. "And he explained, or justified it, by virtue of us having a baccalaureate service that was a decidedly Christian service. And commencement could feature a prominent figure from politics or business – evangelical or not evangelical.”
“Liberty has never held a commencement that did not include a strong gospel message from a evangelical leader at baccalaureate,” Falwell Jr. wrote.
- CNN's Eric Marrapodi contributed to this report.
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.
Liberty University has shown itself to be open minded, unbigoted and courageous!
I bet you couldn't type that with a straight face
Mormons believe in Gods not in one God.So after every speech Romney will keep quite, because if he ha
s to say he will say In Gods we trust
I think you meant to say, "Gods bless America."
So which of the god's currently worshiped on this planet do you believe in?
I wonder how many of these kids who object to Romney because he is Mormon rooted for Santorum? And I wonder how many of them realize that would have been unthinkable a few decades back?
They are just p!ssed because Santorum didn't win the nom and force us to live by his religious views. For them separation of church & state only applies to other religions and freedom of religion only applies to them.
Time was when Evangelicals would have treated a catholic candidate the way they are treating Mitt Romney now. What some take to be a point of principle is little more than bigotry.
a good chunk of humanity is still not intelligent enough to exist without some form of religion to help guide them...perhaps this will always be so. all governments know this and when they say "may god bless the usa" they mean it. that eye in the sky is the ultimate crowd control used to maintain order. battles between religions are ok, it keeps religions thriving and control continues.
@Larry Pincus—That would be a no-show for the defense side, then? Try harder.
I believe Mormonism was founded in the mid 1800's by a guy upstate NY cought having an affair with one of his maids! Mormonism is not a Cult, Mormonism is a Joke! same as Romney is not a Candidate for President, he is a Joke too!
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 !!!!
William Shatner/Jack Nicholson
At least it would never get boring.
I would vote for Shatner/Nicholson in a heartbeat over any presidential candidate running today.
Hunter Thompson said it best 40 gonzo years ago – "How many more of these goddam elections are we going to have to write off as lame but 'regrettably necessary' holding actions? And how many more of these stinking double-downer sideshows will we have to go through before we can get ourselves straight enough to put together some kind of national election that will give me and the at least 20 million people I tend to agree with a chance to vote for something, instead of always being faced with that old familiar choice between the lesser of two evils?"
Ummmm, Shatner is a Canadian and cannot ever be eligible to be POTUS.
It's that time of year again! Time for the 23rd annual belief blog party!! There's been ton of interest but unfortunately everyone cannot attend this year's event due to limited seating. If you're reading this then congrats you've won a VIP ticket!!
The feature act of the party will be an amazing and awesome debate between William Demuth aka "the angry atheist!!" vs. Atheismisnothealthy aka "I can only say one phrase and nothing else." This is a sellout even and should be an old fashioned barn burner. Claim your tickets today before its too late.
Letsssssssss get ready to rumbleeeeeeeeeee.
I'm in. We need a theme, though, like Hollister Motorcycle Riot, or the Battle of Pearl Harbor, re-enacted by the women of Barley Townswomen's Guild.
I've got it: The party is in the Australian Outback, the theme is Road Warrior, no rules, Ayatollah of Rock-And-Rolla desert party time! Wanna go Fargo and use a wood chipper on just sayin? Go for it!
William, is that you? Haha it sure sounds like you ya old chap, how ya been matey??? Ready for the debate mentioned above?
Cant wait to see everyone at the party!!
Not William, but I am sure he will be doing his Feral Kid boomerang gig for me again this year.
The problem is that the other side, uh, well, it's like stepping into an ultimate fighting cage and finding out that your opponent is Truman Capote.
A dead guy? Yeah, that would be sort of an anti-climax.
"Swarm" of earthquakes detected in Pacific Northwest.
Jesus predicted these occurances as signifying the end times, it's in the Gospels!
And prayer changes everything right?
Where is it in the Gospels? Please share, thanks!
Don't hold your breath.
There's always earthquakes, you blithering moron. It's called plate tectonics, and they have been here since the Beginning of Times, they kept going through the Brunch Of Times, they continued on through the Middle Of Times, and even in the Tea Time of Times, they occur regularly.
Pretty hard to say they are the indicator of anything. It's kind of like saying that the End of Times will be marked by the growing of grass and the blowing of wind and the occasional fall of rain. Lots of false signals.
Same with the whole war and rumors of war thing, the nations against nations thing, and the famine and pestilence in some places thing. They are all so incredibly common that it would be more stunning if they didn't happen.
Jesus was really a lousy predictor of future events.
@ Jim – you can find that in the Gospel of Starbucks, chapter 3, verses 53 to 12:
"And yea, verily I tell you, the end of times cometh with Earthquakes off of British Columbia. In those times, singers named Whitney and Amy shall bringeth their drugwreck lifes to inevitable ends, and racers of high-performance vehicles shall turn left, then left, then left again, not turning right lest they snuffit. An idiot of many names but little intelligence shall post repeatedly that prayer works, even though I consider prayer a form of spam and ignore it. And I will become so sick of having the worst trash be my followers that I will just end the whole stupid failed experiment in a flashflood of lime jello that will consume the entire world. Then I will hang out with Flying Spaghetti Monster, because he made his heaven with a beer volcano, and I wish I had thought of that. I tell you truly that these things shall come to pass in ten minutes or so."
Truly, I say to thee, thy prophecy is surely a great one, O Great One.
That, sir, is an excellent prophecy and I can see for myself that it is true. Well done, old chap! Well done, indeed!
Getting censored seems to be the rule rather than the exception, eh CNN editors?
That label best applicable to the outburst against a non-evangeile speaking at your commencement exercise is non other that 'liberal'. Not from the Mirriam Webster camp, mind you, but from the street smart party that wears the moniker. If you're a liberal, you know not to step out of line when it comes to preferred dogma: feminism at all costs, killing infant offspring, buying your way out of a floundering economy. Disagree with the club, you'll get the boot.
What difference is there between the former paradox and this? For all appearances, the liberal party mantra is in full display from this young bunch; the mentally agile, critical thinking crowd at Liberty? Is there no open-mindedness to be had in VA? No way you're going to hear another's viewpoint?
Try the Christian world view for a change. Did Jesus not dine with the publicans with whom he had crucial differences?
I hope Romney explains to the open minded students and faculty at Liberty the basic tenets of Mormonism. I'm sure all those open minded Christians will enjoy hearing how Jesus lived in upstate New York and helped win a war there. Starbabies, hidden planets, every man a God, the brother hood of Jesus and Satan, all will make excellent subjects that the open minded crowd at Liberty will applaud vigorously. Perhaps Jesus himself will appear to join in the accolades.
Lenny Pincus,,,,,,,,,,,, ,.....
Culture shifts and as to shifting cultures, there seems to be much roominess for eveyone at the very bottoms of this innerness, the Atomic MicroCosms of Fractall Cosmologies! The AMC of FC is where we all will go to when one dies!
Reading this story and many of the comments online just reinforces my long-held belief that organized religion is a complete joke and the cause of most of the world's problems.
Although I guess being wrapped up in the dogma of organized religion might be slightly better than being a crackhead or a junkie or a boozer.
There is something as bad or worse a foot.
We now have a 'Social Doctrine' as our State Religion, with appointed Clergy to tell us what is in it through their defining and interpretations. Separation of Church and State? Not anymore, secular Social Dogma is now the law of the land. Without God or Ethical Creed; just allot of political sand for a foundation.
What's your point, Faith?.
Many "humanists" are drunk in their own idiotic spiritualisms! My being a closet Christian gives me a sense to deny otherly up-in-your-face christians who sort of rally around their own poles of mal-sontentments issuing to others their own filthiness ways of spiritualized drunkenness! I would much rather have my boozing brother by my side than any pulpit aching christian!
Oh for fvck's sake!! God da.mm.it, somebody start making some sense!! Reading these posts and trying to determine any sort of sense or direction is like trying to make out "Hey Jude" from the sound of deck chair stuck under a lawn mower.. Seriously.. w.t.f?!?!?
momoya – The power given by the Affordable Care Act has given 'any' political faction that gains power the ability dictate or mandate to the masses; according to the political winds of the era and the social doctrine of the controlling faction. It has effectively establish an ever changing social order upon the people as though it were a Religion without a foundation of enduring principles. Without enduring principles as outlined in the 10 Commandments. Whether one believe that the 10 Commandments are of God or not; those principle establish confidence in a social order that promotes mutual respect, and an aspiration to be greater than the dust of the earth.
You assume too much.. Humanity has the same enduring principles it always has because we have always had the same brains and desires for social interactions.. The "principles" of the 10 Commandments are a bunch of hooey that can be boiled down to just two or three simple and obvious rationalities for treating others in a social group.. To assume that humanity has some special need of some code in some far-outdated myth is just stupid.. Stop it.. Nobody knows why we are here or what happens when we die.. There's no Santa or tooth fairy; jesus is just a conglomerate of fifty or sixty 'prophets' running around claiming to be messiah when every other malcontent in Judea.. No need to be silly about it any more.. You're welcome! No need to thank me, but you'll find it's satisfying to say it.
momoya – Then why is it so hard to live up to those few principles? And why does malice and derision rule the day when those of faith are derided?
Faith, you're making those a.ssumption thingys again.. Humanity both does and does not live up to its principles.. There are a lot of people, and many of them live admirably, some more so, some less so, some do poorly..
As to your question, it's like me asking you when you'll stop beating your wife.. Your opinions about "derision" and its uses are probably different than mine, anyway.
Divide and conquer.
Most likely that Obama's minions are seeding this discord.
If that helps you sleep at night sure go with that...the reality is that the evangelical right is angry that Romney is there pick...they will vote for him, but this article speaks more truth than not...Obama's followers don't have to do anything...the evangelicals on the right will do it for them.
Yeah right – This is low hanging fruit for the Obama Campaign.
Like taking candy from a baby
So, Liberty is going to the Mormons, That in it self is no big deal because they went to the devil a long time ago. Falwell tells everyone to send money for the lord, but mail it to his P.O. Box.
Is that the profiteer that built the "crystal cathedral"?
Are you the wackaloon that posts drivel, POD?
I am a 'closet Christian',,,,,, What room do you say your religion(s) is born of? 🙂 🙁 🙂
I have a hell's kitchen open for you to claim! 🙁 🙂 🙁
Of course Ron Paul won the precincts in and around Lynchburg in the Virginia Republican primary held about 3 weeks ago. Of course Ron Paul is a church going Southern Baptist; the same denomination as Liberty University. Of course CNN fails to mention this fact as part of their "objective" reporting. Why does the media continue to shun this man? Ron Paul 2012!!!!!!
there are no "true believers" – just people who are afraid to be the first to admit the emperor has no clothes
What do you offer for the betterment and unity of cultures within the U.S.?
More derision and divisiveness to mock those that find faith as way to cope with your vitriol?
If being atheist means that and you want to make us all monolithic then you offer nothing of value to humanity.
Haha true atheist just got owned and didnt respond........very typical.
Funny thing "monolithic" for many monoliths are grand in design(s) but they too will become as degenerates and fall by the waysides as Time progresses thru its' infinities! Monotheism is what humanists of many variables' prudences seek rather unobtrusively and pompously! The RCC is a false monotheism and yet they know not their ownliness logs they put into otherly eyes! I am a cyst in need of being lanced! I am a boil in need of an egg! I am,,,, I am,,,,,, Iam,,,,,
No 'true' atheist would disagree with true_atheist.
But of course we've all heard about that Scottsman.
So because atheism doesn't fill some childish need, we should continue to believe something that has not a single shred of independent, verifiable, objective or factual evidence? We should continue to believe in the god and jesus myths even though neither of them has put in an appearance except on toast and tortillas?
Well, have you got your big boy panties on or haven't you?. Jesus said you'd be mocked and persecuted and reviled and put to death and all that sort of thing but now since you've had every single president and 99% of every politician under the "christian" banner–not to mention slaughtering perhaps 50 million Indians for their land because they had no souls and couldn't be saved–not to mention building a nation on the backs of slaves (slavery was defended by christians in the south)..
Now this little comment–a few words on a screen–that person isn't worthy because YOU say so? Oh let me go gag.. At least he doesn't think that in a perfect world you would be tortured forever by the being rewarding him forever.. At least he hasn't said something that bigoted and hateful and disgusting about you.. But yeah, those words on a screen can be rough, man!!
HotAirAce – The sense of supremacy of self has always failed mankind. It was wise to put 'In God We Trust' on our currency because no one else deserves it. It is better to put one's trust into something intangible and out of reach of oneself or of those that would defile it, than to trust in the hidden or open malice and vitriol of those with Hot Air.
You need to watch this video.. YOU are your god.. It's YOUR ego.. LOL.. Watch and understand–if you can.
momoya – Please watch this web video:
"The American Form of Government"
I watched that video and it was so biased it was comical. There are legitimate questions to be asked, that video however, was nothing more than biased bs propaganda. If you can't see that then you're just as zealous as those you most despise. Irony at its finest.
I'm glad you enjoyed it .
Tell you what.. My video is 7 minutes.. I say you offer me a 7 minute video to watch.. We break it down by each 30 seconds.. presentations and rebuttals for each.. 30 posts or so total.. Are you game???? Say YES!!
momoya – Yes!!!!
"No true believers . . . ' But, apparently, there *are* true unbelievers! I understand how someone can be true to what they believe; but how can you be true to what you *don't* believe?
What seven minute video for me?.
So, Faith-Isn't-Very-Smart, please point out the malice and vitriol in my post. I can always tell that a poster has no point when they refer to my pseudonym – I use it to give the clueless something to work with.
I'll SMASH anyone in a debate. You choose your side and present your best argument and I'll come back with a rebuttal that will destroy.
I am the debate champion! Challenge me if you dare!!
You're an idiot. Prove otherwise.
"And The Debate Champion stumbles out of the gate!"
@chad – My credentials speak otherwise. You're a clown. Owned.
@derbyking – There is no stumbling, just laughing at the stupidity of the commenters, including yourself. Burned.
I have to go with THE DEBATE CHAMPION so far.. Will he keep batting a thousand?? Stay tuned!
"Chad continues to increase his lead as The Debate Champion struggles to disprove his own level of stupidity."
Yes folks, I'll be here all night.
@Derby – Your sports commentator skills could use some work, don't drop out of school kiddo. SIZZLED!!
"And while debate champion is trying to catch up to Chad, the crowd isn't paying attention. Look!! It's Derbyking and his horse broke his leg right out of the gate"
"And while debate champion is trying to catch up to Chad, the crowd isn't paying attention. Look!! It's Derbyking and his horse broke his leg right out of the gate"
So you're stealing my material now? Weak TDC. Weak.
Ya jus got owned sonnnnn. Dunzo ropunzo. Get outta hereeeeee.
Alright TDC you got me. Have a good day tomorrow. Be careful in gym class. We wouldn't want you to get hurt and not make it back on to the blog. Give your mom a kiss for me and tell her I'll be home late.
Thanks, I'm glad we both agree that I won and you lost.
You never debated. Debate is by definition A : the formal discussion of a motion before a deliberative body according to the rules of parliamentary procedure B : a regulated discussion of a proposition between two matched sides
Those things have not occured. All you have done is toss out an insipid ad hominem, which invariably loses a real debate, then followed up with a thoroughly puerile Charle Sheen-ism to proclaim yourself victor.
Indeed, you are so bovine and vacuous in your shallow responses that I can only hope that your fifth try at the third grade is finally successful for you.
Don't forget to have mommy change your diapers before she puts you to bed.
Argument Clinic FAIL
These people are just as wacko as Mormons.
I am guessing that some of the students would have preferred the lying/divisive/Imperial Mr. Obama. Not only that, a considerable number of these were not even students at Liberty University. So much for freedom of religion.
Where did Obama lie? Only divisive is among the GOP. Only imperial is his margarine. Romney lies to the middle class and lower class when he states hie is one of them. This year taxes will not be done until October so only he knows the outcome of his taxes before the election. Being a Mormon makes him anti-baptist. He believes that he will become a god here on Earth and that the Grain they have stored for them at their temples and other places are for the end times just for fellow Mormons.