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Liberty University students protest association with Trump

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  • Liberty University students protest association with Trump

    Students at Liberty University have issued a statement against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as young conservatives at colleges across the state reconsider support for his campaign.

    A statement issued late Wednesday by the group Liberty United Against Trump strongly rebuked the candidate as well as the school’s president, Jerry Falwell Jr., for defending Trump after he made extremely lewd comments about women in a 2005 video. The students wrote that Falwell’s support for Trump had cast a stain on the school’s reputation.

    “We are Liberty students who are disappointed with President Falwell’s endorsement and are tired of being associated with one of the worst presidential candidates in American history,” the statement said. “Donald Trump does not represent our values and we want nothing to do with him. … He has made his name by maligning others and bragging about his sins. Not only is Donald Trump a bad candidate for president, he is actively promoting the very things that we as Christians ought to oppose.”

    The Liberty University student manifesto against Trump comes as college Republican groups across the country reconsider support for the candidate. On Tuesday the University of Virginia College Republicans announced that the group voted to rescind its endorsement of his candidacy for president. The chairman of the College Republicans at Hampden-Sydney College, Tanner Beck, posted a statement on Facebook noting that Trump “has gone from simply being an embarrassment to our party, to a potentially permanent stain on our brand and our country.”

    Liberty was founded in Lynchburg, Va., by evangelical pastor Jerry Falwell Sr., whose sermons gave rise to a prominent conservative political movement, the Moral Majority. The small college Falwell created in 1971 has become an epicenter of evangelical Christian education in America and one of the largest universities by enrollment in the country.

    The campus has also become a regular stop for politicians on the campaign trail. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) began his run for the presidency at Liberty. Trump gave a convocation address in front of the student body in January. A week afterward, Falwell Jr., endorsed Trump. In the months since, Falwell has vigorously defended his decision to support the Republican candidate.

    “Jesus said ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged.'” Falwell wrote in an essay for The Post. “Let’s stop trying to choose the political leaders who we believe are the most godly because, in reality, only God knows people’s hearts. You and I don’t, and we are all sinners.”

    [For many at Liberty University, guns and God go hand in hand]

    The students at Liberty University wrote that they felt compelled to speak out in light of Falwell’s steadfast support for Trump even after the candidate’s comments about women and sexual assault.

    “Because our president has led the world to believe that Liberty University supports Donald Trump, we students must take it upon ourselves to make clear that Donald Trump is absolutely opposed to what we believe, and does not have our support,” the Liberty students wrote. “We are not proclaiming our opposition to Donald Trump out of bitterness, but out of a desire to regain the integrity of our school.”

    Falwell wrote a statement criticizing the student effort against Trump.

    “I am proud of these few students for speaking their minds but I’m afraid the statement is incoherent and false,” Falwell wrote. “I am not ‘touring the country’ or associating Liberty University with any candidate. I am only fulfilling my obligation as a citizen to ‘render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s’ by expressing my personal opinion about who I believe is best suited to lead our nation in a time of crisis. This student statement seems to ignore the teachings of Jesus not to judge others but they are young and still learning.”

    [Virginia’s Liberty transforms into evangelical mega-university]

    Dustin Wahl, a junior at Liberty, told The Post that he wrote the Liberty United Against Trump statement and said that more than 250 students, alumni and faculty have left signatures of support. Wahl said that some students have been frustrated with Falwell for a while and that the publication of Trump’s remarks from the 2005 video became a tipping point.

    “Since the most recent sexual assault thing, we realized this is a time we can all get behind this and say ‘enough is enough.’ We do not support our president in his endorsement of Trump and we want the world to know because he’s giving Liberty University a bad name,” Wahl said. “It makes it seem like we’re about populist politics when we’re about the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is about gaining the integrity of our school. This is an effort to say Liberty is not Trump university.”

    During the Republican primary, Trump won only about 8 percent of the vote in Liberty’s voting precinct, while Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) won 44 percent and Cruz won 33 percent.

    Wahl said that he attended the convocation on campus Wednesday which included an appearance by Trump’s running mate Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. Wahl said that very few students clapped when Pence spoke of Trump.

    “It was pretty pitiful, Wahl said. “People associate our degree with the worst presidential candidate in modern history.”

    Other college Republican groups in Virginia have had to carefully examine Trump’s candidacy.

    Rachel Moss, a junior who is a member of the JMU college Republicans who also serves as communication director for the College Republican Federation of Virginia, said that “some students support Trump, some support Clinton, and others have recently withdrew support of Trump in light of the leaked audio tape.”

    Moss said that instead the College Republican Federation of Virginia is encouraging college students to focus on congressional races “in order to engage as many students in the campaigning process as possible, since multiple chapters have publicly not endorsed Trump. We wanted to be respectful towards those chapters and members who do not support Trump, as well those who do by encouraging members to campaign for their congressmen.”

    At Washington and Lee College in Lexington, Va., the college Republicans did not officially endorse Trump because the group “exists for the betterment of the Republican Party as a whole, not select Republican candidates,” said Caroline Bones, chair of the club.

    Bones noted that “like the larger Republican Party, there is room for disagreements within our membership. We fully recognize that not every Republican supports Mr. Trump. We are not going to cast out those members of the organization. The goals of of our club and the Republican Party as a whole extend far beyond the 2016 presidential race.”

    At Virginia Tech, the college Republicans did not formally endorse Trump but wrote in a statement to The Post that as a “partisan, Republican organization, our organization does support the Republican nominee for President.”

    Elsewhere in the state, support for Trump on campus is unwavering.

    John Rackoski, vice president of communication for the Virginia Commonwealth University college Republicans chapter, said that the group recently voted once again to “unanimously and emphatically” endorse Trump.

    Rackoski said that “we are obviously disgusted by the nature” of what Trump said in the tape but that it “is no worse than the language we hear used in public on campus on a daily basis, from both men and women” and that “a firestorm has erupted over Trump’s dirty jokes told in private to other men over 11 years ago, which hurt no one.”

    Rackoski said that elected Republicans who disavowed Trump after the lewd comments “were never behind him to begin with, and are engaging in the same political opportunism in disavowing him now that they did by endorsing Trump when his popularity was rising- it is all for show, calculated to help themselves politically, with no regard for the importance of this presidential election to the future direction of our country.”

    The students at Liberty University ended their statement by noting that “while everyone is a sinner and everyone can be forgiven, a man who constantly and proudly speaks evil does not deserve our support for the nation’s highest office.”

    The statement concluded: “We want the world to know how many students oppose him. We don’t want to champion Donald Trump; we want only to be champions for Christ.”

    Source: Liberty University students protest association with Trump - The Washington Post
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