Liberty University is in the news. It seems that it will no longer recognize its campus Democratic club because, officials say, the national party's platform goes against the conservative Christian school's moral principles:
Officials at the private Lynchburg school, which was founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, said they made the decision after receiving complaints from trustees, parents and donors.
"They really are great kids and good friends of mine," said Jerry Falwell Jr., who became the school's chancellor after his father died in 2007. "It's just an issue of what Liberty's mission is."
The decision led to swift and strong criticism by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and the three Democrats running to replace him. Kaine, who spoke on the campus on behalf of then-Sen. Barack Obama last year, urged the school to reconsider.
"For Liberty University to deprive the College Democrats of the same opportunity as College Republicans ... violates that fundamental principle of fairness and teaches the students the wrong message," Kaine said.
This is a story not lacking in ironies. To be sure, the university has an obligation to guarantee that its values and mission are not weakened, and it's certainly understandable that the administrative honchos would see the national Democrat party as a serious threat to those values, but banishing one mainstream political organization while allowing its competitor seems a bit, well, unChristian and unAmerican. Indeed, its the sort of thing that happens most often on liberal campuses which makes it funny that the Democrat governor would complain about it. How loudly have Democrats complained about the indoctrination, intimidation, and suppression of conservative views in public universities across the nation? Not loud enough so's anyone would notice.
Anyway, I'm frankly conflicted on this. I'm not sure Liberty should stifle their students' political views unless the students are publicly and overtly undermining the mission of the school - which, indeed, they may have been doing in campaigning for a radical pro-choice presidential candidate. However, there's nothing about being a Democrat or belonging to a Democrat campus organization that inherently requires one to have the same moral outlook as Nancy Pelosi, John Murtha, Barney Frank and Ted Kennedy. Surely, student Democrats can espouse positions on issues of foreign and economic policy that don't obviously clash with the mission statement of the university.
On the other hand, the university, being a private school, has the right and the obligation to set the limits of acceptable discourse on campus. I don't think a school like Liberty should feel the need to balance a pro-life student organization with a pro-choice group nor should they feel constrained to permit groups on campus that advocate gay marriage. If the national Democratic party takes these positions, and it does, then it's understandable that the university would wish to derecognize the campus affiliate.
Nevertheless, perhaps Liberty should consider changing its name.RLC