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Liberty University Excommunicates College Democrats

Ethics Daily ran my latest article today, which is entitled "Liberty University Excommunicates College Democrats." The piece covers the recent action at Liberty and its impact on Virginia politics. This incident raises important questions about the relationship between faith and politics.


  1. there seems to be a disconnect with Liberty's decision that might rise to the level of an accreditation violation with SACS, thus inviting SACS to become involved (and do Liberty's students receive federal money? if so, speech issues come to mind, especially given a Republican group [see]). in any event, SACS allows a wide berth of institutional practices, thus the diversity of SACS-accredited institutions of higher education, but said practices must be in-line with stated policies/goals/mission/etc. Liberty encourages its students to register to vote (see
    financialaid/index.cfm?PID=16233) by providing a link to the Federal Elections Commission, thus it seems more than one political party should be welcomed on campus.

  2. Brian,

    You seem to always talk about how words mean things and we should be careful with how we use them.

    Therefore, how could you use the term "excommunication" to describe what Liberty did? The kicked no one out of school. They did not tell the students they could no longer organize, nor did they decree they could not meet on campus.

    They simply said they could no longer use the name "Liberty University" and they would not be an officially recognized organization.

    Do you know how many Baptist Collegiate Ministry groups (formerly BSUs) cannot do the same thing on secular campuses? A friend of mine went to Brown University a few years ago to start one and Brown denied their organization. I didn't see a bunch of Christians or politicians get in an uproar about it. And hopefully a BCM would have more influence at Brown than College Democrats would have a Liberty.

    So often we thrown the term "rights" around. If we ever do actually lose some of our civil rights, we won't know what that looks like because we're too worried about silliness like this.

  3. D.R.: "They simply said they could no longer use the name "Liberty University" and they would not be an officially recognized organization."

    bapticus hereticus: thus, "they" would not qualify for student-life funds, have standing to participate in various institutional processes, not afforded whatever benefits accrue with a sanctioned student group, etc.. seems like a lot to forego if they meet institutional guidelines.

    don't know what the criteria are for recognition, but if this group is not in violation of such, the institution compromises its standing in higher education by excluding it.

    from its "Academics" webpage: "Liberty University’s educational programs are designed to challenge students and make them effective in a real-world setting." whereas "academic program" is a more refined concept, the educational program of a university is more than its academic offerings. institutions of higher education might wish to be a bit more attentive to both the curriculum and the 'hidden curriculum,' which the latter by definition is a bit harder to discern. at least they need to be aware that it (i.e., hidden curriculum) is operative and may be significantly undermining the official curriculum.

    in any event, does the real-world not include "Democrats?" is it unresonable that some LU students would be Democrat? does higher education not benefit by policies developed and supported by both Republicans and Democrats?

  4. Liberty University says: "We are unable to lend support to a club whose parent organization stands against the moral principles held by Liberty University".

    With respect to the Democratic Party, I happen to agree. With respect to the Republican party, shouldn't it apply as well? If the "moral principles held by Liberty University" don't also stand against many of those of the Republican party, it seems to me they are not so much a religious institution as a political one.

  5. bapticus hereticus: while LU does not receive much funding from the government (grants and contracts totaled $743,510 in FY 2007, source: IPEDS), it does, nonetheless, accept money that is regularly appointed by dems and repubs, alike. in the same period, about a quarter of its students received federal funding and about a quarter received state/local funding. seems this issue might be a bit more complicated than simply saying "no" to the college dems, especially given the existence of a college repub group.

  6. Thanks for the comments!

    BH #1: There are many who are raising such questions. In fact, Americans United filed an IRS complaint. However, nothing will probably happen from it.

    D.R.: Excommunicate means to lose communion (the relationship not just the bread/cup). Although we typically see it to mean being kicked out, the focus is really on a loss of membership rights. That is what happened to the club. As for not meeting on campus, I addressed that in the article. Falwell, Jr. now claims they have not been kicked off campus but the original email suggests otherwise. It is quite reasonable for the College Democrats to have thought they were being kicked off campus based on that notification.

    I agree with you that BCM's should be allowed on campus. They should have the same rights as other clubs. It is particularly sad to see such an action at a school like Brown.

    BH #2: You are correct that the students will have a better education by being exposed to people with different beliefs.

    Stan: That's my main issue here. Kick them both off on moral grounds or let them both meet. I would prefer to see the latter.


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