Students at the evangelical Liberty University are breaking with school president Jerry Falwell Jr. over his support of Donald Trump, issuing a statement Wednesday night saying “we want nothing to do with him.”
Claiming that Trump is “actively promoting the very things that we as Christians ought to oppose,” the statement from Liberty United Against Trump, which was obtained by The Washington Post, criticizes Falwell Jr. for tying the university’s name to a man who bragged about and is accused of sexually assaulting women.
“Any faculty or staff member at Liberty would be terminated for such comments, and yet when Donald Trump makes them, President Falwell rushes eagerly to his defense – taking the name ‘Liberty University” with him,” the statement reads.
“It is not enough to criticize these kinds of comments,” the students continued. “We must make clear to the world 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.”
Liberty University junior Dustin Wahl told the Post that he wrote the statement and that approximately 250 students, alumni and faculty signed on in support. According to Wahl, the statement was prompted by Trump’s boasts about groping women without their consent in a leaked 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape published Friday.
Falwell Jr. has continued to offer support for Trump after the tape’s publication, even after at least four women come out with stories alleging that he forcible groped or kissed them. Interviewed on CNN as those stories broke Wednesday night, Falwell Jr. said he still planned to vote for Trump even if the allegations were true.
“Donald Trump of five, ten years ago, even two or three years ago may have been a different person,” Falwell Jr. said. “The bigger point is he is going to appoint the right justices to the Supreme Court. He’s going to control immigration. He’s going to bring our country back to a position of strength again. And that is why I’m supporting Donald Trump.”
Asked by the Post to respond to his students’ statement, Falwell Jr. called it “incoherent and false,” though he commended them for speaking up.
“I am not ‘touring the country’ or associating Liberty University with any candidate,” Falwell Jr. told the Post. “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.”
Read the students’ full statement below, via the Post:
In the months since Jerry Falwell Jr. endorsed him, Donald Trump has been inexorably associated with Liberty University. 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. Donald Trump does not represent our values and we want nothing to do with him.
A majority of Liberty students, faculty, and staff feel as we do. Donald Trump received a pitiful 90 votes from Liberty students in Virginia’s primary election, a colossal rejection of his campaign. Nevertheless, President Falwell eagerly uses his national platform to advocate for Donald Trump. While he occasionally clarifies that supporting Trump is not the official position of Liberty University, he knows it is his title of president of the largest Christian university in the world that gives him political credentials.
Associating any politician with Christianity is damaging to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But Donald Trump is not just any politician. 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.
A recently uncovered tape revealed his comments bragging about sexually assaulting women. Any faculty or staff member at Liberty would be terminated for such comments, and yet when Donald Trump makes them, President Falwell rushes eagerly to his defense – taking the name “Liberty University” with him. “We’re all sinners,” Falwell told the media, as if sexual assault is a shoulder-shrugging issue rather than an atrocity which plagues college campuses across America, including our own.
It is not enough to criticize these kinds of comments. We must make clear to the world 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.
Jesus tells a story in the Bible about a man who tries to remove a speck of dust from his brother’s eye, while he has a log stuck in his own. “You hypocrite,” Jesus says, “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
We Liberty students are often told to support Donald Trump because the other leading candidate is a bad option. Perhaps this is true. But the only candidate who is directly associated with Liberty University is Donald Trump.
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.
We are not proclaiming our opposition to Donald Trump out of bitterness, but out of a desire to regain the integrity of our school. While our president Jerry Falwell Jr. tours the country championing the log in his eye, 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.