Liberty University drew the attention of the secular press again after it chose not to recognize the campus-based College Democrats.
But strict and narrow-minded as the decision may sound, those involved with the College Democrats describe themselves as “disappointed” and “frustrated” but not riled as some might expect.
“As an organization, I personally feel that we've done everything that we can to tread carefully in order to respect our University, as well as make sure that we respect our own faith,” College Democrats secretary Jan Michael Dervish told The Christian Post.
Last week, LU Student Affairs VP Mark Hine informed the College Democrats that they could no longer be recognized by their school due to the stance of their "parent organization" and the political candidates they support.
The group, which was formed last October, is explicitly pro-life and pro-traditional marriage but supports Democratic politicians whose views may clash with those of the fundamentalist Christian school. One such politician is President Barack Obama, who the group had been rallying behind during the presidential campaign.
“We are unable to lend support to a club whose parent organization stands against the moral principles held by Liberty University,” Hine informed the group via e-mail.
“Even though this club may not support the more radical planks of the democratic party, the democratic party is still the parent organization of the club on campus,” he added.
Though the tone of Hine’s note came across to many as confrontational, Jerry Falwell Jr., the chancellor of the Lynchburg, Va.-based school, made clear Thursday that there is “absolutely no animosity at all toward any of these kids.”
“They are good, Christian kids who sit with me at ball games,” he said, according to the Lynchburg News Advance. Similar sentiments have been expressed from the other side.
Since the College Democrats were informed about their new status, the campus club has been in discussion with the school to come up with a resolution that will allow the group to once again be sponsored by LU.
On Friday, Falwell suggested that the club affiliate itself with Democrats for Life of America, a national organization for pro-life members of the Democratic party.
College Democrats president Brian Diaz, however, said an affiliation with the strictly pro-life group could be problematic, especially in cases where his group wants to support a candidate who is pro-choice.
“If we were to charter under the Democrats for Life organization, we would not be able to endorse or campaign for, or do anything for Barack Obama and his re-election run,” Diaz told the News Advance.
Despite the rough patch that they’ve come across, both sides are trying to come up with an idea that will work.
“I am disappointed in the decision by my school to stop recognizing College Democrats, [but] I hope that we can come to some sort of resolution that will allow us to continue as a group on campus,” commented Dervish.
In the worst-case scenario, the College Democrats would have to give up on being an LU club and become a private group.
“We have been involved with the Lynchburg Democratic Committee lately, and definitely plan to stay involved there. If we can't be Democrats on campus, we can still be Democrats in Lynchburg,” College Democrats events chair Marilyn Johnson told The Christian Post. “This will absolutely not stand in the way of our political involvement/activism.”
On the College Democrats' Facebook page, the group says its mission is to educate fellow peers about the Democratic party and the principles the party stands for.
"A College Democrat organization is needed on the Liberty University campus to promote the values of: tolerance, equal opportunity for all, and a commitment to social justice," they state.
"We hope to spread the message of the Democratic party in hopes to educate the Liberty campus about political issues that are not of a conservative bias," they conclude.
Since news spread of the College Democrats’ disaffiliation, another Facebook group has been formed in support of the club.
In just about one day, the “We Support Liberty University College Democrats” recruited more than 200 members.
“As fellow College Democrats, Young Democrats, and people who respect the basic freedoms which we are all entitled, we stand in solidarity behind the Liberty University College Democrats and the fight which lies ahead for them,” the group’s page states.
Founded in 1971 by the late Dr. Jerry Falwell Sr., Liberty University touts itself as the largest and fastest growing Christian Evangelical university in the world.
Notable alumni include evangelist Franklin Graham, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, and Christian music artists tobyMac, Michael Tait, and Phil Stacey.