Liberty University hosted the Virginia High School League state debate championships this weekend, but some teams didn't show up, boycotting the Christian university on the basis of president Jerry Falwell Jr.'s comments on Muslims.
Falwell spoke to Liberty University students last December after the San Bernardino shooting, discussing the radical Islamic terrorists responsible for the attack. "It was clear to all in attendance that when I said, 'if more good people [obtained their concealed carry permits and carried a gun], we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed,' I was only referring to the Muslim terrorists who attacked innocents in San Bernardino and in Paris, France," the Liberty University president writes in an April 22 op-ed in The Washington Post.
"I was in no way referring to the many good and honorable Muslims who do not come into public spaces armed to kill innocents," he explains.
Five high school debate teams – including Fairfax County High School teams from McLean, Lake Braddock and Hayfield and Loudoun County teams Briar Woods and Broad Run – boycotted the state finals, April 22-23, according to WUSA9.
Liberty does not charge the VHSL a fee for using its campus and buildings.
Last December, the VHSL also released a statement saying it was concerned about safety at Liberty following comments by Falwell.
Some schools that boycotted Liberty "are basing their decision on Liberty's concealed carry policy," Falwell adds. "The policy, in place since 2011, states that individuals over 21 who have qualified for concealed carry permits and granted such permits by the state of Virginia (as well as received permission through the Liberty University Police Department) are allowed to carry concealed weapons on campus."
Falwell says he takes "very seriously" his responsibility to keep the campus safe. "The concealed carry policy has worked well for us. A quick Internet search of "safest colleges in America" will reveal that Liberty is in the top 20 of every list."
He further explains that Liberty's Board of Trustees approved the concealed carry policy not because of Islamic terrorism, but because of the killing of 30 students and faculty at the nearby Virginia Tech nine years ago.
"Do they honestly fail to see the irony in their decision to boycott a debate because they disagree with the position of another person? And a grossly misinterpreted position, at that," writes Dr. Daniel Howell, professor of biology, in Liberty Champion, a student-run online magazine.
A McLean student, Fatima Shabaz, was quoted by WUSA9 as arguing that Liberty should be disqualified from hosting state tournaments because it is a private religious institution and that state tournaments should be held at public institutions like VCU, UVA, or William and Mary.
"One might reasonably conclude that her proposition is Christophobic. Prohibiting a Christian university from hosting a public debate smacks the First Amendment on two cheeks. Which one do we turn?" Howell asks.