Liberty University students are continuing to voice their objections to the university's involvement in the upcoming theatrical release "The Trump Prophecy."
As previously reported, dozens of students from the school's cinematic arts department have worked with the Charlotte-based ReelWorks Studio to produce a film based on the prophecy of retired firefighter Mark Taylor, who claims God told him in 2011 that Donald Trump would one day become president.
Liberty University students were given the opportunity to do hands-on production and post-production credited work for their spring semester film project.
As a petition has existed for months in an attempt convince Liberty University to halt its involvement in the project, students and graduates of the Virginia-based Christian college are speaking out about the film as its early October release dates in over 1,000 theatres nationwide draw near.
The Liberty students are not only objecting to the political nature of the movie but the fact that it centers on the prophecies of Taylor, who has drawn the ire of many critics for some of his claims.
"For the university, by stamping our name on this film, we are telling the world that this is what we believe: radical prophecies about a controversial man make him a Godsend," a senior film student recently told PJ Media. "While the school is not creating or financing the film, the act of partnering with the film arguably ties the school to the film in the way these students and graduates fear."
While the movie centers on Taylor, the producers say the movie's purpose is to show viewers how movement of prayer helped pave the way for the election of the 45th president of the United States.
Liberty Cinematic Arts Department director Stephan Schultze had previously told CP that Liberty's involvement in the project came through his relationship with producer Rick Eldridge, who produced the 2015 documentary based on the book Four Blood Moons by megachurch Pastor John Hagee.
He said Eldridge contacted him around Thanksgiving 2017 about the possibility of working on the project. By the start of the spring semester, Schultze had the school's approval to have students and staff in the department work begin work on the film project. Filming was done in areas of Lynchburg and Bedford, Virginia through March and April 2018.
According to the Change.org petition, however, "[s]ome Cinematic Arts students have expressed that they are disheartened by being forced to be a part of promoting a man that they don't agree with."
"They were originally told that they would be doing very different projects and were only told about this new film project at the beginning of the spring semester," the petition claims. "Many do not want this movie on their resume and some are even considering using aliases on IMDB or dropping out."
A source told Voice of America that Liberty students had "the distasteful opinion that the producer had only come to Liberty to make his film because he could get free student labor that would significantly lower the cost of making the film."
"Many of us felt used at times, which was another reason why we petitioned against the film in the first place," the source said.
The source added that although students were given other options, the other options had lesser experiential value.
After the initial script reading and rewrites, the source said that the film's political agenda was noticeable.
"The film did have a political agenda, which we were against," the source added.
The senior film student who spoke with PJ Media argued that the film could "significantly discredit our film program."
"It's not just a video — it's a feature length movie that will have a theatrical release in October," the student added.
Schultze responded to the critics in an email statement shared with The Christian Post.
"Liberty University did not create or finance 'The Trump Prophecy.' Nor has it financed the other four feature films made with the Cinema Arts Department over the past six years since its inception," he wrote. "All were financed through investor-financed production companies that want to help educate the next generation of filmmakers. Film production opportunities of this caliber equip our students with skills essential to their career advancement after graduating."
Schultz added that students were not forced to work on the movie.
"All students taking these productions courses for the major were offered alternative film production opportunities if they desired and one student took that option," Schultze explained.
Responding to critics of the quality of the production, Schultze stated that it is impossible to comment on the quality of the production until the film is released.
"The quality of previous productions have landed releases on TVOne's national cable, SONY Home Video, Universal Studio and two national theatrical releases," Schultz added. "That speaks well of the quality of past productions and we expect the latest example to be in line with our past experience."
The department is planning to do a similar educational partnership for the upcoming 2018-2019 school year, Schultz concluded.
Although Schultz had indicated in a previous interview that there is no political motive behind the university's involvement in the film, some in the Liberty University community can't see past Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr.'s staunch support for Trump.
Falwell was one of the first evangelical leaders to support Trump during the primary elections in 2016. Earlier this month, World magazine reported on how Falwell and his administration have have held a tight grip on student journalists at the school-owned Liberty Champion newspaper since the 2016 election.
"We hoped his political engagement would subside after the election, but it only seems to have grown, and at the expense of the university's reputation and now apparently, its theological foundation," Joseph McGowan, a pre-law and cinematic arts Liberty graduate, told PJ Media.
"The message of 'The Trump Prophecy' seems to be at odds with what the Cinematic Arts Department teaches about craft, and where its professors' passions lie, and opposed to what the School of Divinity holds up as a spiritual standard," McGowan added. "But increasingly, Jerry Jr. seems to see the university as a tool for his political causes rather than an institution worth carefully guarding."
Well-known left-leaning Christian leaders and scholars have also spoken out about Liberty University's involvement in the film.
"It's putting politics over the Gospel. It's putting political ideology over faith," Jim Wallis, founder of the progressive evangelical social justice organization Sojourners, told The Washington Post.
John Fea, a professor of American history at Messiah College in Pennsylvania and a critic of those who voice prophetic claims pertaining to Trump, told The Christian Post in May that prophets like Taylor and others "have no real religious or spiritual authority beyond themselves" and the empires they have created.
Michael Brown, a prominent Messianic Jewish conservative radio host, told CP in May that he didn't have much problem with Liberty getting involved in a movie about a prophecy like Taylor's.
"We see that in 1 Corinthians 13:8–10; we see Paul encouraging believers to earnestly seek the gift twice in 1 Corinthians 14; we see Paul giving instructions for the use of prophecy in 1 Thessalonians 5; and Peter in Acts 2, clearly says that this gift will be poured out on all flesh during this period called 'the last days,'" Brown explained.
"But all prophecy must be tested, first against the Word, then against other criteria (including accuracy, etc.)," he added. "We must not fall into the error of believing every spirit; but we must not fall into the error of not believing the Holy Spirit. That being said, no prophecy carries scriptural authority and is, at best, a word from the Lord, not The Word of God."