Unrecognized College Group Extends 'Olive Leaf' to Liberty U

Liberty University and the student-run club that it "unrecognized" last month are still working together to find a way for the latter to be fully recognized by the former while also shooting down false reports that have come out over the past several weeks.

In their latest proposal, Liberty suggested the College Democrats replace their current club sponsor – a suggestion that the club discussed and respectfully dismissed.

"After meeting as a club, and discussing the proposal, we have decided to keep Maria Childress as our sponsor," reported College Democrats President Brian Onill Diaz to the entire club Monday.

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However, he added, the club hopes "to continue working with the administration to be a fully recognized club on campus, and further continue to glorify the message of Christ."

In an official response to the LU administration, Childress, on behalf of the College Democrats, offered a list of proposals "to resolve the current impasse" along with an apology for the misreports that have circulated since the club's change of status became public.

Throughout most of last month, a number of rumors and reports claimed that the university had banned the group from campus and that its officials said a person cannot be a Christian and a Democrat – claims that LU officials rejected as false.

"Apparently many journalists do not let the facts get in the way of a juicy, agenda-driven story," Jerry Falwell, Jr., chancellor and president of the Lynchburg, Va.-based Christian school, wrote in an Op-Ed released to the media.

Liberty's recent action "had nothing to do with the political nature of the club" and was "solely based upon the moral issues of abortion and marriage," added Mat Staver, dean of the Liberty University School of Law.

"Liberty will not lend its name or funds to support any group - Republican, Democrat, Independent or non-political - that supports abortion or same-sex marriage," Staver added. "Liberty's action has nothing to do with favoring Republicans or Democrats."

In the College Democrats' response letter, Childress said she apologizes for the "misunderstanding," but also made a point to note that whatever conclusions were drawn likely resulted from the e-mail that LU Student Affairs VP Mark Hine sent to the College Democrats.

Hine's initial email stated that "no student club or organization shall be approved, recognized or permitted to meet on campus, advertise, distribute or post materials, or use University facilities…" if the organization is found to be in conflict with the mission of the conservative university.

It also said "the Democratic Party Platform is contrary to the mission of LU and to Christian doctrine."

"This sweeping statement followed by references to issues such as 'socialism' and 'hate crimes' is largely what we believe caused the media to make certain assumptions about the position of the administration," Childress noted.

But the club sponsor also noted that the LU administration "sufficiently corrected the record on this point" through numerous statements and that Hine has since acknowledged that there was a better way to communicate the point he was trying to make.

With the seemingly roughest part out of the way, Childress expressed to the administration the club's hope to find a "peaceable way to resolve this difficult situation."

"[W]e believe it to be logistically impossible to function as a student group without the ability to reserve space on campus for our meetings," she wrote. "This remains a major hurdle to functioning as an unendorsed club."

In this week's response letter, Childress and the club offered a lengthy list of proposals, including agreement to take no funds from the Student Government Association (SGA), not endorse candidates as a group but only as individuals, and continue to "explicitly state that they are pro-life out of personal conviction and respect for the University and what it stands for."

"LUCD will pledge its support to a pro-life and pro-traditional form of marriage and would like conduct no less than one event each semester that promotes the message of one of these agendas. Such as our planned Sanctity of Life week in the fall," she added.

In concluding, Childress said the club remains hopeful that a compromise with the university can be reached so that it can once again be an officially recognized organization on campus.

"We look forward to continuing this important dialogue with you," she concluded.

In commenting on the club's response, LU's chancellor noted that the apology included wasn't an "unequivocal" one, as school officials had hoped for.

[B]ut it was sort of an olive leaf," Falwell told the Lynchburg News Advance. "[T]he apology did not go far enough, but I think we may find another way to go around that issue."

On Tuesday, Fallwell said the club and school were still working out details for the club's constitution.

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