(CNSNews.com) – Liberty University, which last week revoked offical recognition and school funding for the university’s College Democrats club while still allowing the club to meet on campus, is blasting the way the mainstream media have reported the story.
On Monday, university president and chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr., said the mainstream media had falsely reported that the Lynchburg, Va.-based school had “banned” the club.
“Even when some reporters learned the facts, they could not bring themselves to correct their stories because the fanciful reports were just too tempting,” Falwell said in a letter placed on the university’s Web site.
“The university has not banned Democrats from campus,” he said, “Nor has the Democrat club been banned from meeting.”
The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot ran a story headlined: "Liberty University Bans Democrats Club." The story said, "Liberty University has ordered its fledgling College Democrats club to shut down, saying the group stands against the conservative Christian school's moral principles."
MSNBC talk show host Rachel Maddow said, "Liberty University is about to become famous for something else. They have banned Democrats on campus. Literally. Not hyperbole."
Falwell, son of the university’s founder, the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, explained: “Official recognition carries with it the benefit of using the university name and funds. While this group will not be an officially recognized club, it may still meet on campus.”
According to Falwell, Democratic clubs have existed at Liberty over the last several decades--but as unofficial student clubs not endorsed by the school.
He explained the action was taken at the request of parents.
“Parents and students support the university because they believe in its distinctly Christian identity and mission,” he said.
Falwell pointed out that Liberty University is pro-life and “believes that marriage between one man and one woman provides the best environment for children.”
“Liberty University will not lend its name or financial support to any student group that advances causes contrary to its mission,” he wrote.
Democrats have roundly condemned the move--as have liberal commentators.
Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, called on Liberty to “reverse this attack on the liberty of its students and allow the College Democrats to have the same rights on campus as their counterparts, the College Republicans.”
Kaine also said, "Americans understand the wisdom of being even-handed when it comes to matters of expression of political opinion.”
Kaine added that revoking recognition of the College Democrats “violates that fundamental principle of fairness and teaches the students the wrong message about civil life as they move from college into the broader world."
In his op-ed, however, Falwell said students are “free to meet on campus, debate and discuss politics of every stripe,” but the university would not lend its name or fund groups that “work to undermine the principles that make Liberty attractive to so many people.”
“While the students in the college Democrat club are pro-life and support traditional marriage, the constitution of the club pledged support to advance the Democratic platform and candidates,” Falwell added.
The 2008 Democratic platform took “an extreme turn to the left on social issues,” he said.
“For the first time, it supports federal funding of abortion and repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a law passed overwhelmingly by a bipartisan Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton,” Falwell wrote. “Liberty University will not lend its name or financial support to undermine marriage or to promote abortion.”
Jan Michael Dervish, secretary of the Liberty University College Democrats told CNSNews.com that the group learned about the change in an e-mail sent May 15 by the university’s vice president of student affairs, Mark Hine.
Dervish said the lack of university certification creates a problem for the club.
“If we did continue as an unrecognized club on campus, we would not be able to post flyers, have information tables, or make announcements on the internal Web site,” Dervish said. “This would be a rather huge handicap, if we wanted to hold an event to try and recruit members, we would not be able to advertise it on campus.”
Discussions between the university and the College Democrats are currently underway to work out a compromise that will allow the group to once again be sponsored by Liberty University.