The Academe Blog

The blog of Academe Magazine. Opinions published here do not necessarily represent the policies of the AAUP.

The Liberty Way of Censorship

It used to be that a Republican presidential candidate speaking at Liberty University was controversial because of the institution’s repressive, far-right-wing politics. Now, the controversy goes the other way. Mitt Romney is being attacked by students at Liberty University because he has been invited to be this year’s commencement speaker. That’s controversial because Romney is a Mormon, and the evangelical Liberty University doesn’t regard Mormons as meeting their definition of Christianity.

Liberty was founded by the late Jerry Falwell, a TV preacher who supported segregation in the South and apartheid in South Africa, and claimed that 9/11 happened because liberals made God mad: “I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way — all of them who have tried to secularize America — I point the finger in their face and say you helped this happen.”

The ironically-named Liberty University also has one of the most repressive campus speech codes in the country. The university banned the College Democrats in 2009 out of opposition to the national policies of the Democratic Party.

The university openly promotes its repression of dissent as part of what makes it “distinctive”:

An uncompromising doctrinal statement, based upon an inerrant Bible, a Christian worldview beginning with belief in biblical Creationism, an eschatological belief in the pre-millennial, pre-tribulational coming of Christ for all of His Church, dedication to world evangelization, an absolute repudiation of “political correctness,” a strong commitment to political conservatism, total rejection of socialism, and firm support for America’s economic system of free enterprise.

Liberty might be the only college in America that requires devotion to a particular theory of economics for its students and staff.

Liberty is a disgrace to higher education. It has no respect for academic freedom and demands censorship of everyone on campus. The Liberty students who want Romney banned from campus are wrong, but they’re just putting into practice The Liberty Way that they’ve been taught (and ordered) to embrace.

Romney should certainly be free to speak at a university that has no respect for Mormons and no respect for intellectual liberty. The question is whether he will dare to express any criticism of Liberty University and its vile practices.

About John K. Wilson

Author of "Patriotic Correctness: Academic Freedom and Its Enemies."

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