WASHINGTON (Christian Examiner) – Liberty University students are again expressing their dissatisfaction with Jerry Falwell Jr.'s endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, but in a much larger forum this time.
Three students from the school built by Falwell's father as the capstone to the Moral Majority movement of the 1980s and 1990s – Dustin Wahl, Paige Cutler and Alexander Forbes – wrote in the Washington Post that they are "compelled to oppose" Trump for his "flagrant dishonesty, consistent misogyny and boastful unrepentance."
Earlier this month, a group calling itself Liberty United against Trump, of which the students are a part, called for fellow students to sign a petition asking Falwell to distance himself and, by extension Liberty University, from the candidate. That petition, now signed by more than 2,000 students, is one of three circulating about Falwell's endorsement of Trump which, he insists, is personal and unrelated to the business of the university.
According to the students, however, the two are related.
They cited the case of Mark DeMoss, former chair of Liberty University's executive committee. He was openly critical of Trump in the early presidential primaries, just after Falwell endorsed him in January. He said he disapproved of the candidate.
"The bullying tactics of personal insult have no defense — and certainly not for anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ. That's what's disturbing to so many people. It's not Christ-like behavior that Liberty has spent 40 years promoting with its students," DeMoss told the Washington Post in March.
After DeMoss publicly criticized Trump, the students claim, Falwell asked him to resign from the school's executive committee. Moss did, and also dropped his position on the school's trustee board, ending a 40 relationship with Liberty. He was for years the chief of staff to Jerry Falwell Sr.
Since employees of the university cannot publicly criticize Trump's words and deeds, the students argued, they are speaking for themselves. They said they wanted to make it clear to the world that not all of Liberty supports Trump.
"We want the world to know that Liberty University is a great place to go to school and that many in the student body find Trump's character and values objectionable," the students wrote.
"We deeply disagree with President Falwell's enthusiastic support for a man such as Trump, but we understand that he is not alone among evangelical Christian leaders. Many of them believe that Christianity is under attack in the United States and that our nation's moral fiber is weakening by the day," they claimed.
The students acknowledge the threat many believe Democrat Hillary Clinton is to the country; they insist she will likely push the the Supreme Court further to the left with liberal justices. That doesn't mean, however, that the church – "bitten by election-year hysteria" – should support Trump.
"Since the birth of Christ, Christians have withstood far more serious trials and tribulations than we face today. First-century Christians faced coliseums filled with lions; today, American Christians face the possibility of a liberal Supreme Court. The Christian message of salvation through faith in Christ has prevailed despite actual threats, from actual tyrants, and it will continue to thrive no matter who is elected president in 2016," they wrote in the editorial.
The students concluded the commentary with a plea to ignore fear in the 2016 election and vote based on values. They only wasted vote, they wrote, is the one cast against one's conscience.
In this case, they are betting conscience will sway many voters to vote against Trump because he is the "antithesis of our values."
Earlier this month, Falwell responded to students in a statement. He was said was "fulfilling his obligation as a citizen to 'render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's' by expressing my personal opinion about who I believe is best suited to lead our nation in a time of crisis."