Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri May 22, 2009 at 03:36:10 PM EST
The more things change, the more things stay the same. That's the old saw that comes to mind in light of recent doings at Liberty University, in Lynchburg Virginia; founded by the late Jerry Falwell and currently led by Jerry Falwell Jr.

But before we get to those doings and what they may mean, I want to recall the giddy declarations that the culture wars are over, or nearly so, we have heard for some time, albeit on the basis of scanty, or at least contestable evidence. Prior to that, we heard similary giddy declarations that the Religious Right itself was dead, or nearly so, again based on scanty or at least contestable evidence.  Some have suggested that the debate about such thinking and the "strategy" that stems from it might be little more than a tempest in a teapot. But the  problemwith pooh poohing the significance of the debate is that it is about several strategic premises and the political and policy direction of the Democratic Party.

Part of this false narrative has been that voting patterns of white evangelicals as a group is significantly changing to the benefit of the Democratic Party, particularly among young evangelicals. Chip Berlet has seriously  challenged this claim. And he and I have pointed to polling that shows that while young evangelicals are more accepting of homosexuality than their elders, the same polls found them to be more stridently anti-abortion. Common sense tells us that one cannot only look at one bright spot in a deeply mixed picture without risking conflating the spot with the picture itself.

So what then shall we make of the news (hat tip to Blue Virginia) that Liberty University revoked the charter of the recently formed Democratic Club at Liberty University. Why? Because LU does not agree with the platform of the national Democratic Party.

The Lynchburg News & Advance reports that the club was taken by surprise by an email from a university administrator which stated in part:

"The Democratic Party platform is contrary to the mission of Liberty University and to Christian doctrine (supports abortion, federal funding of abortion, advocates repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, promotes the "LGBT" agenda, hate crimes, which include sexual orientation and gender identity, socialism, etc.)...

"The candidates this club supports uphold the platform and implement it. The candidates supported are directly contrary to the mission of Liberty University."

The News & Advance continues:

The goals of the Democratic Party and LU "run in opposite directions," the e-mail said.

LU has had a College Republicans club for several years.

Claire Ayendi, who was chairman of the Republican club last year and graduated this spring, said she didn't regard the university's disbanding of the Democratic group as a political act.

"I think it's more like a moral issue," Ayendi said. "Letting a club like that exist goes against what the school is founded on," she said.

In a written statement sent to The News & Advance Thursday night, Hine said, "Among other things, Liberty University stands for the sanctity of human life. The loss of human life through abortion is a great tragedy and we cannot remain silent when the political policies or politicians themselves promote the destruction of innocent human life.

"While those who are members of the LU Democratic Club are well intentioned and honorable, the platform and policies of the national Democratic Party and the candidates supported by that party, and thus the student organization itself, are inconsistent with the mission of the University.


Ah, Liberty University -- that's the same school that "common ground" advocate Rev. Samuel Rodriguez found to be a "perfect fit" for a "strategic partnership" with the Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference of which he is the president. And that's the same Rev. Rodriguez for whom the crusade against marriage equality is an urgent priority.

Those of us who share such values as respect for the constitutional doctrine of separation of church and state, reproductive justice and LGTB civil rights can't go along a "strategy" that downplays and risks these values in favor of inaccurate assessments of the relative strength of the Religious Right; overly rosy interpretations of polling data and partnerships with immoderate Religious Right figures like Rick Warren and Samuel Rodriguez at the expense of progressives and progressive values.  

I agree with Chip Berlet's call for fellow progressives to please reconsider. Because even tho many things have changed. Many things have also stayed the same. And some of the things that have changed, have not changed for the better.

It's nice that there was, briefly, a campus chapter of the College Democrats at Liberty University. But the News & Advance story also reports that the school's College Dems are also anti-abortion and oppose marriage equality. Nevertheless, they will no doubt be celebrated as martyrs for freedom and epitomizing a trend opposed to the theocratic heavy hand of the legacy of the unfailingly Republican Falwell.  

But what in the end do we see here? A handful of antiabortion, antigay Democratic students being shut down by an antiabortion, antigay accredited Institution of Higher Learning, the largest evangelical university in the world. In other words, a fight between the emergent Religious Right in the Democratic Party and one of the premier institutions of the Religious Right itself. If the stories of actors such as these come to be the kinds of stories that drive our discourse, progressives (especially those who support separation of church and state, reproductive justice and gay rights), will continue to be marginalized in the Democratic Party and in the national media.  

What is the accrediting agency???  So many gain accreditation from self-created agencies.  Others get their "accreditation" from one or two subjects, such as social work or education, and then use that to claim to be fully "accredited".

A bit more on topic... I'd want to see the instruments used for those polls and how they came to the conclusions before I'd accept the findings.  I've seen no evidence of a change among white evangelicals around here, but then, I must admit that this area may not reflect the nation as a whole on that subject.

by ArchaeoBob on Fri May 22, 2009 at 07:53:52 PM EST

I provided a link to Liberty University's "about" page. There you will find a link that should answer your quesion.

The issue of accreditiation of schools like Regent University and Liberty University is not that they are accredited by fly by night outfits. Its that they are not.

by Frederick Clarkson on Fri May 22, 2009 at 08:42:58 PM EST

I walked away from that s**t years ago, and I refuse to touch it with a 10 foot pole.

I appreciate the effort, but I don't "do" links to dominionist sites, (even though they are evidence) and I especially will not watch videos if they involve dominionist "stuff".  It's too triggering.

I do find it interesting and a great source of concern that they've been accredited by a legitimate agency... just like the Assemblies of God ersatz "university" near here.  (I'm told that they got their "accreditation" based upon a couple of programs- education and social work.  It makes me shudder what their "teachers" and "Social Workers" are teaching and doing...)

by ArchaeoBob on Sat May 23, 2009 at 07:36:14 PM EST

For undergraduate programs, there really are no academic quality or content requirements. For professional or postgraduate programs, the curriculum has to be similar to that established by the discipline's board eligibility requirements.

Most of the accreditation requirements focus on governance, self-assessment, presence of a mission statement, presence of "sufficient" resources, requirement that at least 25% of (full-time) faculty possess the terminal degree in their discipline.

by NancyP on Fri May 29, 2009 at 03:23:53 AM EST

When Obama was elected I had high hopes. I knew that if he advocated the progressive agenda outright that there would be a barrage of calls that he was implementing the kind of leftist agenda that indeed most folks who voted for him hoped he would and that there would need to be sustained activity to back that agenda.

If Obama was actually leading a full press effort to restore Justice, the Constitution, and human values of empathy, fair play, accountability, even sanity I would say that the Theocratic forces that have arisen in the past 50 years would be on the retreat. They were certainly dealt a blow when they could not even organize their numbers for Sarah Palin, and their numbers never were enough to win actual majorities without subterfuge of talk or activity or both.

But Obama is not leading with the clear vision that marked his rise originally, and has tossed those on the Left in Congress, who should be advancing, under the bus in favor of those who brag about both getting their agenda in legislation and voting 100% against it.

With Fox News setting the talking points, and no clear clarion call among the Democratic leadership, much less an active clean up of massive criminal activity, then those briefly frightened that somebody might hold them accountable are instead now more bold than ever, and will be ever bolder as each new outrage is met with less resistance than cold oatmeal.

The Right wing (religious and otherwise) could cease to be a problem, but not if they are not met with at least the force of honest law.

by FreeDem on Sat May 23, 2009 at 12:09:59 PM EST

because no one has made a case that they should.

While it is possible that there are grounds for a complaint, I think it may be a close call. Assuming that there were reasonable grounds for an investigation, that investigation would take time. If this was found to be a violation of the c3 code, odds are that it would not result in a revocation of LU's tax status. At worst, they might lose it retroactively for a year, and be required to ponyup some cash.  More likely, they would receive a warning and be required to promise not to do it again.

Until the law is changed, this is pretty much how it works.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat May 23, 2009 at 04:05:49 PM EST

When the shoe is on the other foot the enforcement is often quite draconian. Acorn of course comes easiest to mind, but I see groups all the time acting with much more careful consideration for the (usually justified) fear that they would be raked over the coals for even minor infractions. Even Obama's effort to have grassroots support for bills in Congress has a sharp Chinese wall between it and the Democratic groups that is very difficult.

by FreeDem on Sat May 23, 2009 at 09:14:45 PM EST
I am not aware of any c3 religious organization that has been draconianly punished or illegitimately investigated.

The only church that EVER lost its c3 status permanently was the church Randall Terry attended in Binghamton, NY -- which took out full page ads in major papers opposing the election of Bill Clinton.  The religious right has exploited the lax enforcement environment on the C3 tax laws as part of its political strategy for two decades.  It continues to this day, although the IRS has in the past few years  improved both its education about the rules and its enforcement.

What happened with ACORN was quite different. And it was not an issue of tax exemption, it was a matter of charges of criminal voter fraud. Real or trumped up, its an entirely different matter.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat May 23, 2009 at 10:33:34 PM EST

LU and other right wing universities should lose government funding when they do not allow even the appearance of basic liberties (oh, the irony!) such as freedom of speech and assembly. So should overtly left wing institutions, of course, but I don't hear much about "liberal" universities shutting down College Republicans because the agenda of the parent organization isn't in line with the publicly stated goals of the institution.

by RevRuthUCC on Sun May 24, 2009 at 09:20:53 PM EST
do you say that LU or anyone else should lose government funding?

Private schools, particularly religious schools  have pretty wide latitude to set their own standards for campus clubs. LU has not violated anyone's right to free speech and assembly. The students were not disciplined or expelled for thier views.  They were just told that they couldn't have a college chapter of the Democratic Party.

Don't get me wrong. I am all in favor of enforcing laws. And maybe there is one that is relevant here.  But I am not aware of any.

The strongest thing that the chairman of the DNC, who also happens to be the governor of VA could say about that matter was that he hoped LU would reverse the decision. okes-recognition.html

by Frederick Clarkson on Sun May 24, 2009 at 09:52:21 PM EST

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