Jerry Falwell Jr.

Bernie Sanders At Liberty U & Pope Francis At CATO

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, spoke on Monday morning at Liberty University. Liberty was founded by Jerry Falwell and has, under his son’s leadership, grown to be a huge and influential part of the Religious Right’s cultural infrastructure. The school has a tradition of drawing attention to itself by inviting politicians to its mandatory student convocations.

Sanders stated upfront and unapologetically that he is pro-choice and pro-gay and that he knew most of the people in the audience disagreed with him about that. His speech focused on the themes of economic hardship and inequality, urging students to grapple with the morality and injustice of poverty, huge income and wage gaps, children dying for lack of health care and Republican budget proposals to slash safety-net spending for poor children and families. Sanders, who was raised Jewish but currently claims no religious ties, quoted Pope Francis’s critique of the global economy and warnings against the “idolatry” of money.

Sanders was received politely, but there was plenty of resistance to his message, and not just on abortion or marriage equality.  Nick Corasaniti at the New York Times reported from the event:

“Calling on us to help the neediest, that resonates with me as a Christian,” said Quincy Thompson, the student body president, who had a chance to briefly meet Mr. Sanders after the event. “But as a Christian, I think the responsibility to help them falls to the church, not the government.”

The idea that helping the poor is not a job for the government but for the church is a core teaching of Christian Reconstructionism that has spread throughout the Religious Right, the Tea Party, and the Republican Party, carried by people like David Barton and Michael Peroutka.

Liberty’s President Jerry Falwell, Jr. also took exception to Sanders’ approach to economics, sticking with the gospel of small government:

“I think it was Margaret Thatcher who said that the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money,” Mr. Falwell said in an interview after the event, making the case that he thought working toward a limited government and lowering taxes would “create the tide that rises all ships.”

A different strain of the Right took on a similar theme on Tuesday, when panelists at the libertarian CATO Institute, whose lobby features a quote from Ayn Rand, addressed Pope Francis’ critique of the  global economic system at an event titled, “Blessing or Scourge? Capitalism through the Eyes of Pope Francis.” Francis will visit Washington, D.C. next week.

Catholic University of America President John Garvey and National Catholic Reporter columnist Michael Sean Winters portrayed Francis’ statements as well within the tradition of Catholic social justice teaching and in line with comments from his papal predecessors.

Jay Richards is an assistant professor in the business school at Catholic University and a senior fellow at the creationist Discovery Institute who authored a 2010 book called “Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem.” Richards, whose Twitter handle is @FreemarketJay, suggested that Francis’ views on capitalism may have been distorted by his experience in Argentina, which Richards says ranks near the bottom on “economic freedom” indicators. The pope’s beef is not really with free-market capitalism, he says, but with the kind of cronyism and corporatism found in his home country— an argument that has been advanced by other Catholic conservatives but doesn’t reflect the scope of Francis’s critique of current global economic and financial systems.

The CATO panel was moderated by Marian Tupy, editor of CATO’s project. Tupy argued that the pope is ignoring evidence that capitalism has lifted millions of people out of poverty. Two of Tupy's articles critical of Francis’s economic critiques were distributed at the event, one of which concluded condescendingly, “Pope Francis has a big heart, but his credibility as a voice of justice and morality would be immeasurably improved if he based his statements on facts.”



Bob McDonnell Joins Liberty University's Jesse Helms School Of Government

Beset by legal troubles, former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell has joined Liberty University as a visiting professor in government.

In a press release yesterday, Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr. (son of the school’s founder, televangelist Jerry Falwell) praises McDonnell’s conservative bona fides and welcomes him to Liberty University’s Jesse Helms School of Government — yes, that Jesse Helms.

McDonnell, a longtime friend of the university, said he is delighted to contribute to Liberty’s world-class academic programs and to train students to make a significant positive impact at every level of government.

Liberty President Jerry Falwell said the university will tap McDonnell’s extensive career experience in business, law, public policy, and government.

“Gov. McDonnell will add another dimension to the educational experience of Liberty students by teaching leadership,” Falwell said. “He achieved great success as governor in making Virginia one of the nation’s most business-friendly and fiscally sound states while getting people to work together for the common good. These experiences uniquely qualify him to teach our students about every aspect of serving in public office.”

Dr. Shawn Akers, dean of the Helms School of Government, said the governor’s recent visit was a pleasant surprise to the students, who were eager to learn from a seasoned leader.

“The students’ eyes lit up when he walked into the class. They were so excited to hear directly from someone who has been on the frontlines of the important public policy battles in America,” Akers said. “The Helms School is proud to welcome Governor McDonnell, who has a proven record in public policy and conservative activism, and who shares in the biblical principles and servant leadership that are so important to Liberty University.”

Shawn Akers, the dean of the Helms School and McDonnell’s new boss is best known here at Right Wing Watch for his extreme anti-gay rhetoric, such as his comparison of gay rights activists to Nazis and his claim that the military now imposes a “don’t ask, don’t tell policy” on Christian service members.

Akers has also derided anti-bullying programs as “a form of indoctrination and reeducation that smacks of socialist and communist countries” and accused gays of bullying Christians, whom he called “the weakest members of our society.” He even believes that “the homosexual activist community” is a religion.

McDonnell is a graduate of Pat Robertson’s Regent University (then called CBN University), where he wrote a now-notorious thesis, and it was widely rumored that he might lead Regent after he left office.

Right Wing Leftovers - 10/25/13

  • Rand Paul will join Ken Cuccinelli and Jerry Falwell, Jr. at a campaign stop at Liberty University. 
  • The right-wing myth that Obama is behind a change in the Marines’ dress cover has become so widespread that the Commandant of the Marine Corps had to put out a statement refuting the charges.
  • Rick Scarborough “must respectfully take issue with Dr. Russell Moore” who, he says won’t defend Christians who “are persecuted for refusing to bend the knee to the gay agenda.” 
  • Finally, “ex-gay” Dennis Jernigan describes his “anthem for ex-homosexuals.”

Falwell Jr. Says Trump's Convocation was 'Probably the Best one in the History of the School'

As we have noted over the last few days, there has been a bit of confusion over the remarks that Donald Trump recently delivered at Liberty University when he told the students at this Christian university: "Don't let people take advantage; get even!"

Trump, of course, is standing by his remarks and so is Liberty University, as chancellor and president Jerry Falwell Jr. told Newsmax that Trump's Convocation speech was "probably the best one in the history of the school" and that his message of "get even" was not "contrary to what Jesus taught at all":

The excitement was palpable in the room and the students were just so enthusiastic and excited about Mr. Trump's visit. And it was probably the best Convocation - we have three Convocation's a week here; have for years - probably the best one in the history of the school and I've heard that from literally hundreds of students that feel the same way and it was really a great day for Liberty University and we've made a great new friend in Donald Trump.


You know, Jesus ... the Associated Press article quoted where Jesus said turn the other cheek, but Jesus also ran the money-changers out of the temple in anger with a whip. And so there is a time to be tough, there's a time to, I wouldn't necessarily say get even, but there's a time to look out for yourself and for your family and for your country and to defend yourself and I don't think that's contrary to what Jesus taught at all.  

Mitt Romney to Liberty University

Delivering the commencement address at Liberty University has become a rite of passage for Republican and conservative leaders such as John McCain, Newt Gingrich, Glenn Beck and Chuck Norris, and today it has been announced that Mitt Romney will deliver the 2012 Commencement address at the school founded by the late Jerry Falwell and currently led by his son, his son, Jerry Falwell, Jr.:

Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. announced today that Gov. Mitt Romney will address Liberty University graduates at the 2012 Commencement ceremony to be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 12, at Arthur L. Williams Stadium.

“We are delighted that Governor Romney will join us to celebrate Commencement with Liberty’s 2012 graduates," said Liberty Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. "This will be a historic event for Liberty University reminiscent of the visits of Governor, and then presidential candidate, Ronald Reagan to Liberty’s campus in 1980 and of President George H.W. Bush who spoke at Liberty’s 1990 Commencement ceremony.”

This will be Governor Romney’s first appearance at Liberty University. Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. will also be making remarks during the ceremony.

Liberty University's 39th Commencement will celebrate the achievement of more than 14,000 graduates with more than 34,000 guests expected to attend. The ceremony will also be broadcast by streaming video to the families of Liberty’s 70,000+ online students around the world.

Liberty University prides itself as training the “replacements” of the current Religious Right leadership, but despite its name the university has banned people on campus from accessing a local newspaper that wrote about LU’s huge sums of aid from the federal government, refused to recognize a College Democrats club, inculcates students in ultraconservative, anti-gay and anti-evolution courses, and trumpets a professor who wants to outlaw pornography.

Maybe Romney, who is selling his $5.25 million ski lodge, can stop by the Liberty Mountain Snowflex.

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