“In my opinion, Donald Trump lives a life of loving and helping others as Jesus taught in the great commandment. He cannot be bought; he’s not a puppet on a string like many other candidates…who have wealthy donors as their puppet masters.” Jerry Falwell, Jr.
And the hits (to progressives) keep on coming.
Currently as we are lost in the fog of war against travelers from seven primarily-Muslim nations and against Syrian refugees, confirmation hearings for Trump’s unqualified cabinet picks whose purpose seems to destroy the very agencies to which they would administer, Trump’s growing battle with our neighbors to the south, plus the nomination of Neil Gorsuch in the mold of the late right-facing Antonin Scalia for the Supreme Court, yet another salvo has been shot from the canons of Trump Tower.
Donald has tapped the ultra-right Christian Evangelical President of Liberty University, Jerry Falwell Jr., to head a new commission called the Federal Taskforce on Higher Education Policy. According to Falwell, its purpose is to identify changes in the U.S. Department of Education’s policies and procedures in response to its “overreaching regulation” and micromanagement.
“The goal is to pare it back and give colleges and their accrediting agencies more leeway in governing their affairs,” said Falwell.
He told the Chronicle of Higher Education that when visiting the then President-elect, Trump offered him the position of Secretary of the Department of Education, but he declined because “I wanted a role [in the administration] that would allow me to stay at Liberty.”
In his place, Trump nominated highly controversial billionaire Betsy DeVos, who has in the past advocated for a voucher system that would divert funding from public schools to private and parochial schools, and to give greater emphasis on charter schools. Recently, she has been charged with plagiarism. At her Senate confirmation hearings she was roundly criticized for her lack of even basic knowledge on teaching and pedagogical issues.
So why is Falwell’s nomination to this Taskforce so troubling? I find it difficult to know where to begin. Let’s start with guns.
Liberty University’s motto is “training champions for Christ,” and Junior takes this quite literally.
Liberty University, founded by late Southern Baptist pastor and televangelist, Jerry Falwell Senior, announced its precedent-setting plans to become the first U.S. university with its own National Rifle Association-compliant gun range facility. The university is taking this action just one year after its board of trustees approved a policy to allow students to carry concealed firearms on campus.
Jerry Falwell Jr., current President of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, one year ago urged all students at the school’s mandatory convocation to apply for concealed-carry permits so they can proudly bear firearms around the campus.
“I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in,” he proclaimed to the loud unrestrained applause of students. “I just wanted to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to get your permit. We offer a free course,” he said. “Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.”
Falwell acknowledged a large elongated protrusion in his trousers: “If some of those people in that community center [in California] had what I have [a .25 caliber pistol] in my back pocket right now …,” he said while students interrupted with even louder cheers and sustained clapping. “Is it illegal to pull it out? I don’t know,” he continued while chuckling.
Falwell told reporters he owns several shotguns, rifles, and pistols, which he has kept on his farm for several years, and he confirmed that he was given a license to carry a concealed weapon last year.
Later, Junior clarified that “those Muslims” to whom he was referring represent people like Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, the couple who shot and killed 14 people in a San Bernardino, California office building during a holiday party on December 2, 2015.
Regarding its curriculum, Liberty University established its Center for Creation Studies. Its website states:
“The purpose of the Center for Creation Studies is to promote the development of a consistent biblical view of origins in our students. The center seeks to equip students to defend their faith in the creation account in Genesis using science, reason and the Scriptures.”
Under the Center’s auspices, Liberty requires all students to take the course, History of Life: Creation Studies (CRST) 290.
The University published it “The Liberty Way” student honor code defining its procedures and rules of conduct. It makes perfectly clear in its one-paragraph statement under the subheading, “Sexuality and Relationships,” its policies on sex before marriage and same-sex sexuality.
“Sexuality outside of a biblically ordained marriage between a natural-born man and a natural-born woman are not permissible at Liberty University. In personal relationships, students are encouraged to abide by common-sense guidelines to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Activities outside these standards and guidelines are violation of the Student Honor Code.”
Punishments for violations range from small to larger monetary fines to expulsion depending on the violation against God.
Falwell Jr. took over as president of Liberty University after the passing of his controversial father, Jerry Falwell Sr., who founded the conservative Christian institution in 1971.
While Junior has been somewhat more restrained in his public comments on “social issues,” unfortunately, as the saying goes, the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree. His infamous father, who in addition to founding Liberty University also headed the ultra-conservative Moral Majority organization.
Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Senior blamed it on “…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.“
He also argued that “AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals, it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.”
His disdain for strong women is legendary:
“I listen to feminists and all these radical gals – most of them are failures. They’ve blown it. Some of them have been married, but they married some Casper Milquetoast who asked permission to go to the bathroom. These women just need a man in the house…. Feminists hate men. They’re sexist.”
So while Junior may believe that Trump’s election was divinely inspired as was his selection to lead the President’s new Taskforce on Higher Education Policy, I can just imagine the sorts of proposals he will make to supposedly “deregulate” these institutions.
Each college and university will proclaim new and multiple mott0s:
“A pistol in every backpack, a firing range for every campus.”
“Queers and feminists not welcome here.”
“Creationism above all else.”
“Critical thinking discouraged.”
“We do not separate Church from state. Fear and submit to the power of God as we define God.”
Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).
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