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Jerry Jr. & the Dems
Liberty University didn't 'muzzle' College Democrats

Date published: 6/4/2009

IF YOU WANT to join ROTC, don't go to pacifistic Eastern Mennonite University. If there were such a thing as a Young Aryans Club, you would not find it bearing the coat of arms of Yeshiva University, a Jewish school. Private religious colleges anoint campus groups that are broadly consistent with the colleges' beliefs and goals. Liberty University (formerly Lynchburg Baptist College) acted consistently with its Protestant fundamentalist ideals when it recently pulled its sanction from LU's College Democrats.

The College Democrats at Liberty are atypical Democratic activists. By charter they are pro-life and pro-traditional marriage. Then why, unlike the school's College Republicans, was their sanction yanked? Because they supported politicians who are pro-choice (no statewide Virginia Democratic candidate backs gay marriage, although Brian Moran, running for governor, has called for purging the ill-advised 2006 "marriage amendment" from the state Constitution). Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr.'s discrimination between the clubs was, if not especially sage, rational.

It is also eminently constitutional. Our friend Kent Willis of the Virginia ACLU says that after word spread of the College Democrats' decertification, his office phone shimmied with calls asking him when the ACLU would sue Liberty. "We told them that we had no plans to sue Mr. Falwell," says Mr. Willis, "and that we might even argue that he should have a right not to recognize the club."

As a private institution, Liberty gets to "say" what it pleases, including when it "speaks" through its certification process. The government has no right to insist that it dilute its "message" by formally approving expression Liberty deems anathema. An instructive case occurred during the '90s when a gay-lesbian group sued to march in Boston's St. Patrick's Day Parade, whose organizers objected. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled--9-0--that to compel the organizers to let in the homosexual group would be unconstitutionally forcing them to "say" what they did not believe.

The College Democrats are now dickering with the LU administration over how to regain its blessing. Meanwhile, they can still exist on campus and meet in campus facilities. All they lack is Liberty's seal of approval--just as the College Wiccans lack St. Anybody's.