Standstill Continues at Liberty University Over Ouster of College Democrats

Liberty University and the College Democrats appear to be at a standstill despite talks to find common ground on whether the group would be recognized on campus.

Earlier this month, the university dropped its support for the club citing moral principles including abortion and homosexuality. In an e-mail sent to organization members, Mark Hine, the vice president of student affairs, stated that the university is unable to support an organization "whose parent organization stands against the moral principles held by Liberty University."

Liberty University College Democrats president Brian Diaz had a conference call with Jerry Falwell Jr. and fellow Democrats last week, and although Diaz wouldn't comment on the entire call, he did say that nothing would move forward without an apology from the club officials. Diaz also declined to comment on the tone of the meeting but did say that the College Democrats would release a statement soon.

"He [Falwell] asked us to reconsider our ideas on becoming an official organization," Diaz said. "But he made it clear that nothing would move forward without an apology on our end."

Mathew Staver, Dean of Liberty University School of Law who works on student clubs, described the meeting as good and said the club could be recognized again if it makes changes.

"The club is going to give us a proposal and modify their constitution," he said. "I'm optimistic that we'll connect with a resolution. Essentially, I think the general parameters would include not supporting abortion, which would make them eligible for recognition. Whether it's a political or non-political name, any club is subject to these rules. We'll work with them, we had a good meeting with some of the student leaders this week.

"The club can still meet as it always has been," Staver continued. "It is not officially recognized under the university name, though, and is not available to receive funds, which is only about $300 or $400. The club has not been banned, but they can not meet on campus and cannot use the money to support abortion. They can be officially recognized by the university as long as they don't use the funds in that manner."

Diaz said he was deeply hurt by the e-mail he received. Diaz said that as Democrats at a conservative Christian institution, they have been open about the fact that they are pro-life and against gay marriage.

"You don't have to be a Democrat and believe in abortion and gay marriage," Diaz said. "That's such a problem in the Christian community that people only vote on two issues and they don't look at the other issues.

"Jesus talks about other issues besides those two," he said. "You don't ever agree with a candidate 100 percent but you have to make the best overall decision based on all the issues."

Diaz and other students on campus founded the group last October after it became apparent that many of Liberty's 11,300 residential students would be voting for then-Sen. Barack Obama. The Liberty University College Democrats organization lasted seven months before Hine sent his e-mail. The organization has 30 permanent members but has seen crowds as large as 80.

Members believed the group was in good standing with the university before the e-mail was sent.

Student sponsor Maria Childress, who also received Hine's e-mail, said she believes the administration was handling the situation badly.

"I do not believe that we have done anything wrong that deserves an apology," she said. "I do, however, feel that the students deserve an apology for how they have handled this situation."

Childress also said that she has talked to several students who are considering transferring because of the current situation. "Many students -- not just the ones involved with the club -- have lost trust and respect for the administration and the University."

The national organization is stepping in, said College Democrats of America president Katie Naranjo, and encouraging Democratic voters and people of faith to write the Liberty administration to ask that the College Democrats club be reinstated.

"Our goal is to get the students back on campus," Naranjo said. "It's important that they have the same rights as the College Republicans to organize."

Even if that right is granted some aren't sure what that would mean for them.

"We’re scared about being reinstated and then having the administration look over our shoulders and tell us we can only endorse pro-life candidates," Diaz said. "Making an articulate vote isn't based on one issue, it's based on all the issues. The message we're trying to send is that we don't have to agree with a candidate on every issue but we need to look at all the issues and make the best choice."

UWire contributed to this report.