The contrast between President Obama and Mitt “Severe Conservative” Romney could not have been any clearer than it was this week. On Wednesday, President Obama continued his strong record on LGBT issues by taking the morally and politically right position and endorsing marriage equality. Romney, meanwhile, ended his week with today’s commencement address to Liberty University, a school that forbids openly gay or lesbian students from attending. Liberty University was founded by Jerry Falwell, a Southern Baptist televangelist who previously ran the misleadingly named “Moral Majority” and who had a long history of making bigoted statements and taking controversial stands on issues relating to LGBT rights, religion, women’s rights, racial discrimination, etc. While Falwell died in 2007, Liberty University is now run by his son, Jerry Falwell Jr., and continues to operate in his father’s tradition.
Romney’s commencement address consisted mostly of platitudes about faith and religion, along with a shout-out to the fast food chain Chick-fil-A, whose billionaire evangelical founder was also speaking. But there were three notable things about Romney’s speech. First is that Romney confirmed his opposition to marriage equality. The second is that Romney said nothing about Liberty University’s discriminatory policy against LGBT students. And the third is that Romney was effusive in his praise of Jerry Falwell and Liberty University, stating:
In his 73 years of life, Dr. Falwell left a big mark. For nearly five decades he shared that walk with his good wife Macel. It’s wonderful to see her today. The calling Jerry answered was not an easy one. Today we remember him as a courageous and big-hearted minister of the Gospel who never feared an argument, and never hated an adversary. Jerry deserves the tribute he would have treasured most, as a cheerful, confident champion for Christ.
. . . .
Maybe the most confident step Jerry ever took was to open the doors of this school 41 years ago.
He believed that Liberty might become one of the most respected Christian universities anywhere on earth. And so it is today.
He believed, even when the first graduating class consisted of 13 students, that year after year young Christians would be drawn to such a university in ever-greater numbers. And here you are.
Today, thanks to what you have gained here, you leave Liberty with conviction and confidence as your armor. You know what you believe. You know who you are. And you know Whom you will serve. Not all colleges instill that kind of confidence, but it will be among the most prized qualities from your education here. Moral certainty, clear standards, and a commitment to spiritual ideals will set you apart in a world that searches for meaning.
The press, of course, is playing the story of Romney speaking at Liberty University as another effort by Romney to court conservative evangelical voters. But if Romney is willing to publicly tie himself to the Falwell legacy by speaking at Liberty University in an effort to attract evangelical voters, the important question is how much of the agenda of Liberty University and Jerry Falwell does Romney agree with. For example:
- Does Romney support Liberty University’s ban on openly-gay or lesbian students? If so, what other institutions or organizations does Romney believe should be allowed to discriminate against LGBT Americans simply because of their orientation?
- Does Romney agree with Liberty University’s doctrinal statement that “human beings were directly created, not evolved”?
- Which of the following Jerry Falwell statements does Romney agree with?
* “I hope to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we don’t have public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them.” – source* With regards to the September 11 attacks – “And, I know that I’ll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the 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 — I point the finger in their face and say “you helped this happen.” – source - While Falwell offered a weak apology soon after this statement, he later said essentially the same thing* “I listen to feminists and all these radical gals … These women just need a man in the house. That’s all they need. Most of the feminists need a man to tell them what time of day it is and to lead them home. And they blew it, and they’re mad at all men. Feminists hate men. They’re sexist. They hate men; that’s their problem.” – source* With regards to climate change – “This so-called fact is the greatest deception in the history of science. We are wasting time, energy and trillions of dollars while creating unnecessary fear and consternation over an issue with no scientific justification.” – source* “AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals. To oppose it would be like an Israelite jumping in the Red Sea to save one of Pharaoh’s charioteers … AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals; it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.’” – source
Today’s Republican Party has been taken over by reactionary extremists, such as the followers of Jerry Falwell. As we’ve explained previously, Mitt Romney has plainly decided that rather than try to bring the Republican Party back to some semblance of rationality, he is more than willing to cheer on the crazy in a desperate attempt to become President. With Romney’s commencement address at Liberty University, we have seen yet another example of the type of severely conservative viewpoints Romney would promote, rather than stand up to, if he were to become President.