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What next? An atheist club?

By Amanda Marcotte
Sunday, May 24, 2009 23:34 EDT
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I can’t be the first person to think, “Wait, they had one?” at this news:

Liberty University has revoked its recognition of the campus Democratic Party club, saying “we are unable to lend support to a club whose parent organization stands against the moral principles held by” the university.

“It kind of happened out of nowhere,” said Brian Diaz, president of LU’s student Democratic Party organization, which LU formally recognized in October.

Tim Kaine is asking the university to reconsider, and the lame response to pretend they respect freedom of speech and assembly is to claim the students are still allowed to be in the club and have meetings, they just have no formal recognition and all the benefits that come with it. What’s nice about this is that Jerry Falwell Jr. is making it clear that “morality” is a partisan thing, and doesn’t even try to hide that “family values” and other such code words are ways of suggesting that only those who believe in one-party rule under the Republicans are real Americans, going to heaven, and quite possibly deserving admission into the human race.

“They are good, Christian kids who sit with me at ball games. I just hope they find a pro-life family organization to affiliate with so they can be endorsed by Liberty again.“

I’m sure this would be violating some kind of federal laws, but then again, I don’t know that Liberty U. is really accredited. But what’s really interesting to me is that comes on the heels of a widely-publicized attempt by wingnuts to force Notre Dame to throw all its academic and social standards out, and declare themselves and god for the Republicans. The excuse for protesting Obama’s speech was abortion, but since this was the first time this happened, I’m forced to conclude that “Democrats handed Republicans an ass-whuppin’ during the election” was the real reason. That someone whose ass was personally whupped by Obama—Alan Keyes—was all over the coverage confirms this to me. Of course, the possibility of Notre Dame capitulating was next to nil, but it was sickly entertaining watching our mainstream media assume, against all evidence to the contrary, that any affiliation with a religion requires a university to embrace the torture-loving, war-mongering, economy-destroying Republican party in a blatantly partisan manner. Granted, this isn’t the worst assumption, since religion is about power, but what they failed to understand was that the university was a university.

Of course, Liberty U isn’t restrained by that problem. It’s worth noting the context that this Democrat club banning happens under. Liberty was founded in 1971 as Lynchburg Baptist College by Jerry Falwell, in association with his extremely pro-segregation church. For decades, the godliness of segregation was preached at Thomas Road Baptist Church, to the point where you have to wonder if that’s why Falwell went into religion instead of into another business. Keeping schools segregated was the major defining issue of Falwell’s career, which is something that we’re apparently supposed to politely forget now that he’s dead. Falwell got into the business of founding schools because of his dedication to racial hatred.

He retreated from massive resistance and founded the Lynchburg Christian Academy, an institution described by the Lynchburg News in 1966 as “a private school for white students.” It was one among many so-called “seg academies” created in the South to avoid integrated public schools.

For Falwell and his brethren, private Christian schools were the last redoubt. Rather than continue a hopeless struggle against the inevitable, through their schools they could circumvent the integration entirely. Five years later, Falwell christened Liberty University, a college that today funnels a steady stream of dedicated young cadres into Republican Congressional offices and conservative think tanks.

The vindictive move against the Democratic Party club that supports the first black President cannot be understood properly without this context, I’d argue. Nor can we accept code words like “pro-family” without putting them in this context. As the article I link above chronicles, Falwell and company would like you to believe they were always about misogyny first (er, “life”), but while strict patriarchal gender roles are incredibly important to conservatives, this entire movement started as a support system for segregation. There’s a lot to unpack here, probably a bunch of details that will never surface in the mainstream media. One thing that occurs to me is that if there is, in fact, enough students at Liberty U to create a Democratic Party club, that points to the same generation gap that this article about segregated proms points to, at least with regards to white Southern families.

“It’s awkward,” acknowledges JonPaul Edge, a senior who is white. “I have as many black friends as I do white friends. We do everything else together. We hang out. We play sports together. We go to class together. I don’t think anybody at our school is racist.” Trying to explain the continued existence of segregated proms, Edge falls back on the same reasoning offered by a number of white students and their parents. “It’s how it’s always been,” he says. “It’s just a tradition.”

You see a mix of discomfort with the status quo, but also an inability to rebel properly, and, say, get a group of white students to boycott the white prom and go to the desegregated prom in a big group. I can see how that same mix of a spattering of rebellious sentiment mixed with an inability to really act would put a number of kids in a situation where they have to go to Liberty U, but while there, they start to branch out as the adults they are, and start putting their political energies behind a party their elders would disapprove of.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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