Jerry Falwell Jr.
President Donald Trump talks with former Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. during commencement ceremonies in May, 2017. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Student-led Petition Calls for Liberty University to Close Falkirk Center, its Political Think Tank

By Emily Miller

A new petition from a group calling itself Liberty United Against Falkirk is calling for Liberty University to shut down the Falkirk Center, a conservative political think tank at the evangelical Christian school in Lynchburg, Virginia.

The petition reportedly had been signed by more than 400 Liberty students and recent graduates as of Tuesday, according to The Christian Post.

“Students at Liberty are tired of having our witness tarnished by association with a center that is trying to undo Liberty’s mission,” the petition said.

“We want to be known as people who were given an education to not only enter our desired fields, but also to live as people chosen by the Father, united to the Son and regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit — not as people who were educated to become champions for Trump and Western Civilization in the ‘cultural battlefield.'”

The Falkirk Center was founded last year by then-Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. and Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk to equip Christians “to be courageous champions for Christ to advance His kingdom and preserve American freedom,” according to its website.

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Charlie Kirk
Charlie Kirk speaks at the 2018 conference hosted by Turning Point USA. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Creative) Commons

“Although we do, as Jesus taught, turn the other cheek in our personal relationships, we cannot abdicate our responsibilities on the cultural battlefield,” it reads.

The petition pushed back on this, saying signers believed Jesus’ words should impact all parts of a Christian’s life and adding, “The mission for the Church is not to wage war on the ‘cultural battlefield,’ but to make disciples and to build one another up.”

The petition also expressed concern about a number of the “fellows” associated with the center, calling it a “gateway for many wolves in sheep’s clothing — people who claim Christ’s name because it is convenient for their personal or political gain.”

It pointed to quotes from several Falkirk fellows defending President Donald Trump and demeaning Democrats, including Christian author and radio host Eric Metaxas, former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka and current Trump attorney Jenna Ellis.

“Associating any politician or political movement with Christianity bastardizes the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” the petition said.

The reputation of the Falkirk Center has also been tarnished by the fall of Jerry Falwell, Jr., who this year resigned as president of Liberty University amid scandals involving sexual and financial misconduct.

The petition’s signers join a growing chorus of voices that have expressed concerns about Liberty’s association with the Falkirk Center, including student body president Constance Schneider, student body vice president Joel Thomas, former professor Karen Swallow Prior and historian John Fea.

“When an organization like (the Falkirk Center) is attached to Liberty, it impacts the reputation of not just our school, but our students as well …. We have had dozens of conversations with students who are embarrassed to claim the name of our school due to the rhetoric that comes from this center,” Schneider tweeted.

Politico also reported earlier this month that the center had purchased at least $50,000 in campaign-season ads that promoted Trump and other Republican candidates and were designated by Facebook as political. 

Scott Lamb, a spokesperson for Liberty University, told Politico, “While any academic think tank will have its detractors, the University and the Center have received hundreds of supportive emails.”

Emily McFarland MillerEmily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for Religion News Service.

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25 thoughts on “Student-led Petition Calls for Liberty University to Close Falkirk Center, its Political Think Tank”

  1. What next? Rejecting the straight and biblical position of condemning left policies is now a virtue at this post? If Christians are not supposed to condemn the leftist policies, then what is Christianity good for? Voting for socialism? It seems that more and more so called Christians are blind to the onslaught done by the left. It starts with pretending neutrality, and then evolves into claiming embarrassment regarding an “immoral” president who in fact has done more for life and liberty than maybe all the politicians in the half century before him, and finally getting to the point of embracing the corrupt values of the left!

    Wake up believers! Socialism, LGBT-ism, feminism have infiltrated the Christian institutions of our day. A post like this is catering to the socialist cause under the disguise of being neutral in regard to politics. Daniel Chiu

    1. I think you may be misinterpreting why these students are objecting to the Falkirk Center. It’s not because they are liberal. (Almost every LU student I’ve talked to is very conservative.) My guess is that they don’t like Charlie Kirk’s cozy relationship with Jerry Falwell, Jr. Plus, Charlie Kirk’s organization has resorted to some pretty unseemly tactics, like the “Bang Girls” showing up at a conference in skin-tight clothing, shooting cash out of a cannon. Or, the Turning Point ambassadors who pair pictures of themselves in bikinis with political memes. Or the Instagram account Charlie Kirk manages that features girls in bikinis and guns. I think a lot of Christian conservatives may have issues with Kirk’s brand of conservativism, which looks a lot like Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s. Here are some links to explore before endorsing Turning Point or the Falkirk Center:

      https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9075887/Conservatives-slam-Charlie-Kirk-Turning-Point-USA-conference-Bang-Girls-blasting-cash-teens.html

      https://www.the-sun.com/news/1173794/trump-students-support-2020-posing-flags-guns-bikinis/

      https://religionnews.com/2020/08/15/falwell-yacht-social-media-post-leave-liberty-university-president/
      “Another is an ambassador for conservative student movement Turning Point USA who pairs photos of herself in swimsuits with political memes and patriotic or inspirational Christian captions.”

      1. Julie, thanks for clarifying that. It wasn’t clear from the article, as written, at all.

        Pretty safe to say many of your readers (including me) would be put off by things like that too.

        Those are some strange tactics that seem to have their roots in glitz vs true conservatism.

      2. Susan Vonder Heide

        It is interesting that some seem more interested in a silly skit or a bikini than they are about organizations like Turning Point rising up to expose leftist indoctrination of young impressionable students on so many college campuses.

        1. College is to be a place where young people are taught how to debate and think for themselves. A Christian University is to teach its students how to do so from a Biblical view.
          That should involve being exposed to other views, equipped with Biblical knowledge to debate. It is concerning to me that any exposure to something outside of right-leaning political views is labeled indoctrination. We should want Liberty and other similar Christian universities to graduate scholars who are both exposed and equipped to debate views and positions from an Biblical perspective. Anything else is little more than sheltering, or – ironically – indoctrination.
          It is more concerning to me that we continue to speak as if Republicanism or conservatism is synonymous with Biblical. (Remember when civil rights leaders were labeled “leftist, socialist race-mixers”? I do. That’s why we need to be careful with aligning Christ with any political affiliation).
          Turning Point is not to be positioned as the voice of Christians, as they are focused on a conservative political view, which IS NOT synonymous with a Biblical view. That should call into question if they are to be part of a think tank at a Christian university.
          There are plenty of other conservative think tanks or secular universities that have room for Turning Point.

          1. Susan Vonder Heide

            College should be a place for open inquiry. On too many college campuses political correctness is the order of the day and indoctrination is rampant. Turning Point exposes this thereby providing an important public service.

          2. Another term that is misused: “politically correct”.
            Turning Point can go to plenty of secular universities to publish its conservative ideology.
            A Christian university like Liberty should be focused on publishing a BIBLICAL theology. They are not the same.

          3. Susan Vonder Heide

            This is a reply to a later comment by somebody with the initials MH who obviously does not want to use his or her actual name. Politically correct is a very valid term to describe what has pervaded the culture of many of our colleges.. Thank God for Turning Point exposing this. I know of nobody who thinks that the toxic ideology of political correctness is the same as biblical theology. They are opposites.

          4. Politically correct is a valid term, but that is not a fully accurate description of what is hurting our college campuses. I say that as someone who attended universities with conservative think tanks and liberal ones. The challenge is that healthy exposure of multiple views, with the encouragement of discussing and debating all sides, is not happening. It’s positioning one view as “right” while shouting down or banning any other view as “wrong”, to the point that fact and opinion are not differentiated. Parents even write, call, email, and show up on campuses upset that their child is being exposed to ANY other views. (Yes, I’ve seen it). It’s as if parents want to send their child off to college to have ONLY views the parents agree with reinforced and instilled in their kids. THAT is the literal definition of indoctrination.

            I am not saying political correctness and Biblical theology are the same. I’m saying that the ideology Turning Point promotes is not synonymous with Biblical theology. That is my main reason for questioning their place on a Christian campus. Biblical theology should be the focus point of a think tank on a Christian campus, not political ideology – even if it is politics you agree with.
            And it’s not as if Turning Point would be hurting…there are a lot of secular universities and think tanks they can go to.

            As a Christian, I do not want ANY HINT of a political ideology being considered synonymous with scripture or implicated as necessary to be a “real” Christian.

    2. “If Christians are not supposed to condemn the leftist policies, then what is Christianity good for?”

      Wow…not really sure what to say to that…I honestly thought it was a sarcastic post until I finished the paragraph.

    3. Have you talked to any of these petitioners personally? I may have because I have reason to believe my niece is a member of this student group petition… and she is far, far from being a leftist… Frankly I’m getting tired of Christians who use the terms, “left” and “socialism” as clubs to demean and shout down people… Every person I encounter who uses those terms knows very little of the nuances involved or the history or even real life examples. To suggest that relation has given into far left/socialist ideology is laughable and sad. Please, please stop, for the sake of Christian love and civility; and then with the extra time you’ve saved from dong that, learn what these terms really mean; learn what the spectrum and nuances are related to those terms…
      Blessings

      1. Thank you, Andrew. (I used an example in my earlier post of how “leftist” and “socialist” were historically used against civil rights leaders like MLK whose fights were very Biblically based)
        I’d also like to add the term “elitist” to the list of terms that have been weaponized and misused, sometimes even against other believers.
        We need to be careful with our words (using them to uplift, lovingly correct, and speak life into others) AND make sure we are using them correctly.

  2. ZIP!!!! “Politico also reported earlier this month that the center had purchased at least $50,000 in campaign-season ads that promoted Trump and other Republican candidates and were designated by Facebook as political.”
    Politico?…it is a LEFT wing outlet of the Democrat/Liberal/Progressive Party. So much for objective truth.
    Facebook? the same Social Network that has “fact checked” Conservatives/Christians or anyone saying anything positive about the President?
    This is a biased article. It is just as bad as that group of so called “Christians” at that university.
    In the military it is called PsyOps; Psychological Warfare. Absolutely, 100% unadulterated Bovine Organic Matter.

    In Defense of the Faith,
    Uwe
    (Jude 3)
    Post Tenebras Lux

  3. I sense these students may be mislead. What Falwell did…utterly stupid.

    However, the Americans among those students do not need to be ashamed of being Champions for America!

    (Or even the Judeo-Christian civilization that birthed America)

    I think they forget the Church is called the Ekklesia, a Greek name used for gatherings of legislative assemblies. God IS Government.

    See Isaiah 33:22:

    “For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our king; he will save us.”
    ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭33:22‬ ‭ESV‬

    This verse has been cited as one of the inspirations for our 3 branch government.

    Colonies were founded by people who hoped America would be a place to share the gospel with the nations. William Penn founded PA to be a sanctuary of religious freedom.

    And you bet spiritual warfare was involved with that. What else can explain the blood spilled during the revolutionary war, and the sins of slavery and sins done against the First Nations people. We can repent for that before God.

    If you read the Declaration of Independence and Constitution you will find reference to our “Supreme Judge” and our Creator who gave us inalienable rights. Lev 25:10 is on the Liberty Bell. George Washington commissioned an “Appeal to Heaven” flag for there was no higher source to appeal to. Look up the story.

    The mission of the Ekklesia is to make disciples for Christ AND to do spiritual warfare against the enemies of God, Who is teaching them to get into the spiritual battlefield by showing them how to get on their knees and pray??

    That is how we change government.

    Not by whining about a President whose actions “bother” you but by praying against the antichrist spirits and enemies of God in government.

    Lord! Wake those students and faculty up to war for America and her government via prayer!

    Amen.

    1. S, very well said. If we as proclaiming Christians actually stood for something we wouldn’t be so accepting of carnal methodologies across all phases of church gatherings including the so called worship time. Well it doesn’t stop there, not only has our adoption of accommodation of music styles, we have also parceled out God’s word by not wanting to offend someone by confrontation of sin, just to get them in the front door.
      The Gospel of Scripture has been replaced by “the gospel of accommodation”, change everything, accept everyone’s opinion, everyone’s life style, act like the world just to get them in the door not realizing that once a church body caves to carnal (worldly) methods (lifestyle) to appeal to the crowd, they have to continue to use carnal methods just to keep them coming. As that has happened Sunday morning church services has degenerated into an entertainment based performance that has similar characteristics to that of a rock concert.

      They should read and reread your post several times and let it soak in.

  4. The Falkirk center has a podcast that one can easily listen to their positions.
    From the episodes I listened to they are spot on theologically. That’s what’s important

  5. “The mission for the Church is not to wage war on the ‘cultural battlefield,’ but to make disciples and to build one another up.”

    Right, that’s why we have Christian think tanks. A think tank is not the church. Students (btw 400 is a tiny minority at Liberty) might disagree with the political views but they shouldn’t confuse the mission of a think tank with the mission of the church.

  6. Dr. Peter J Oehler

    “Although we do, as Jesus taught, turn the other cheek in our personal relationships, we cannot abdicate our responsibilities on the cultural battlefield,” This verse has a cultural application of the times and is completely inappropriate and misapplied in this context. If you are actually fully educated in The Lord’s life and teachings you would know that He taught to “Stand in the Gap”, “Contend for the Faith”, “Put on the Full Armor of God” and much more. Although He was, in general, a humble Man, He was, when called for, a fierce warrior, lest you forget some of the harsh names He called the Hebrew leaders.
    Turning the other cheek has to do with when YOU sin against, slight or insult someone else and they call you on it. Your choice is to take offense and lash out or humbly accept your just reward. If you “turn the other cheek” and they strike you again then THEY are in the wrong.

  7. I believe Michael Cohen relates in his book “Disloyal” how nominee Trump used a Liberty tech staffer twice to fraudulently manipulate online opinion polls about him. Any repercussions? The Cohen story about Trump gifting Falwell with special concert tickets in NY was quite revealing as well.

  8. I am actually torn on this. I see nothing wrong with a Christian university (or church) having resources dedicated to pointing out alignment between the Bible and the ballot. In doing my own research before voting, I have found such resources to be useful. I would welcome that….if that’s all Liberty’s think tank were committed to doing.
    HOWEVER, what I am seeing nowadays from many Christian organizations (including Liberty, other Christian universities and churches) is nothing short of downright IDOLATRY of political party infused with American nationalism. I read commentary after commentary that justifies the sins of Republicans and conservatives with whataboutism and hypocritical calls for the judgment of the sins of Democrats, progressives, social media titans or other media outlets. If ANY commentary is out of line with this (i.e., DARES to hold any conservative accountable for sinful behavior), fellow “Christians” turn on them like a pack of wolves. I see commentaries that idolize our nation as if it is above reproach, and that claim being a “true American” or “real patriot” is synonymous with being Christian (or vice versa).
    THIS is what the world watches. And I’m ALL FOR IT to stop — even if it means shutting down some of these “think tanks” — as it is tarnishing our witness on the world stage.
    Our faith is to be in the Bible, not the US constitution or capitalism. Our faith is to be in Christ, not in the founding fathers, current or past Presidents. We are to make disciples of EVERY nation, not just the United States. The ground is even at the foot of the cross, with our Lord showing no preference for Jew nor Gentile (nor American nor immigrant). The citizenship that should matter to us most is that of heaven, not the United States. You’d think these statements would be obvious to us as Bible believing Christians. But if you read a lot of the commentary coming out of American churches, Christian universities–and even some of the comments on this site–it clearly needs repeating. There are pastors of large, influential churches (i.e., MacArthur) claiming those who do not support Donald Trump are not “real” Christians. And all these years, I thought being a Christian was about being a follower of Jesus Christ, not supporting Donald Trump (or anyone else).
    Perhaps the answer isn’t completely abolishing the think tank, but establishing a separate entity, having clearer guidelines, expectations, or publishing disclaimers on its eminence. But I do take offense at any Christian think tank that makes it seem as if our God bows before a donkey or an elephant.

  9. Turning Point USA is like a young, hip, less restrained version of the John Birch Society. The combination of sleazy tactics, lack of respect for others, devotion to immoral leaders for the sake of worldly power, and white nationalism is something no Christian institution should be associated with.
    As I typed that list of the organization’s negatives, I realized why Falwell Jr. was happy to hook up with it.

  10. Looking through the comments here it is obvious to me that many are following their favorite political talking heads instead of Jesus Christ. Jesus was born into a more severe political climate than we have and said absolutely nothing about the brutal Romans who occupied God’s land. He was polite to them but brutally rude to the hypocritical religious leaders of the day. To follow Jesus is to try to build His Kingdom. Jesus is not for the political right anymore than He, who is God, is for the political left. Christians have an enemy and it is Satan not “the other political party.” The petition is coming from people who get this.

    Democrats or Republicans are not our enemy. The enemy is a spirit and the people using deception to get people to vote for them. To me, Narcissism is the enemy. Narcissists demonize other people and treat our real enemy as something that does not exist. The narcissists are leading the country on both sides of the political isle into a bloody civil war. This violence is coming and is already started and it is not an answer to any of the problems we have. Jesus is that answer and He is King alone and will one day do away with our entire political system at His return. There is no answer in our politics. Only people exaggerating issues for votes…

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