Liberty University recently announced that it is banning the College Democratic Club from its campus. As has been reported, Liberty’s Vice President for Student Affairs, Mark Hine, advised the student group that the Democratic Party violated the University’s principles because it supports abortion, socialism and the agenda of gay, bisexual and transgender people. The basis for the ban is the non-binding Democratic Party Platform from the 2008 Presidential campaign.
Many registered Democrats and elected Democratic officials would dispute the decision on the basis of fact. For proof of this assertion, one only needs to examine the views of pro-life Senator Bob Casey or gay groups who are angry at President Obama for his failure to invalidate “Don’t ask don’t tell” in the US Military. They know first hand that the Democratic Platform is neither enforceable nor something that is universally supported by leading elected Democrats.
This action represents a dangerous step for an educational institution. Depending on one’s perspective, issues can range from the denial of free speech to jeopardizing the University’s not for profit status by directly engaging in partisan politics as opposed to taking positions on individual issues. Unlike a recent decision by Brigham Young University-Idaho to ban both the Democratic and Republican clubs in order to protect its tax exempt status and eliminate any potential charge of the institution supporting one or another political party, Liberty is singling out the Democrats as a group and taking no action against the Republican College Club.
The loss of tax exempt status could have a material adverse impact on Liberty’s economic condition. Loss of not for profit status would jeopardize funding from public and private programs for research, scholarships and other essentials. It could also hurt fundraising from contributors who would no longer be able to claim a tax deduction for their gifts.
As a self proclaimed “conservative” institution with strong supporters in segments of the Christian community, they should question whether a significant potential economic loss is worth any perceived benefit in denying the rights to free speech for what is likely to be an insignificant number of students at the school. Such an action to deny a liberty by a school named Liberty raises the specter of both losing moral standing and making its name synonymous with something new; hypocrisy.
Libertarians (as opposed to Liberty alumni) and civil libertarians alike should come to the defense of the Democratic Club at Liberty University. Likewise, the federal government should take action to revoke Liberty’s tax exempt status if it does not withdraw this edict. Regardless of one’s political affiliation, defense of freedom of expression is critical to the American way of life. It is what separates us from the radical theocratic thinking of our enemies in Al Queda.