Does Liberty University hurt the GOP?


"We're just uncomfortable with some of the things you've been writing," Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. told me. That's why I was being disinvited from giving an alumni lecture at my alma mater. This conversation took place in a phone call last fall. When I asked for specifics, Falwell said he was quite concerned that I had authored a column criticizing Hobby Lobby, a conservative company owned by the Green family, which has donated millions in financial and land contributions to the Christian college. He also cited an article he believed painted an unfavorable picture of his father. The senior Falwell founded the Moral Majority in the late 1970s and helped give birth to the religious right movement.

I explained that I was quite conservative in many ways, but that it is my job as an opinion columnist to explore all issues honestly and fairly, and not cater my work to the party-line ideology of any specific political group. He was not moved.

"You don't seem to remember who your friends are," Falwell lamented. "So we'll continue to keep an eye on you and if things change on your end, we'll reevaluate."

I was nearly knocked off my chair by this power play.

It's not that I have some sort of inherent right to speak at Liberty — but it's strange to be uninvited, particularly in this way. Conservatives of all stripes have spoken at Liberty — Rick Perry, Rand Paul, John McCain, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and many more. And unless you've been locked in the cellar, you know that Senator Ted Cruz added his name to the list this week when he stepped onto Liberty's stage and announced his run for president.

The message seems to be clear: All who kowtow to Liberty's brand of political conservatism are welcome. Everyone else need not apply.

Or as Ken Cuccinelli, president of Senate Conservatives Fund and former Virginia attorney general put it, "You're probably not going to see Chris Christie at Liberty."

But here's the thing: That may be bad for the GOP.