Spotlight on Liberty

Liberal magazines take keen interest in Liberty University's stance on homosexuality

Kevin Roose, author of The Unlikely Disciple, an account of Roose’s time as a secret skeptic enrolled at Liberty, also argued in New York Magazine that Liberty has backed away from vocal opposition to gay marriage, especially as it has emphasized campus and online growth. Even though the school’s behavioral code still bans homosexual acts, along with any kind of sex outside of marriage, Roose says that Liberty’s muted official response to recent Supreme Court arguments over gay marriage was telling.

 

In recent months increasing numbers of American Christians have endorsed gay marriage, and evangelical institutions are coming under increasing pressure to affirm homosexual relationships. Two recent articles have spotlighted the way that one such institution, Liberty University, is addressing the politics of gay marriage, as well as its homosexual students.

In “Being Gay at Jerry Falwell’s University,” former Liberty student Brandon Ambrosino, writing for The Atlantic, tells of the non-condemning response he received from Liberty faculty when he came out as gay. Most professors affirmed that they (and God) loved Ambrosino, and encouraged him to seek counseling.

Ambrosino recalls that when he divulged his homosexuality to Karen Swallow Prior, an English professor at Liberty, she wept with him, assuring him “It’s going to be OK … You’re OK.” Dr. Prior told me via email that she has been surprised that many reactions to Ambrosino’s article cast her “as either a hero or a villain,” and that she does not see why expressing love to a “struggling student” should be so controversial. She believes that her response “reflects the spirit of my colleagues at Liberty University as well as the school’s administration. Liberty University treats all sexual misconduct the same, without discriminating based on sexual orientation.”

Kevin Roose, author of The Unlikely Disciple, an account of Roose’s time as a secret skeptic enrolled at Liberty, also argued in New York Magazine that Liberty has backed away from vocal opposition to gay marriage, especially as it has emphasized campus and online growth. Even though the school’s behavioral code still bans homosexual acts, along with any kind of sex outside of marriage, Roose says that Liberty’s muted official response to recent Supreme Court arguments over gay marriage was telling.

But Liberty’s chancellor, Jerry Falwell Jr., told Roose that the school is not going liberal on gay marriage or other social matters. Although the university takes no official positions on political issues, “most of our faculty, staff and students are very conservative politically and theologically. I do not see that changing at all,” Falwell said, noting that in the 2012 election, Mitt Romney won 93 percent of the vote in Liberty’s voting precinct.

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