Campus security at Liberty University escorted Christian author and anti-Trump speaker Jonathan Martin (below) from campus on Monday, warning him never to come back or else he could be arrested.
Well known for his ultra-conservative politics, Liberty’s president, Jerry Falwell Jr., has called Donald Trump a “dream president” for evangelicals. More than that, Falwell has demonstrated severe intolerance for anyone who disagrees with him, as Martin learned the hard way. Martin had been hoping to meet with students and alumni to organize a prayer meeting as a way to protest the school’s politics and borderline fascist policies that prohibit free speech.
“This is a crucial moment in history,” Martin had tweeted before the incident. “What you do with it matters. So I hope you will still come & seek divine wisdom to be faithful in it.”
This is a crucial moment in history, & what you do with it matters–so I hope you will still come & seek divine wisdom to be faithful in it.
— Jonathan Martin (@theboyonthebike) October 31, 2017
Clearly, that meeting did not go as planned.
But the school, unbelievably, claims it did not intend to silence Martin or his supporters. Falwell seemed concerned that Martin was taking advantage of the campus in order to create a publicity stunt:
“It may be possible that Jonathan Martin knew his unauthorized event would ultimately not be permitted to occur on the private property of Liberty University but he simply hoped to garner more attention to his cause by having his efforts stopped. So be it. The judgment was made that it was safer to stop the event before it started than to attempt to turn away an unknown number of people who traveled to Liberty’s campus. Either option likely gives Mr. Martin’s cause the publicity he apparently seeks. The University cannot be concerned with whether its actions provide additional oxygen to either side of a debate but rather must be concerned about safety and security of its campus.”
Falwell is right that having Martin forcibly removed from campus only fueled his purpose for being there. Unless there was a riot, however, calling campus security that far in advance only made Falwell look more intolerant, oversensitive, and paranoid than we already know he is. Jonathan Merritt, writing for The Atlantic, noted as much:
Conservative Christians often complain about so-called liberal “snowflakes” being intolerant of differing views on secular campuses. The question for leaders like Falwell is whether they are willing to do unto others as they would have others do unto their fellow Christians.
More than that, fundamentalists like Falwell believe that they possess Absolute Truth. If that’s the case, how can a little bit of harmless protest ruin that?