5 December 2015
Jerry L. Falwell, Jr.
Chancellor and President
1971 University Blvd
Lynchburg, VA 24515
Dear Chancellor Falwell,
As an alumnus of Liberty University (2013), I was deeply disturbed by your recent comments at convocation regarding Muslims, terrorism, and firearms. There are many problems with your statement, but I will address two here that go beyond my disagreement with your personal political views and show larger problems with the example you are setting for the students at present.
First, you appeal to the ability to conceal carry firearms, even going so far as to claim you are carrying a weapon at that very moment. While I disagree with the University’s decision to increase the danger to students by allowing concealed carry of firearms on the campus, I am even more disturbed by your self-admitted lack of knowledge about the laws regarding how you can carry your firearm. You state that you are unaware of whether you can pull your weapon out to demonstrate your point about firearms: “Is it illegal to pull it out, I don’t know”. If, as you believe, law-abiding citizens should be allowed to carry firearms on your university’s campus, then you have a minimal obligation to be knowledgeable about the laws that you must follow.
Second, you make the following claim directly after claiming to not know the laws surrounding your open carry: “I’ve always thought if more good people had conceal carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed us”. This shows one of two things: that you believe in preemptive killing of Muslims, or that you believe Muslims are terrorists and that concealed carry is important to be able to kill them. Based on the “clarification” to ABC 13 News (“Falwell says he meant to refer to ‘terrorists’ not all Muslims”), I believe you meant the latter. This mindset perpetuates xenophobic mindsets against Muslims and declares them to be terrorists because you evaluate all Muslims through the lens of the worst who practice a religion. May I remind you that Robert Dear, a conservative Christian evangelical, recently went on a terrorist attack against a Planned Parenthood in Colorado, yet nobody is calling all evangelical Christians terrorists. ISIS is clearly a global problem, but demonizing all Muslims only helps their cause. I would not be surprised to see your comments in an ISIS recruiting materials to show that the West is seeking to kill Muslims.
Having lived on campus at Liberty for four years, I am not naïve enough to believe that Liberty will ever become a place where Democrats like me will ever be in the majority. However, I do believe that there is a way to practice your conservative beliefs that does not feed into xenophobia and fear messaging that “the Muslims are out to get us”. While I don’t agree with firearms on campus, at a minimum you have a duty to the students to be certain of the laws and regulations that govern your firearm policy. At a minimum, you have the duty to teach the students that they can practice their faith without threatening violence towards large groups of people based on their religion and stereotypes.
The most shocking thing for me is that both of those lines received laughter and applause from the required audience. You set the tone of the discourse at Liberty. As the chancellor and president, your words carry heavy weight with the student body. Additionally, Liberty’s history and status as the educational heart of the religious right places your words in a powerful position in the conservative movement. Unfortunately, you have chosen words that not only create fear, xenophobia, and lax understanding of the laws surrounding firearms, but you have passed those values onto a student body. As an alumnus, I stand with the current Liberty students (both Republican and Democrat) openly disagreeing with your poor choice of words. I stand with the Islamic communities who you have declared to be terrorists while they only desire the same thing that lies at the heart of Liberty’s existence: freedom of belief and the freedom to peacefully practice religion.
William King Scott
B.S., Government, Liberty University ‘13
M.A., Communication and Advocacy, James Madison University ‘15