Liberty U Bans, Threatens To Arrest Christian Critic of Falwell

Liberty U President Jerry Falwell Jr. praising Donald Trump at 2016 Republican National Convention (Photo: Image from C-SPAN coverage)

When evangelical leader and author Shane Claiborne wrote Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. to request that they meet and pray together this weekend, Liberty responded with a written threat that Claiborne will be arrested if he steps foot on any property owned by Liberty or by Thomas Road Baptist Church. Claiborne has been publicly challenging Falwell to debate whether Jesus would support President Trump.

Claiborne is the leader of The Simple Way in Philadelphia and co-director of Red Letter Christians, a group that “mobilizes individuals into a movement of believers who live out Jesus’ counter-cultural teachings,” including opposition to materialism and capital punishment. “It’s time for a Christianity that looks like Jesus again,” the group says. Claiborne’s co-director, evangelist Tony Campolo, told Baptist News this week, “As evangelicalism moves more and more to the right, it’s safe to say evangelicalism looks more and more like the Tea Party,” something he called “dangerous.”

Claiborne will be in Lynchburg this weekend for the “Red Letter Revival” that his group is holding and he asked Falwell for permission to hold a prayer vigil on campus with Liberty students and alumni. His email invited Falwell to attend the revival and said the campus prayer vigil was planned for Saturday afternoon.

Claiborne shared his letter and the response from Liberty University’s police department on his Facebook page Thursday night. The letter warns that under Virginia law, trespassing is a misdemeanor “punishable by confinement in jail for not more than twelve months or a fine of not more than $2,500, or both.”

Falwell has been criticized by a former Liberty board member and some alumni for his public adoration of Donald Trump, but he seemingly has about as much tolerance of criticism as his political hero. In 2016, a column written by a student for the campus newspaper criticizing Trump’s “Access Hollywood” comments bragging about sexually assaulting women “was preemptively censored at Falwell’s request,” Politico reported. Last fall, anti-Trump Christian author Jonathan Martin was escorted off campus by police and warned that he would be arrested if he ever came back.