Can Liberty University Ban College Democrats?

As many may have already seen, Jerry Falwell's Liberty University has moved to preclude the College Democrats from officially organizing on the campus while allowing College Republicans to continue to operate.

Liberty University will no longer recognize its campus Democratic club because, officials say, the national party's platform goes against the conservative Christian school's moral principles.

[...]

The college officials "let the Liberty University College Republicans stay on campus, but they don't let us," said Brian Diaz, 18, the club's president. "Sounds like censorship to me."

When reading this news I immediately thought about a case I read for a non-profit tax class I took this spring, American Campaign Academy v. C.I.R., 92 T.C. 1053 (1989), in which the Tax Court stripped the exemption of a purportedly educational organization for acting in an excessively partisan manner. In that case, an academy was created to teach individuals the skills necessary to work in political campaigns. All of the graduates of the academy went on to work for Republican candidates, and the academy itself stemmed from a similar training program previously administered by the National Republican Congressional Committee.

It's worth noting that the facts of the Liberty University situation do not exactly comport with those in American Campaign Academy. Although the late Jerry Falwell played an important role in the Republican coalition and Liberty University itself has been used by Republicans for important addresses, the nexus between the institution and the GOP is considerably more attenuated than the connection between the American Campaign Academy and the NRCC.

That said, it appears that Liberty University is endorsing a Republican Party organization while barring a Democratic Party organization. Whether this action rises to the level of the type of excessively partisan action the Tax Court has already ruled to run afoul of laws regulating non-profit organizations remains to be seen. But it seems to me to be worth exploring, at the least.

Tags: College Democrats, liberty university, Tax Law (all tags)

Comments

41 Comments

Re: Can Liberty University Ban College Democrats?

This is the sort of disgusting behavior we should all have come to expect from Liberty University; that being said, you have to wonder how someone who is a Democrat, let alone someone who would be involved in the College Dems, winds up at that institution...

by JDF 2009-05-24 11:59AM | 0 recs
maybe these people

didn't start thinking for themselves until after the got to college.

One of my friends was raised in a Republican robot family and attended a conservative Christian college in California. She only gradually started thinking critically. She told me a story about being blown away to hear someone she respected make a positive comment about Jimmy Carter, who was practically considered the anti-Christ in her family.

by desmoinesdem 2009-05-24 03:30PM | 0 recs
Re: Can Liberty University Ban College Democrats?

I am not a legal-eagle, but a lot will depend on what relationships the courts say a private institution, like Liberty, with their affiliated groups. That would never fly at a public college. However Liberty being a private university with its explicit stated purpose may be able to argue that they have the right to exclude groups that fall outside of those parameters that are not otherwise fall under Federal equal protection laws.

It does surprise me that there are people that would choose Liberty as well as be involved in Democratic politics - on the same token it does indicate a healthy wide-tent party. I would rather be talking about this story than the reverse where the DNC shuns a College Dem group because they don't like Liberty.

by southerndemnut 2009-05-24 12:19PM | 0 recs
Right to discriminate stops at tax office door

I'm not a lawyer, but I used to work for a 501 C3 and if Liberty claims tax-exempt status they can't endorse a political party. It could be an interesting case if the IRS decided to review their status.

As Wikipedia reports:

Organizations described in section 501(c)(3) are prohibited from conducting political campaign activities to intervene in elections to public office. [1] The Internal Revenue Service website elaborates upon this prohibition as follows:
"Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.
"Certain activities or expenditures may not be prohibited depending on the facts and circumstances. For example, certain voter education activities (including presenting public forums and publishing voter education guides) conducted in a non-partisan manner do not constitute prohibited political campaign activity. In addition, other activities intended to encourage people to participate in the electoral process, such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, would not be prohibited political campaign activity if conducted in a non-partisan manner.
"On the other hand, voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.
"The Internal Revenue Service provides resources to exempt organizations and the public to help them understand the prohibition. As part of its examination program, the IRS also monitors whether organizations are complying with the prohibition."

by jcullen 2009-05-24 04:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Right to discriminate stops at tax office door

I'm not a lawyer, but I used to work for a 501 C3 and if Liberty claims tax-exempt status they can't endorse a political party. It could be an interesting case if the IRS decided to review their status.

I'm also not a lawyer, but I recognize this as a trail of false logic.  Liberty is rejecting college Democrats because the University contends the platform to which the College Dems subscribe is contrary to the Universities values of what is "good and moral" - or something like that.  They aren't banning any other party affiliated groups (nor do I know if any others exist).  The question is to apply this to a different group and see how your reaction would differ or would it remain constant?  If the group was the 'Junior Klansman' or the 'Future Trial Lawyers' or the 'College Communists'...what if the group was the 'Jews for an end to Christianity'?

Is what they are doing disgusting? Yes.  Is there a potential for it to impact their sources of public funding and tax exempt status? Possibly.  Bring evidence and a fully connected arguement rather than doing what our awful traditional media "journalists" do with a half-baked accusatory question.

Having had the experience of campaigning for Democrats in the community in question, I know there are Democrats there.  Certainly outnumbered, but present nonetheless, and growing.  Should we support these young Dems? Absolutely.  Should we engage in deceitful rhetorical tactics?  Pass.  Bring it with truth.

by mp 2009-05-24 05:19PM | 0 recs
Where is the false logic?

It's in the law: If Liberty claims tax-exempt status, they "are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign .." I think that prohibits Liberty U from approving and funding the Republican-affiliated group while banning the Democratic Party. I don't understand how that is a "half-baked accusatory question."

by jcullen 2009-05-25 10:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Where is the false logic?

The act of allowing chartered groups on campus is not endorsing or funding.  That is the false logic.

They are rejected a campus group based on a claim that it is counter to the tenants of the university.  They are not simultaneously endorsing or increasing support to the College Republicans (or the College Libertarians, Greens, Socialists, whatever).

Read the quote you pasted.  You are making a long stretch to associate the permitting of clubs bearing the name and ideals of the parties as "any political campaign".  Further the "funding" part is problematic in that the clubs (at most universities) receive no University funding, they are self sustained or cease to exist on their own.

I'm not supportive of Liberty U's decision, and I find it to be wrought with evil political intent.  Take care in what line of legal or rhetorical assault you take giving us a better chance at a victory.

by mp 2009-05-26 06:18AM | 0 recs
You are absolutely correct

By giving College Republicans recognition, and allowing them university resources and funds to organize and recruit, and refusing College Democrats the same status, Liberty University is endorsing a political party.  

Liberty University has the right to do this.  Churches have the right to do this as well.  But by endorsing a political party, churches, as well as universities lose tax exempt status, and a university loses federal funds, including federal Pell grants for students, and subsidized student loans.

Any douchebags out there wanna tell me this is false logic?

by Winston Smith 2009-05-24 08:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Can Liberty University Ban College Democrats?

Welll its just plain sillyness for sure. Of course, colleges that ban military recruiters from setting up on campuses are also wrong. The military is responsible for the protection of our nation and they do a darn fine job. To keep them of campuses for political or so called moral reasoning just isnt acceptable to me.

by BuckeyeBlogger 2009-05-24 12:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Can Liberty University Ban College Democrats?

The reasons many schools opt to ban recruiters on campus are not political, they are based on problems created by the lack of quality oversight and less than ethical behavior among recruiters - particularly when they use stress periods on campus to recruit the kids when they are at their lowest point.

by mp 2009-05-24 05:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Can Liberty University Ban College Democrats?

Well perhaps there have been cases of that being true, but there also have been many cases where schools have simply been outspoken of their disdain for the military....that I find extremely offensive.

by BuckeyeBlogger 2009-05-24 06:10PM | 0 recs
'Offensive' is Subjective

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-24 11:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Many cases

which you conveniently refrain from documenting. My guess is that you imagined them from some report you heard on FOX or from Hannity or even that high priest of Satan, Rush Limbaugh.

If you want to make accusations, you should back them up. After all, 'Bearing False Witness' is something you should try to avoid - and you know why...

by QTG 2009-05-25 05:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Many cases

Both Yale and Harvard banned military recruiters from campus on the basis of the military policy of gays in the military. However in 2006 the US Supreme Court ruled that they cannto do so. Also the University of California Law School adopted a similar policy which was also ruled illegal by the court. Woudl you like more examples.

Maybe on memorial day you might appreciate and honor the military.

by BuckeyeBlogger 2009-05-25 06:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Many cases

 I AM a veteran, so save your right wing fake patriotism for your fellow chicken hawks. I spit on cowards who pretend to respect my service. You know nothing about liberty, and even less about honor.

by QTG 2009-05-25 07:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Many cases

Normally I would make some comment about having a little class here...but well, it is Memorial Day and you are a Veteran...and the guy you are responding to is a giant douche... so have your say :-D

by JDF 2009-05-25 02:22PM | 0 recs
Re: So you actually

 are pretty reasonable, after all. You shouldn't give the dead a blanket amnesty, though.

by QTG 2009-05-25 02:31PM | 0 recs
Re: So you actually

The dead are...follow me on this now... DEAD.

They are gone, they are no more, they have ceased to be.

All of that being true, they are certainly not here to defend themselves, or commit actions that deserve further scorn. You want to blast Liberty University, go for it. I just find something inherently wrong with attacking the dead... I am not saying you have to say nice things about Falwell or Hitler, I am just suggesting that commenting, on their place in the afterlife, or otherwise is probably beneath someone with your wit and intelligence. By the way, bravo on your poste RE: wanting to go the moon and perform brain surgery.

by JDF 2009-05-26 06:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Many cases

You calling me a douche?

by BuckeyeBlogger 2009-05-25 04:21PM | 0 recs
ummmm.....

:-)

by JDF 2009-05-26 06:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Many cases

Excuse me but although I didnt serve due to a medical disability, I have family members that do and did. So dont give me the attitude. Just becuase you seem to carry a chip on your shoulder doesnt justify your language and behavior.

by BuckeyeBlogger 2009-05-25 04:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Sure

 and you probably have family or friends who went to college, so the combination gives you the authority to judge both universities' worthiness and everyone on the planet's patriotism. You just suck.

by QTG 2009-05-25 06:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Sure

Where did I judge anyones patriotism. I simply stated that thought it was basically wrong to deny military recruiters access to college campuses on the basis of a university having issues with military policy. I also stated that it would be nice to see people support service past and present on memorial day. How is that offensive or attacking ones patriotism. It just sounds to me like your bitter and cant tolerate opinions other than your own. Thats just pretty sad. You can try and insult me, call me names all you want, it doesnt change my right to express myself in a respectful manner.

by BuckeyeBlogger 2009-05-25 06:37PM | 0 recs
Re: Well

 it certainly is convenient that you defend the "right" of recruiters of the rights of private institutions. After all, those recruiters certainly were never going to convince you to put your ass on the line. Much better that some gay guy or gal hide who they are and stand in the breach for your right to deny them their rights. I have nothing but contempt for you and your hypocrisy, and might add that there are fora more suited to those of your ilk.

by QTG 2009-05-26 02:26AM | 0 recs
Re: typo

s/b "you defend the "right" of recruiters and would deny the rights of private institutions."

by QTG 2009-05-26 02:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Well

Excuse me genius, but I would have loved to have served, but a medical disability despite my protest did not allow me to. So dont somehow imply I am some sort of sideliner spouting off. Again it just sounds to me like your bitter. As for the comment that private institutions shouldnt be required to allow them on campus. Well if they accept public money and deferral of taxes as Yale and Harvard have done, then they should either give the money back or shut up...

by BuckeyeBlogger 2009-05-26 07:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Well

Let me just give you back the same illogical line of which you so generously give to me:

I would have loved to go to the moon, but they wouldn't let me. That having been said, I am as knowledgeable of space matters as those who did get lucky enough to go, and I am shocked that NASA is considering a reconsideration of BUSH the DUFUS's plans to go to MARS. Shocked I tell you! Also, although I am not a brain surgeon, I wanted to be one - but they wouldn't let me, so I am fully qualified to say that Brain Dead people are just as lucid as anyone, and should not be allowed to expire unless I say so. While I'm busy giving you my expert opinion on crap I know nothing about, let me just say that there is nothing I am not an expert on because I would have loved to be an expert on everything, but the lousy bastidges wouldn't let me!!!!

by QTG 2009-05-26 12:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Well

Once again, you prove your a bitter, ignorant nitwit.....your argument and logic makes no sense. By your logic, because someone never played professional baseball for example, they could never serve as a manager or GM. Thats been proven wrong....because someone never actually went to the moon or flew an aircraft, they could possibly be qualified to design and engineer one. Wrong again....your arguments are just stupid....I am done wasting time with your bizarre logic..

by BuckeyeBlogger 2009-05-26 05:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Well

 disrespect a Veteran, I would expect nothing less than a coward hiding behind his mother's skirt.

by QTG 2009-05-26 05:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Well

Are you kidding? You have been nothing less than rude and disrespectful to me simply due to the fact you didnt agree with my opinion. I had been nothing but respectful until your last post when you continued to hurl insults. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

I am through trying to have a conversation with someone who is blinded by bitterness.

Good luck sir, I wish you no ill will despite our difference and your earlier comments.

by BuckeyeBlogger 2009-05-26 06:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Well
No, I'm not kidding. Yes, I have nothing but rude disrespect for you. No, I don't give a crap about your opinion.
 Your faux respect is neither appreciated nor required. I'm not having a conversation with you, I am peppering you with well deserved insults. I'm not blind. I see you for what you are. I don't want your good wishes and frankly don't give a shit one way or the other about your feelings toward me.
by QTG 2009-05-27 06:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Who cares?

 Since Jerry went to Hell for his eternal reward, his evil spawn has been fulminating over the lack of attention his corpulent self has not been able to attract. Ignore him and his meaningless covey of zombie followers. Any attention we pay to him and his cult will only encourage him.

by QTG 2009-05-24 02:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Who cares?

Completely classless QTG. I know you are just here "for fun," but there is no reason for a comment such as this.

by JDF 2009-05-24 05:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Who cares?

well said...

by BuckeyeBlogger 2009-05-24 06:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Class

 Anyone who understands the rules knows that Jerry Falwell is burning in Hell right now.

by QTG 2009-05-25 05:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Class

I don't believe in Hell...beyond that I just find it kind of petty to spit on the dead.

by JDF 2009-05-25 02:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Spitting

on the dead is a purely political statement, while spitting on the living has a strong personal component. I'll do either when it's appropriate, but I really fail to understand why it's the political one that offends you and the personal one not so much. That's kinda odd.

by QTG 2009-05-25 03:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Spitting

First of all you have no clue what offends me. I didn't comment at all on my personal feelings- I just pointed out that what you said lacked class.

If I have to explain to you why it was classless then you are beyond hope anyway, as to spitting on the living, offer some evidence that it doesn't offend me and then we will have a conversation.

by JDF 2009-05-26 06:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Spitting

 you commented on spitting on the dead. If spitting in general was causing you the problem then you shouldn't have limited your criticism. The fact that you did shows that your concern is focused, not diffuse. If I ever gave you the impression that what offends you was at all interesting to me, I apologize. Nothing interests me less.

by QTG 2009-05-27 12:49PM | 0 recs
Re: Spitting

See, thats just not true. It might not interest you much but I feel pretty confident that there are things that interest you less.

by JDF 2009-05-28 01:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Can Liberty University Ban College Democrats?

So does the college support the death penalty as the Republican Party does? How about the war in Iraq?

by fbihop 2009-05-24 11:19PM | 0 recs

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