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.

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