Donald Trump is beginning to lose his evangelical base as right-wing Christians find themselves unable to accept the former reality show star’s defense of Nazis who marched in his name in Charlottesville, Virginia. The jaw-dropping event showing the Trump supporters storming the streets of the city with Tiki torches while giving Nazi salutes as they shouted ‘Blood and soil’ (a Nazi Germany era slogan) and ‘Jews will not replace us!’ has left them no choice.
A group of Liberty University alumni has had it with their school’s president for his continued alignment with Trump.
A small but growing number of Liberty University graduates are preparing to return diplomas to their school. The graduates are protesting university President Jerry Falwell Jr.’s ongoing support for Trump. They began organizing after Trump’s divisive remarks about the deadly white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Va.
Chris Gaumer, a former Student Government Association president and 2006 Liberty graduate, told NPR that it was a simple decision for him.
“I’m sending my diploma back because the president of the United States is defending Nazis and white supremacists,” Gaumer said. “And in defending the president’s comments, Jerry Falwell Jr. is making himself and, it seems to me, the university he represents, complicit.”
Trump received a backlash following his lackadaisical response to the murder of Heather Heyer, 32, the deaths of two police officers and the dozens of people injured during the ‘Unite the Right’ hate rally in what most, with the exception of Trump, are condemning as an obvious terror attack.
Trump claimed that there were “very fine people on both sides.”
The following day, Falwell responded in a tweet praising Trump’s statement and added, “So proud of @realdonaldtrump” while the rest of us, including Democrats and Republicans, sounded off over Trump’s lack of directing the blame to the people responsible: his supporters.
According to what a university spokesman told NPR, Falwell “wants to make it clear that he considers all hate groups evil and condemns them in every sense of the word.”
But, it would really help if Falwell had confirmed that by not telling Trump he was “proud” of him for the remarks in which he blamed ‘both sides’ for the violence perpetrated by Nazis.
Several alumni released a group letter to declare their intention to return their diplomas and call for Falwell to repudiate Trump’s remarks.
While this state of affairs has been in place for many months, the Chancellor’s recent comments on the attack upon our neighbors in Charlottesville have brought our outrage and our sorrow to a boiling point. During the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, white supremacists, nationalists, and neo-Nazis perpetrated brutal violence against anti-racist protesters, murdering one woman and injuring many. Instead of condemning racist and white nationalist ideologies, Mr. Trump provided equivocal and contradictory comments. The Chancellor then characterized Mr. Trump’s remarks, which included the claim that some of the persons marching as white nationalists and white supremacists at the rally were ‘very fine people,’ as ‘bold’ and ‘truthful.’ This is incompatible with Liberty University’s stated values, and incompatible with a Christian witness.”
“We’re asking that Liberty University return to its stated values and accept that the pursuit of power is leading it into some dark places, and really repudiate that,” said Georgia Hamann, an alumna, and a Phoenix attorney.
“I was to the point where I didn’t even want to include my alma mater on my resume when I was applying for jobs, just because I think that can be so loaded,” said Rebekah Tilley, a 2002 graduate. “There’s such a strong affiliation now between Liberty University and President Trump that you know that reflects badly on all alumni.”
For Doug Johnson Hatlem, a 1999 graduate who now works as a Mennonite pastor in Ontario, Canada, Charlottesville was a tipping point for many alumni who have been concerned over Liberty University’s association with Trump.
“It really is a watershed moment to have people openly chanting Nazi chants … holding white supremacist signs, and carrying weapons along with all of that, and killing somebody, injuring many in the process,” he said. “For there not to be an unconditional condemnation of that kind of action and behavior is just completely anathema.”
“I’ll have to have my mom dig it out of storage,” Johnson Hatlem said. “But I do plan to send back my diploma to Liberty.”
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