Liberty U's reputation for discrimination jeopardizes expansion

Residents of Northfield, Massachusetts aren't so sure they want the college founded by Jerry Falwell for a neighbor. Liberty University would like to open a satellite campus on the 217 acre campus of what was once a prep school, but at least some prospective neighbors don't like what Liberty stands for.

G. Jeffrey McDonald has the story for The Boston Globe:

“What makes [Liberty] a really bad fit is the matter of bigotry against certain groups, [namely] gays and lesbians,’’ said Northfield resident Nancy Champoux, a retired teacher who attended the meeting. “Unless we’re all involved [in finding a good fit], it’s really unlikely this is going to work out well for anyone.’’

Liberty emerged last month as a leading contender to receive - free of charge - the campus that the Northfield Mount Hermon School sold for $100,000 in 2009 to the billionaire Green family of Oklahoma City. ....

Sunday’s meeting came on the heels of other efforts to make sure Liberty is not chosen. Last week, more than 1,000 Mount Hermon alumni petitioned the school’s board of trustees to protest the prospect of Liberty getting the campus.

In their petition, Mount Hermon alumni described Liberty as “an extremist, homophobic, and intellectually narrow institution’’ that would not honor the legacy of evangelist D.L. Moody, who built the campus as a school for girls in 1879.

Comments (11)

I wasn't aware that "don't like their philosophy" is grounds to keep someone from moving into your neighborhood.

I don't think it's a matter of philosophy when a group actively and aggressively discriminates against a minority. If they have the right to their standards then so does the neighborhood that seeks to exclude them.

The laws of Virginia and Massachusetts are very different when it comes to discrimination: could Liberty U even abide w/in Massachusetts' laws?

[Lemme guess: we could expect court case after court case, where Liberty-trained lawyers would claim Massachusetts laws didn't apply to them! The standard "Our 'Religious Freedom' trumps everyone else's {sinful desires}" meme that's become so ubiquitous in 2012]

So this Green family would give them the school? With absolutely NO State funding of any sort? Color me sceptical.

I don't know if they could legally be kept out, but I know *I* would be protesting the the new Bigot-Factory in my neighborhood.

JC Fisher

Oh, got it: the Greens are "Hobby Lobby", a company w/ Christianist associations (inc. giving big $$$$ to stridently homophobic organizations)

JC Fisher

Jesse, I am talking about laws. You couldn't stop muslims or buddhists or polygamists from buying the house next door to you, even if you wanted to.

Because people have the right to the free exercise of their religion based on the first amendment.

If a place is zoned as a school and a school buys it or receives it as a gift, then philosophy (and yes, they are exercising a philosophy) is not going to keep it out. Legally.

Claire, you would have a point if Liberty U had outright bought the property for themselves, but that is not the situation here. The property is owned by a family that is considering giving the property to a number of organizations vying for this prize and the neighborhood & community by all means has a right to weigh in and attempt to influence the families decision even if just because they disagree with the universities philosophy.

What institution ends up being given the property can potentially have much more effect on this community than its discriminatory beliefs.

Bro. David
KONY 2012

Because people have the right to the free exercise of their religion based on the first amendment.

Yes, Claire, that's what they'll say (that was my point).

But they're not a church, they're a university (seeking accreditation, I assume?). Can they operate that university within Massachusetts' laws?

[I recall the recent SCOTUS decision, finding for a Lutheran School. They ruled a religion teacher was a "minister", and hence they didn't have to uphold the ADA towards her claim. I expect Liberty U will make similar claims re their employment policies]

Liberty U in Massachusetts is a legal "accident waiting to happen".

JC Fisher

Also note Liberty University's role in an on-going child-custody KIDNAPPING case.

Claire, you couldn't stop an individual from moving in next door, no. That's not what we're talking about here, though. People can (and frequently do) object to changes in their neighborhood in a variety of ways. And if you read the article, it doesn't seem to focus on legal challenges to Liberty's new campus.

I expect the neighbors who don't like Liberty's policies will have similar concerns against the other groups being considered as "a diverse set of candidates within orthodox Christianity" is likely to share some beliefs with Liberty University.

The neighborhood is obviously gathering to try to influence the family, but from what I read of the family, they are likely to give the property to someone who shares their very conservative Christian views.

I don't know Massachusetts laws about employment, but I do know the principles of private property ownership and separation of church and state, and I don't understand the argument that Liberty U (or something like it) would not have first amendment protection as it is clearly a religious institution and will rely on its doctrines if its employment or what it teaches are challenged.

610 CMR 2.07 covers out-of-state institution that want to award degrees in Massachusetts. There is a public hearing process, and Massachusetts specifically lists sexual orientation in its discrimination policy.

Guy Butler

It is fine to discriminate against a creed, but not sexual orientation?

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