Liberty University named among ‘worst colleges for free speech’

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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WWBT) — Liberty has a problem with freedom.

According to an analysis by The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Liberty University is among the worst colleges for free speech in the United States.

The school in Lynchburg was singled out for making promises of allowing free speech but at the same time censoring the school’s newspaper, the Liberty Champion.

FIRE quoted Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. saying in 2016 that the university “promotes the free expression of ideas unlike many major universities where political correctness prevents conservative students from speaking out.”

But, FIRE said, reports about censorship of the Champion — specifically cutting a column that was critical of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump over a video tape of him from “Access Hollywood” where he condoned sexual assault — show that Falwell's statement has not played out in action.

It also cited a Champion article about unmarried students who were pregnant being removed prior to publication last year.

A widely shared report in 2018 quoted Bruce Kirk, Dean of the School of Communication and Digital Content at Liberty, as telling the staffers of the newspaper, "Your job is to keep the LU reputation and the image as it is. … Don’t destroy the image of LU. Pretty simple. OK? Well you might say, ‘Well, that’s not my job, my job is to do journalism. My job is to be First Amendment. My job is to go out and dig and investigate, and I should do anything I want to do because I’m a journalist.’ So let’s get that notion out of your head. OK?”

FIRE also noted that Liberty is a private institution and therefore not bound to protect the rights outlined in the First Amendment of the Constitution.

The full list is as follows (alphabetically):

• Alabama A&M University
• Dixie State University
• Georgetown University Qatar
• Liberty University
• Plymouth State University
• Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
• Syracuse University
• University of Kansas
• University of North Alabama
• University of Wisconsin System