Democratic Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders speaks at anti-gay Christian university
Democratic Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has visited a notoriously anti-gay Christian university, calling for ‘tolerance’ from all sides.
The left-wing Vermont Senator is currently challenging former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party’s Presidential nomination.
A long-time supporter of LGBT rights, Sanders has enjoyed a large amount of support from parts of the gay community who remain unconvinced by Hillary Clinton’s approach to LGBT issues.
However, the Senator raised eyebrows this week, by visiting Christian school Liberty University – which is known as a hub of deeply homophobic views.
The Virginia university was founded by anti-gay pastor Jerry Falwell, who claimed that gay people were to blame for 9/11, and has long taken a hardline stance, banning all LGBT groups in 2006 on the grounds of ‘morality’.
Kyle Mantyla of extremist watch group Right Wing Watch notes of the university:
From the founding of Liberty’s law school in 2004 until last year, Mat Staver served as dean while also serving as chairman of Liberty Counsel, an anti-gay hate group, which has deep ties to the university. Staver is among the leading anti-gay Religious Right activists today and has a long anti-gay record, having blamed the 2008 financial crisis on banks that “actively promoted the homosexual agenda” and has said that lawmakers who support marriage equality “are not competent for public office.” He has repeatedly called for a “revolution” to protest gay equality and warned that gay rights laws will increase violent crime, kill people, lead to “forced homosexuality,” and eventually destroy America and western civilization.
Staver continues to call for a revolution to fight gay marriage and is currently leading an effort to get anti-gay Christians to ignore any Supreme Court decision striking down gay marriage bans, saying that refusing to obey such a ruling is like refusing to turn a Jew over to the Nazis
Several other anti-gay activists also hold teaching positions at Liberty University, including Shawn Akers, who has said that measures to prevent the bullying of LGBT youth are “a form of indoctrination and reeducation that smacks of socialist and Communist countries” and accused gay rights advocates of bullying Christians and persecuting them in the same way as Adolf Hitler persecuted Jews.
However, despite its deep affiliation with the religious right, Sanders praised the university and called for ‘tolerance’.
He told students and staff: “I understand that issues such as abortion and gay marriage are very important to you and that we disagree on those issues. I get that.
“But let me respectfully suggest that there are other issues out there that are of enormous consequence to our country and the world and that maybe, just maybe, we don’t disagree on them. And maybe, just maybe, we can work together in trying to resolve them.”
He added: “I believe that it is important for those with different views in our country to engage in civil discourse — not just to shout at each other or make fun of each other.
“It is very easy for those in politics to talk to those who agree with us. I do that every day. It is harder, but not less important, to try to communicate with those who do not agree with us.”