Nice Work, Falwell: Evangelist Snatched from Liberty University Campus for Threatening to Pray

Let me begin by saying, if you are threatened by groups of people praying, then the people praying are not the problem. The problem is you, and you really need to reassess your life.

Let me further say, if you’re the president of a Christian college, with a tag line that reads “Champions for Christ” and you’re threatened by prayer, then you’re simply a fraud.

But then, we all know about Jerry Falwell Jr’s mercenary faith, by now.

On Monday evening, after a concert on the campus of Liberty University, Falwell directed Liberty officers to remove an evangelical pastor and author from the campus, with orders that if he were to ever return, he would be arrested.

Jonathan Martin’s picture was taken, and he was presented with a citation that had been signed at 10:05pm that night. He later posted a picture of the citation to social media.

So what was Martin’s crime? He was actually there on the campus as a guest of the artists who were performing, Johnnyswim, and was removed while socializing in the backstage area.

Martin was marked a “threat” because he opposes Falwell’s embrace of Donald Trump and has been quite vocal about it.

Specifically, Falwell’s recent, fawning interview with Breitbart, where he praised the efforts of Steve Bannon, rubbed Martin’s spirit wrong.

Why is the head of a Christian college embracing the alt-right, and all the ugly, white nationalist fervor that has followed so close behind it? What message does that send to the world?

On Twitter, Martin said:

“Let’s be clear: Steve Bannon is a brazen white supremacist & the high priest of a false religion. He blasphemes the Holy Spirit,” Martin wrote in a series of tweets critical of Falwell and Bannon.

The plan was for Martin to gather with students at 7am on Tuesday morning, in front of the Jerry Falwell Library, in order to pray.

“What does it mean for a college administration to be this afraid of free speech? What precisely is @JerryFalwellJr afraid of?” Martin tweeted early Tuesday morning following Monday’s incident.

Also:

Martin also elaborated on the incident in a Facebook post: “This was evidently in response to my strong criticism of Jerry Falwell Jr.’s alignment not only with the darkest contours of Trumpism, but expressly with Steve Bannon & the alt-right he represents. I came to the show tonight as a guest of JOHNNYSWIM. I committed no crime (except perhaps to sing too loudly to my favorite JOHNNYSWIM songs) I was openly considering some sort of future action oriented around prayer & repentance, but came this time only for the show & for a time of prayer tomorrow morning to seek divine guidance as to what faithful, humble-but-clear Christian resistance might look like.”

To be clear, Liberty University is a private college and they can set the rules as they see fit. This, however, seemed a little too convenient. They removed a pastor at a moment when he was doing nothing but enjoying a show – where he was an invited guest, no less – and threatened him with arrest if he ever returned.

Because he wanted to pray.

Said Falwell in a Tuesday phone interview:

“He wanted to showboat; he wanted to get some attention. If we allowed him to come on campus and protest uninvited, then the next group that comes in might be a violent group, and we’ve seen recently what that can lead to,” Falwell said, referencing violent protests in Charlottesville in August.

He added he believes uninvited protests can lead to a disruption of the educational environment.

“It’s a private school, it’s private property, go somewhere else to protest,” Falwell said.

He went on to accuse Martin of “intolerance” because of his criticism of Christians supporting Trump.

Would that be more intolerant than shutting down a student group that wanted to lodge a protest letter, distancing themselves from a school president who supported a candidate they saw as anathema to the Christian faith and values the school supposedly was built on?

Could it be more intolerant than driving out a board member whose family had been a part of the foundation of the school from the beginning, simply because he opposed the president’s chosen presidential candidate?

On Tuesday morning, around 15 students did gather outside the library to pray, as originally planned. They prayed, as Liberty police watched over them.

Nope. Nothing dystopian about that.

A recent Liberty graduate, Kenny Delevante said that afterwards, the group met with Martin off campus, for a 90 minute discussion of “what Christianity should represent, power dynamics in administration, stigmas that exist in the student body and how things can turn around.”

The band that hosted Martin on Monday night chimed in, as well.

On Twitter, JOHNNYSWIM referred to Martin’s removal from their dressing room as “a ridiculous act” by LUPD. On Instagram, band member Abner Ramirez posted a video describing how LUPD officers entered the band’s dressing room after the show and removed Martin from campus. He noted JOHNNYSWIM has always been treated well when performing at LU.

“[It’s] just a very weird thing for a Christian school to do, especially one that shows such great hospitality,” Ramirez said.

Weird thing for any school, but for a Christian school to respond in such an oppressive, authoritarian manner to someone whose stated goal was just to lead a prayer group, it’s so much worse.