LU cracks down on protesters after evangelist Jonathan Martin was booted from campus

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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) -- Liberty University is cracking down on people who want to protest on their campus.


The move comes after an evangelical Christian author was removed from school property Monday night.

Martin says he's banned from LU for criticizing school president Jerry Falwell Junior, a longtime supporter of President Donald Trump.

Martin, a pastor based in Oklahoma, posted to social media Tuesday saying he was removed by Liberty University police while visiting band members backstage after a campus concert.

In a lengthy response, the university said Martin was removed because officials believed he intended to hold an unauthorized event on campus.

Last Friday, Martin took to social media, calling for a peaceful protest at Liberty and criticizing Jerry Falwell Junior and Steve Bannon.

Falwell responded saying the campus is private property, and that Martin did not follow protocols such as providing advance notice and receiving authorization for campus events. "Even the city requires protesters to get a permit,” Falwell explained. "That's always been our policy and we stuck with it the other day."

Students who follow Martin and were planning to attend his gathering say there is strong dissent over how Falwell mixes Christianity with politics, especially that of President Trump. "This goes back to Jerry's advocacy for the election of Donald Trump and his willingness to apologize for things that make really strange spiritual abstractions,” said LU student, Nathanial Totten.

Totten says the planned gathering was only going to be a prayer meeting, but school leaders felt otherwise. "It was obvious it was a protest disguised at a prayer meeting because of things he had Tweeted about Liberty,” Falwell said. "We feel like we owe it to our students that pay to go to a private school, to keep only those who are invited on campus."

Campus leaders say student safety is their top priority. “The difference is a constructive conversation where we invite someone to come on our campus versus someone who just self invites themselves and we have to wake up every day and think about the safety of our students," explained David Nasser, the vice president of Spiritual Development at the university.

According to Liberty Univeristy's external events guidelines, a request form must be submitted to the university two weeks prior to the event.

LU says they welcome "peaceful debate," but felt that that wasn't Martin's intentions.

You can read LU's full statement below:

"Members of the Liberty University community are always welcome to engage in peaceful debate, intellectual inquiry and protest, but for public safety reasons, organized events by outside groups require advance notice and participating in the appropriate application process. Liberty University learned via social media of an attempt by Jonathan Martin to schedule an event on its private campus without any prior authorization or consultation. Mr. Martin is not a student, faculty member or employee of Liberty University. There are facility use protocols for those who are not members of the University community to schedule events on the campus. Those protocols take into account safety and security, as well as schedule conflicts and costs. Absent such pre-planning and authorization, an event promoted to the general public on social media has the potential to be a security risk. Given the late hour of the notice, the only effective way to prevent the unauthorized event from happening this morning was to issue a trespass warning to its organizer, Mr. Martin, last evening. This was done in a professional and matter of fact manner by Liberty University Police Department.

In light of the climate of protests associated with campuses across the country, Liberty University takes seriously its obligation to preserve and maintain campus safety and security. While University community members can freely make arrangements for their events, those who are not members of the University community have a higher burden to be granted access to Liberty University’s facilities for their private purposes. Even so, from time to time the University has made places available for outside groups to stage protests. Typically, however, those groups are directed off campus, especially where there are no tie-ins with a student organization or other member of the University community.

It may be possible that Jonathan Martin knew his unauthorized event would ultimately not be permitted to occur on the private property of Liberty University but he simply hoped to garner more attention to his cause by having his efforts stopped. So be it. The judgment was made that it was safer to stop the event before it started than to attempt to turn away an unknown number of people who traveled to Liberty’s campus. Either option likely gives Mr. Martin’s cause the publicity he apparently seeks. The University cannot be concerned with whether its actions provide additional oxygen to either side of a debate but rather must be concerned about safety and security of its campus. "