Virginia Gov: Falwell Shouldn’t Encourage Students’ Return (1)

(Adds three new grafs at the bottom offering comment from the University)

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam called on Jerry Falwell Jr. to stop encouraging students to return to Liberty University during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have heard too many mixed messages about COVID-19, and this is yet another example,” Northam (D) said Wednesday. “Our message has been clear, and continues to be clear: Stay home unless you have to leave for essential reasons.”

He urged Falwell, president of the university in Lynchburg, Va., to follow the actions of leaders of other Virginia universities who have set “a strong example in this health crisis” by closing their campuses.

Quotes Scripture

“As we are told in First Corinthians, ‘It is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful,’” Northam said. “Proving faithful means providing clear and consistent guidance, and it means respecting the duty that Liberty University has to its students, its staff, the Lynchburg community, and our commonwealth.”

In response, Liberty University issued a statement Wednesday that also quoted Scripture: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” The university said it has complied with Northam’s directives and will continue to do so.

Only about 10% of the school’s residential students are currently on campus, and many are international students who did not leave the country on spring break and “have nowhere else to go,” according to the statement. Those students are taking classes and attending events online, but not in person, it said.

“Our students are part of the Lynchburg community!” the statement continued. “They work jobs, have apartments, make economic contributions, and pay taxes. That they should be banned or discouraged from choosing to utilize the shelter and food sources that they paid for in a time of crisis is unthinkable.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Tripp Baltz in Denver at abaltz@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tina May at tmay@bloomberglaw.com

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