A member of Liberty University’s board of trustees has resigned, saying he cannot support the evangelical school’s decision to endorse businessman Donald Trump for president.
According to the Religion News Service, public affairs executive Mark DeMoss said this week that he disagreed with Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr.’s support for presumptive GOP nominee Trump, who spoke at the influential conservative university in January. DeMoss expressed his displeasure with the endorsement earlier this year, telling the Washington Post that Trump’s insult-laden campaign is not “Christ-like behavior that Liberty has spent 40 years promoting with its students.”
The comments resulted in board members asking DeMoss to step down from their executive committee, a move he said contributed to his decision to abandon his post.
[Trump does not represent] Christ-like behavior that Liberty has spent 40 years promoting with its students.
“While the decision to leave the committee I chaired was not mine, the decision to step down from the board was mine,” he said. “The president/chancellor and the board chair and new executive committee chair were suggesting my motive for speaking to the Post was entirely political (that I was a political pawn of rival campaigns), rather than a genuine concern for the reputation of the university we trustees have (had) a fiduciary responsibility to protect. I concluded if they could not accept the reasons I gave them there was not sufficient trust to continue serving together.”
DeMoss, who was senior adviser to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney during his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, is the latest in a litany of evangelicals who have criticized Trump. Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s political arm, has penned a small library of scathing op-eds decrying Trump, saying evangelicals who support him “must repudiate everything they believe.” Moore was deeply critical of Trump’s appearance of Liberty, unleashing a Tweet storm as Trump spoke, quipping, “This would be hilarious if it weren’t so counter to the mission of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The Christian Post, a popular evangelical publication, also issued a sweeping condemnation of Trump a month later — the first time the magazine has ever taken a position on a candidate.
“This is a critical time in American history and we call on all Christians to pray for personal repentance, divine forgiveness and spiritual awakening for our nation,” the editorial read. “It is not the time for Donald Trump.”
Evangelical distaste for Trump — who nonetheless enjoys healthy support from evangelicals who attend church infrequently — is rooted in a rejection of his self-congratulatory style and struggles with religious literacy. Trump has been unable to name his favorite book of the Bible, declared that he doesn’t need God’s forgiveness because he’s “not making mistakes,” almost mistakenly put money into the communion plate while attending an evangelical service, and sparked peals of laughter when he referred to a book of the Bible as “two Corinthians” — instead of the more common phrase “second Corinthians” — while speaking at Liberty University. He also has shown confusion regarding religious titles: when Trump posted a Tweet celebrating Falwell’s endorsement in January, he referred to the president as “Rev. Jerry Falwell Jr” — even though Falwell is not a reverend or ordained in any capacity.
Trump has irked other religious leaders as well, but enjoys robust support from one group of faithful: preachers of the so-called Prosperity Gospel, a theology that teaches believers they can become wealthy through positive thinking and donating large sums of money to their pastor.