News (USA)

Anti-LGBTQ+ Christian university fined $14 million for failing to report campus crimes

The DeMoss Learning Center at Liberty University
The DeMoss Learning Center at Liberty University Photo: EOverbey via Wikimedia Commons and Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Liberty University — the Christian conservative and anti-LGBTQ private school in Lynchburg, Virginia — has been fined $14 million by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) for not reporting on-campus crimes as required by the Clery Act, a federal law. The fine, the result of a settlement agreement, is the largest fine ever imposed for violating the law.

A recently released DOE report of over 100 pages says that, from 2016 to 2023, the school failed to maintain an accurate and complete list of on-campus crimes, failed to inform university communities members about recent criminal activities (including rapes, physical assaults, robberies, and car thefts) and also dangerous situations (like gas leaks and credible bomb threats). The university also discouraged students from reporting crimes, the DOE found.

Federal investigators compiled the report from interviews with about 100 former and current university employees, employees, students, and parents, NPR reported. The DOE settlement requires Liberty University to spend $2 million on campus safety improvements over the next two years. Federal authorities will also monitor the university during that period.

“While the university maintains that we have repeatedly endured selective and unfair treatment by the Department, the university also concurs there were numerous deficiencies that existed in the past,” the university said in a statement.

“We acknowledge and regret these past failures and have taken these necessary improvements seriously,” the university added, claiming that it has already spent over $10 million towards “significant advancements” to campus safety since 2022.

Liberty University is notoriously anti-LGBTQ+. In 2022, the school banned “statements and behaviors associated with LGBT states of mind.” Queer students can be expelled for their sexual orientation or gender identity, including for any displays of affection with a member of the same sex or for using pronouns not matching one’s gender assigned at birth.

Its founder, Jerry Falwell Sr., repeatedly demonized queer people as a public health threat and a danger to families and Christianity. His son Jerry Falwell Jr. took over after he passed away. After years of sex scandals, financial scandals, COVID-19 scandals, and eventually posting lewd pictures online, Falwell Jr. stepped down and was replaced by anti-LGBTQ extremist Jerry Prevo.

Dozens of former students have come forward, saying that Liberty University would use rape survivors’ stories against them, telling them that they could be punished for violating the school’s bans on drinking, mixed-gender parties, and other rules if they filed complaints against their alleged rapists. A Black gay former employee also sued the university in 2021 for racial discrimination.

The school has received nearly a billion dollars in federal government aid and grants for its students. Recently, gay rapper Lil Nas X jokingly claimed that he got accepted to the university just before he released a religious-themed music video featuring himself dressed as Jesus, playing basketball against Satan, and dancing on water with scantily clad male disciples.

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