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Liberty students elect a delegate

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By Rick Howell

    For a while on Election night, it looked as though Lynchburg Delegate Shannon Valentine, a Democrat, had survived the slings and arrows of a very negative campaign aimed at her by Republican Scott Garrett.

    With only one precinct still not reporting, Valentine had 53 percent of the ballots cast, roughly a 1,400 vote lead. But it was not to be, because the one precinct that was out was Heritage Elementary School, where Liberty University students had been shipped out in buses to vote.

    They didn’t have to worry about missing classes. The school’s very political chancellor, Jerry Falwell Jr., had cancelled those so his young charges could go out and vote for whomever had an “R” by their name.

    Sure enough, the “LU precinct,” as it will now be infamously known, delivered overwhelmingly for Garrett. He got 1,964 votes there, to just 324 for Valentine.

    Let’s put things in perspective. Shannon Valentine is a Christian and a moderate. She’d inherited the support of much of Lynchburg’s business and social elite, the voting group that had previously kept moderate Republican Preston Bryant in that seat.

    Her campaign had even been endorsed by the city’s daily newspaper, where editorials had been critical of Garrett’s insistence that Valentine had some “secret plan to raise taxes.” There was no such plan, of course, but Garrett - oblivious to the many criticisms of him for such a low tactic - kept plowing ahead with that untruth. He must have known that his faithful supporters at Liberty wouldn’t check the facts.

    Liberty has this newfound power thanks to the fact that college students in Virginia can now vote where they go to school rather than where they live. What, indeed, does a “Christian conservative” kid from, say, Alabama, know about Virginia politics and government?

    Nothing, probably. But what he does know is that his college and its leaders believe the Republican Party to be the party of Christian decency and morality, and the Democratic Party to be the one doing the devil’s work. If you don’t appreciate that sort of characterization, fine, but that’s about as intellectually complicated as things ever get at Liberty.

    For his part, Chancellor Falwell pronounced himself “elated” at the achievement of his students. But that’s no surprise. He’s been rather blatant about his desire for political power so he and his university can get anything and everything they want from the city government.

    Falwell has made it clear that he wants pro-Liberty candidates to take over the city council. Once he achieves that - and it will start next spring - business and property owners in the city can expect an LU power grab like nothing else they’ve ever seen before.

    So, because of “Christian conservatism” and its electoral baptism of the Republican Party, the Lynchburg area loses an articulate, intelligent, fair-minded, moderate Christian woman who, in the LU view, committed the ultimate sin: she had a “D” by her name.

    Those who put their Lord and Savior out front as the water carrier for their political agenda - especially for a specific political party - have always been a mystery to me. I don’t see any instances in the New Testament where Jesus of Nazareth preached in favor of tax cuts and pre-emptive war.

    He said he was God’s Son; he didn’t say he was God’s Republican or God’s Conservative. Many, many other Christians, ones like Valentine and her supporters, don’t reduce their Lord to the level of a precinct captain. But you simply can’t reason with people who do…you just can’t.

After all, they have “God on their side,” don’t they?

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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, is a member of the Roanoke City Democratic Committee, and can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com.