Liberty University has announced that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will be its commencement keynote speaker on May 10.
“Many believe [Jindal] could hold the highest office in the land someday,” President Jerry Falwell said in a statement on Wednesday (April 16), hinting at Jindal as a possible Republican candidate for president.
In an interview with RNS, Falwell was hesitant to give his personal opinion of Jindal since the two have never met. Instead, he deferred to Liberty’s law school dean Mat Staver.
“He’s a committed Christian,” Falwell said. “Mat Staver said he heard him speak and he sounded like a Baptist preacher,” Falwell said.
Jindal is Roman Catholic, however, and Falwell said that every year, the school gets questions about inviting non-evangelicals to speak at commencement. He estimates, though, that just eight of their past keynote speakers have been evangelicals.
“Every year, I explain that it’s always been our tradition to have speakers of other faiths,” he said, noting addresses by Glenn Beck and Mitt Romney, who are Mormon. He said Liberty always has at least one evangelical also give remarks.
Liberty, based in Lynchburg, Virginia, prides itself as being the largest private, nonprofit university in the country, the largest university in Virginia, and the largest Christian university in the world.
The school has been in hot water in recent weeks related to other issues.
Liberty’s senior vice president of academic affairs and provost Ronald Godwin appeared in a video discussing what appeared to be a partnership with controversial televangelist Benny Hinn. Falwell called the conversation “a mistake.” In a statement, Liberty backtracked on the suggestion, saying there would be no partnership between the two going forward.
Another controversy erupted earlier this month when the school hired artist Geoffrey Goldberg, who is also an openly gay activist, to choreograph an upcoming “Mary Poppins” show.
“We have strict requirements for our faculty to make sure their doctrine is sound, but we’ve never applied that same policy to part-time help,” Falwell said. “You couldn’t operate if you made sure all the goods and services every day came from born again christians. You’d be out of business in a few days. It’s silly for people to make that argument.”
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SOURCE: Religion News Service
Sarah Pulliam Bailey