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Liberty University Defends Decision to Allow Glenn Beck to Give Mormon 'Sermon' at Convocation

May 21, 2014 05:07 PM EDT

Liberty University is defending its decision to allow Mormon talk show host Glenn Beck speak at the school's convocation ceremony.

Beck, who founded the news outlet "The Blaze," compared Mormonism to Christianity during his speech last month and said that the Lord gave him a message of coming back to "settle scores," Christian News Net reports.

"I am Mormon and share your faith," Beck told thousands of students who attend the Southern-Baptist affiliated university.

President Jerry Falwell introduced Beck, remarking that the talk show host and the school shared common beliefs.

"I heard him yesterday on the radio," Falwell remarked. "He probably didn't realize this, but he was using Liberty's verse-sort of our motto here-'Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."

In his speech, which he said was a "message from God," Beck compared hardships that students would face outside of the university to the story of early Mormon martyr Joseph Smith. "You are going to be pushed and challenged every step of the way. What is it that you truly believe?" he said.

Beck also referenced the Mormon belief of Grand Councils, or pre-existing human souls in heaven, in the speech saying, "You didn't come down for a job. You came to this university maybe thing, 'I have to have an education to get a job.' You need this education from Liberty University because of your only true job, the purpose you were sent here for."

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While Beck's speech was met with cheers and applause from students, many in attendance responded with disappointment at the University's decision, saying Beck used the podium to spread the Mormon faith.

"It's wrong," Tricia Erickson, daughter of a former Mormon bishop and author of "Can Mitt Romney Serve Two Masters? " told Christian News Network. "It's like me opening my front door and saying to a Muslim, 'Come on in. If [my children] like what you have to say, it's up to them. They can decide; you can just preach to them.'"

"If you're a parent, certainly you're not going to have someone come into your home [and be] around your children that is going to distort their judgment of Christianity, and that's going to tell them things that are blasphemous to a living God and pose them as the truth," she said. "At universities, we as adults have to protect our youth. These are going to be our future leaders."

However, Liberty University is not backing down from their decision.

On Monday, Jonathan Merritt of Religion News Service published a response from Liberty University which stated that the university often uses its convocation services to present a variety of viewpoints to students.

"You should remember that Liberty University's Convocation is not a church service," Johnnie Moore, senior vice president of communications, told Merritt. "We have explained over the decades repeatedly that convocation is an opportunity for students to hear from people of all faiths and from all walks of life. Liberty has also made it clear repeatedly that it does not endorse any statements made by any convocation speaker."

"College is about learning. How can you defend what you believe if you don't understand what others believe?" he continued. "I believe our students are stronger in their faith because of our convocation speaker series and the wide diversity of views that they have been privileged to hear in person over the last few decades."

Moore said he believes that Beck is in actuality a born again Christian.

"By the way, many conservative evangelical leaders who are closer to Beck than me have told me that they believe Beck has had a born again experience recently," he explained. "I do not know his heart but our audience knows that he was speaking only for himself and expressing his personal opinions and beliefs, not those of Liberty University or even of Mormonism generally."

"As Jerry Falwell, Sr., our founder, often used to say about speakers at Liberty who had different views than him, Liberty students are smart enough to eat the fish and spit out the bones! I believe that's as true today as it was in his day," Moore concluded.

According to reports, students who skipped the event were fined $10 for their failure to attend the ceremony.

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