Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. has hit back at accusations of Islamophobia after several high school debate teams boycotted the Christian school because of his earlier comments regarding Muslims.
Last year, Falwell made headlines following an address to students in which he discussed the San Bernardino terrorist attacks.
"If more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed them," he said. He encouraged students to enroll in the university's gratis certification course and said he was carrying a weapon "in my back pocket right now...Let's teach them a lesson if they ever show up here."
Last weekend, Liberty University hosted the Virginia High School League state debate championships; however, five high school debate teams boycotted the state finals and refused to show up, saying they were concerned the school was not welcoming to Muslims based on Falwell's previous comments.
In an April 22 op-ed in The Washington Post, Falwell hit back at such assumptions, arguing that his comments were taken entirely out of context by the media.
"It was clear to all in attendance that when I said, 'if more good people [obtained their concealed carry permits and carried a gun], we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed,' I was only referring to the Muslim terrorists who attacked innocents in San Bernardino and in Paris, France," the Liberty University president writes.
"I was in no way referring to the many good and honorable Muslims who do not come into public spaces armed to kill innocents," he explains. "I could not have made it more clear. But the media missed it."
The schools that boycotted Liberty "are basing their decision on Liberty's concealed carry policy," Falwell adds. "The policy, in place since 2011, states that individuals over 21 who have qualified for concealed carry permits and granted such permits by the state of Virginia (as well as received permission through the Liberty University Police Department) are allowed to carry concealed weapons on campus."
Falwell says he takes "very seriously" his responsibility to keep the campus safe. "The concealed carry policy has worked well for us. A quick Internet search of "safest colleges in America" will reveal that Liberty is in the top 20 of every list."
He further explains that Liberty's Board of Trustees approved the concealed carry policy not because of Islamic terrorism, but because of the killing of 30 students and faculty at the nearby Virginia Tech nine years ago.
"Campus police simply cannot be everywhere all the time," he concludes. "Having additional responsible adults with concealed weapons throughout campus increases the likelihood that someone might be able to stop an attacker like the one at Virginia Tech, before dozens of innocent lives are lost. I'm proud that Liberty was one of the only schools to take that position initially and now dozens nationally have followed suit."
In a December op-ed, John Piper, founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary, issued a harsh condemnation of Falwell's call for students to carry firearms, arguing that Christians should learn to accept unjust treatment without seeking revenge.
"The issue is about the whole tenor and focus and demeanor and heart-attitude of the Christian life," he wrote. "Does it accord with the New Testament to encourage the attitude that says, 'I have the power to kill you in my pocket, so don't mess with me'? My answer is, No."
He added,"If we teach our students that they should carry guns, and then challenge them, 'Let's teach them a lesson if they ever show up here,' do we really think that when the opportunity to lay down their lives comes, they will do what Jim Elliott and his friends did in Ecuador, and refuse to fire their pistols at their killers, while the spears plunged through their chests? I think I can say with complete confidence that the identification of Christian security with concealed weapons will cause no one to ask a reason for the hope that is in us. They will know perfectly well where our hope is. It's in our pocket."