Feb 16, 2010

Liberty heads to CPAC

by Tiffany Edwards

For the young conservatives at Liberty, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C., is a pretty big deal. Last year, Liberty organized caravans, assisted students with making hotel arrangements and also excused students who were attending CPAC during their classes.

Held every February, CPAC is known as the largest conservative conference in the United States, and attracts conservative students, activists and policy makers from all over the country.

In February 2009, Liberty hosted a reception for students, alumni and affiliates at the conference and had roughly 150 people in attendance.

CPAC attracts big-name speakers and attendees every year, including John Ashcroft, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Glenn Beck. Liberty University’s School of Law has been a sponsor of CPAC for the past couple of years, until this past December, when significant changes affected CPAC’s sponsor list.

The conflict began in early December 2009. It started with a blog post on the Web site for GOProud, a gay conservative activist group, which announced that GOProud would be co-sponsoring CPAC 2010, which will be taking place Feb. 18-20.
GOProud “is committed to a traditional conservative that emphasizes limited government, individual liberty, free markets and a confident foreign policy,” according to GOProud’s Web site.
GOProud is also well known for their advocacy of same-sex marriage, homosexual civil unions and the repealing of the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

“GOProud is thrilled to be a co-sponsor of the single most important conservative gathering in the country,” Executive Director of GOProud Jimmy LaSalvia said in the Dec. 16 article in OneNewsNow.

By Dec. 21, another article was published describing the letter sent to CPAC organizer and American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene.

The letter was written and signed by a group of evangelical conservatives involved with the conference, led by Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. and School of Law Dean Mat Staver. The letter was essentially an ultimatum: remove GOProud from co-sponsoring the conference, or Liberty will boycott CPAC 2010.
“We only learned about it through blogs that alerted us to it,” Staver said. “We didn’t even get word from CPAC that they had brought this group on. Then we looked at this organization, its mission is to promote same-sex unions, same-sex marriage … and the repeal of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. Those are not conservative issues or conservative values.”

OneNewsNow reported on Jan. 13 the School of Law had officially withdrawn as a sponsor of CPAC 2010. According to Staver, Liberty never received a formal response to their complaint, which led to the withdrawal.

Liberty Counsel will still have a booth at this year’s CPAC. Next year’s attendance is still unknown.

“Whether Liberty Counsel will even have a booth there next year, we don’t know,” Staver said. “We’ve pulled out because we don’t feel that its appropriate to put Liberty University’s School of Law side by side with an organization who’s purpose is to undermine part of the mission of the university.”

The conflict has drawn little national interest. According to Staver, he was approached for numerous interviews, which he turned down.

“Our goal was not to poke CPAC in the eye. We’ve been a co-sponsor, and we did not have any intention to slap CPAC or make them embarrassed. That’s not what this is about. This is about a principle.”

Staver still encourages students to attend.

“As far as Liberty students involvement in CPAC ... I would encourage our students to be involved and be vocal, make a difference, to stand up for (Christian) principles and make their voice known. I think it’s perfectly permissible for the students to attend CPAC and learn what they can … and positively impact CPAC.”

Since CPAC has been removed from Liberty’s primary agenda for this year, Staver has other plans for Liberty’s involvement in the conservative movement, including April’s Freedom Federation Summit, which will be held on Liberty’s campus.

Contact Tiffany Edwards
at tredwards2liberty.edu.

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