First up from the God Machine this week is a curious story out of a Virginia college, where guns and religion are intersecting in a rather unexpected way.
You may be familiar with Liberty University, an evangelical school in Lynchburg, created by the late Jerry Falwell, who spent many years as one of the nation's most prominent and most extreme televangelists. The restrictions placed on Liberty's students are the stuff of legend -- its code of conduct dictates that students are prohibited from seeing R-rated movies, listening to music that is not "in harmony with God's word," drinking alcohol, dancing, or kissing. Women on campus are prohibited from wearing dresses or skirts "shorter than the top of the knee."
At one point, Liberty even banned students who wanted to form an on-campus Democratic Party group.
Recently, however, Liberty announced that students will be allowed to carry loaded firearms on campus (thanks to reader R.P. for the tip).
Liberty students who have an easy-to-obtain Virginia concealed carry permit and permission from campus police will now be able to carry a loaded gun into classrooms, according to a March 22 revision to school policy. University staff and visitors may also bring firearms into university buildings on campus, WSET reported. [...]"I think it's good that Liberty is a little more open than some schools, and I think it'll continue to create a higher level of security on campus than what was found at Virginia Tech," Jerry Falwell Jr., Liberty chancellor, told the News & Advance.
So, let me get this straight. At Liberty University, students are far more likely to see someone carrying a semi-automatic than carrying a bottle of beer. Mini-skirts have been deemed inappropriate, but loaded handguns have been deemed entirely appropriate. Students can see an extended magazine, but they can't see "Django Unchained."
It's a different kind of college experience, I suppose.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* A religious right group called Morality in Media condemned Attorney General Eric Holder this week for not using law-enforcement resources to crack down on pornography. The group called Holder the nation's top "pornography facilitator."
* Alan Hays, a Republican state senator in Florida, is leading a crusade to prevent state courts from following Islamic law, which is a problem that currently exists only in his imagination. Though Hays concedes the Sharia law threat is nowhere to be found, he compares his legislation to getting "vaccinated against different diseases."
* A Cincinnati-area public school has hung a portrait of Jesus in its lobby since 1947, but took it down this week when faced with litigation arguing that the portrait is a rather blatant violation of the separation of church and state. The school district's insurance company said it would not cover litigation expenses.
* And TV preacher Pat Robertson this week heard from a viewer who asked why miracles such as "people raised from the dead, blind eyes open, lame people walking" seem to "happen with great frequency in Africa," but not the United States. Robertson said it's because Americans are more educated and "sophisticated" about science. The implicit -- and from an evangelical perspective, unfortunate -- message is that ignorance is a precondition to belief in miracles.