President Donald Trump has agreed to deliver a commencement address at a prominent evangelical Christian college this year.
Students at Virginia’s Liberty University have been divided about supporting Trump, but the school’s president, Jerry Falwell Jr., is a vocal Trump fan and a former member of the president’s evangelical advisory committee.
The news that Liberty University will be the site of Trump’s first commencement address as president was first reported by Christian Broadcasting Network.
In an interview with CBN’s The Brody File, Trump said that he was looking forward to the May event.
“Our children truly are the future and I look forward to celebrating the success of this graduating class as well as sharing lessons as they embark on their next chapter full of hope, faith, optimism, and a passion for life,” the president said.
In recent weeks, some evangelical leaders have decried Trump’s policies towards Muslims, refugees, and other marginalized groups. Still, he enjoys the support of many rank and file white evangelical Protestants. Eighty percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump during the 2016 presidential election.
Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. told The Brody File that he’s glad his graduates will hear from a man who is “champion of the average American citizen, including many who felt forgotten and neglected by the establishment.”
Trump has spoken at Liberty before, in 2012 and in 2016. During his visit in 2016, he drew laughter from the crowd after committing a Christian faux pas. He used the phrase “Two Corinthians” instead of “Second Corinthians” to refer to a book in the Bible ― an indication to some that he was unfamiliar with the Bible.
Some students at Liberty University have protested Liberty’s ties to Trump. Last October, the student group Liberty United Against Trump issued a statement condemning Trump.
“Associating any politician with Christianity is damaging to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But Donald Trump is not just any politician. He has made his name by maligning others and bragging about his sins,” the letter read.
They also criticized Falwell for endorsing and defending the then-presidential candidate, especially after an old “Access Hollywood” video of Trump bragging about sexual assault surfaced online.
The lewd remarks didn’t deter Falwell’s support for Trump. He claimed that it was part of a conspiracy by Republican leaders to damage Trump’s candidacy. While condemning the remarks, Falwell also asserted that “We’re all sinners, every one of us. We’ve all done things we wish we hadn’t.”
Liberty University’s commencement is scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 13th.