Liberty University has made three religious-policy concessions in order to keep state aid flowing to students, but some believe the price was too steep.

On June 1, the Virginia Council of Higher Education voted 8 to 2 to approve Liberty’s continuance in the Tuition Assistance Grants (TAG) program. Students at the financially troubled university in Lynchburg will be eligible for $1.2 million in state scholarship aid in the 1993–94 school year.

Spurred by a 1991 Virginia Supreme Court decision that deemed Liberty a “pervasively sectarian” school, Americans United for Separation of Church and State had asked the council to determine whether the university qualified for state aid. Under Virginia law, students who attend schools that have a primary purpose of religious or theological training are banned from receiving financial help from the state.

Acting on complaints from Americans United, the education council voted last December to require Liberty to change three policies or risk losing state subsidies.

Policy changes

By last month, Liberty had agreed to the changes in order to keep the funds flowing. Students and faculty no longer are required to attend Sunday morning or Wednesday evening church services; students and faculty no longer must sign forms agreeing to abide by doctrinal statements; and faculty now are free to publish materials that may conflict with university doctrine.

“Liberty has basically agreed to exchange its unique religious character for a government handout,” says Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “I expect many contributors to Jerry Falwell’s ministry will be disappointed.”

Falwell, who is also pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, founded the Lynchburg school in 1971 and serves as its chancellor. ...

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