Operation Rescue (OR) is accusing Liberty University and its chancellor, Jerry Falwell, of being soft on child pornography.
At the entrance to the Lynchburg, Virginia, school on March 19, three dozen protesters held placards showing photographs of nude children from a book they claimed was available at the campus bookstore.
Falwell quickly and angrily called the demonstrators "thugs and thieves." The protesters took part in ten days of rallies and prayer vigils for OR national director Flip Benham, jailed in Lynchburg for trespassing during an anti-abortion protest (CT, Apr. 6, 1998, p. 19).
Patrick Mahoney, director of the Washington, D.C.- based Christian Defense Coalition, and Keith Tucci, Benham's predecessor at OR, led a series of demonstrations in Benham's support. At the March 19 rally, Mahoney held a copy of the book Age of Innocence, by photographer David Hamilton, which he said had been ordered at the campus bookstore operated by Barnes & Noble. Although the store does not carry the book, it had been ordered through the store by an OR worker. However, Mahoney admitted, the store manager canceled the book order and refunded the deposit money upon discovering its contents. The copy displayed had been purchased elsewhere.
The relationship between Falwell and OR, both longtime abortion opponents, turned contentious after Falwell distanced himself from Benham after the local protest.
Falwell denounced Benham's tactics, apologized to city officials, and reimbursed the city for the costs incurred from Benham's protest.1