Romney Giving Commencement Speech At University That Calls Mormonism A Cult

Mitt Romney is giving the commencement address at Liberty University today, which is interesting if only because of what the school’s Course Catalog has to say on the matter of Romney’s faith:

LYNCHBURG, Va. — On page 173 of the course catalog for Liberty University, the country’s largest Evangelical Christian college, there’s a graduate course labeled Theology 678—Western and New Religions.

Its innocuous title belies the description of its curriculum:

“The history, doctrines, and present state of the major cults such as Mormonism, Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventism. The course will also include a study of the Occult Movement. Emphasis is placed on the errors of these groups and on methods and materials for confronting them effectively.”

Indeed, since the announcement that Romney would be speaking today was made a month ago, there’s been something of a controversy on the Lynchburg, Virginia campus:

When Romney was announced as the university’s commencement speaker, many students were outraged that the administration would choose someone who belonged to what they see as a false religion for the occasion. They filled the school’s Facebook page with indignant messages. They penned editorials in the campus newspaper. Some even pledged to boycott the ceremony in protest.

This appears to be a minority among the student body but, nonetheless, it does point out yet again the tensions between evangelicals and Romney.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Quick Takes, Religion, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Politics makes for strange bedfellows. Emphasis on “strange.”

  2. Davebo says:

    Note to the students.

    When the thought of being in the same room with someone of a different religion freaks you out you have to at least consider the possibility that you are a member of a Cult.

    But then you’re not likely to learn such things attending Liberty University.

  3. Herb says:

    Running through the Evangelical gauntlet is a Republican right of passage. I’m interested in what Romney will say, though. Curious if he’s going to throw red meat to the dogs or…..who am I kidding? He’s going to throw red meat to the dogs.

  4. Hey Norm says:

    At least Romney is unlikely to run across any haircuts he finds unacceptable.
    According to the Student handbook, “The Liberty Way”:

    “…Hair and clothing styles related to a counterculture (as determined by the Student Affairs Deans’ Review Committee) are not acceptable. Hair should be cut in such a way that it will not come over the ears, collar or eyebrows at any time. Ponytails for men are unacceptable…”

    They don’t seem to have a clear grasp of what word…”Liberty”…actually means. But they are Republicans…so at least they are being consistent, if ignorant.

  5. PJ says:

    Imagine Obama giving the commencement speech at a university that teaches that some races are inferior.

    Romney doesn’t have a spine and, as shown numerous times before, is willing to do anything to win.

  6. Hey Norm says:

    Romney, speaking to a group that thinks his faith is a cult, reportedly chose not to speak the word – Mormon.
    I’d call him a pu$$y…but I think that’s an insult to pu$$ies.

  7. Herb says:

    A couple highlights, courtesy of Dave Weigel:

    If we take the right course, we will see a resurgence in the American economy that will surprise the world, and that will open new doors of opportunity for those who are prepared as you are.

    (Possible subtext: New doors of opportunity for the chosen few. Screw this “for all” nonsense. More possible subtext: You graduated! Yay! Now bend over and let me plant one on your cheeks.)

    Culture makes all the difference. Not natural resources, not geography, but what people believe and value. Central to America’s rise to global leadership is our Judeo-Christian tradition, with its vision of the goodness and possibilities of every life.

    (Take that, Jared Diamond.)

    Culture matters.

    (Translation: {in an Enrique Yglesias voice} “I will be your hero, baby.” Next stop, the nearest culture wars recruiting station.)

  8. gVOR08 says:

    @Hey Norm: George Lakoff wrote a whole book on what “freedom” means to these people. It isn’t what Funk and Wagnalls thought “freedom” meant. Very short version, to them it means free to demonstrate virtue by doing what their religion and beliefs tell them to do, and free to force others to do the same. They believe their constrained and controlled lives are an expression of “Liberty”.

  9. Hey Norm says:

    @ gVOR08..
    And I do believe they should be free to lead constrained and contolled lives if, for whatever reason, that is what they wish.
    My only wish is that they would stop trying to force their control and constraint on the lives of others.
    As for Evangelicals labeling the faiths of others as cults…Kettle, meet Pot.

  10. al-Ameda says:

    I’m in awe, that is a very high level of pandering.

  11. anjin-san says:

    Romney Giving Commencement Speech At University That Calls Mormonism A Cult

    So Romney is willing to throw his own religion under the bus to pander to the far right?

    Yea, that’s the guy I want sitting at the big desk…

  12. Gustopher says:

    Not only should the Liberty Bigot Brigade be upset by this, but so should the rank and file Mormons. Wow, Romney really has no principles at all, does he?

    If Romney takes the opportunity to lecture them on their intolerance, then I’ll take that back, but the man has shown a pattern of spinelessness and pandering that makes that unlikely.

  13. bluestatedon says:

    Romney is the perfect choice to teach a new poli sci course at Liberty:
    Futility in Pandering 101.

  14. Elrod says:

    Samuel Johnson once queried, “How is it that the loudest yelps for liberty come floggers of Negros?” He was hitting on exactly the conundrum with extreme conservatives and “liberty.” It really has nothing to do with freedom in any commonly understood way. It’s mostly about the freedom to dominate and dictate to those with whom you interact in the “private” world. Thus, granting rights and freedoms to the non-dominant members of society – i.e. white, Christian, male adults – is actually an abridgement of freedom. This was exactly how Southern slaveholders spoke of freedom. It’s very similar to how the Catholic bishops spoke of “religious freedom” in the birth control controversy.

  15. Jenos Idanian says:

    My, such noble folks are the majority of commenters here.

    First up, the term “cult” is not innately pejorative. It has some negative connotations, but the term itself is nonjudgmental.

    Next, notice how many people are basically hoping for a huge fight between Romney and Liberty, and by extension Mormons and religious conservatives.

    Here’s a radical thought: maybe Romney is going there to not only show them that Mormons aren’t so scary, but looking to find common ground? That they might find they can get along based on what they agree upon — and not on where they disagree.

    Oh, I understand the response — I’ve done that sort of thing on Obama and gay marriage right up until his stance shifted from the “expedient lie” column and into the “promises and positions that reached their expiration date” column. But really, it’s hardly something to have pride in.

  16. Herb says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    “First up, the term “cult” is not innately pejorative”

    True, but it becomes pejorative when used in a certain way, like referring to a religion you don’t believe in. Retarded is also not an innately pejorative word, but if I used it to describe your comment, then it clearly would be.

    I would not expect my defense of “but it’s not innately pejorative” to be very convincing.

    “notice how many people are basically hoping for a huge fight between Romney and Liberty”

    Hmm, that’s not my sense at all. If anything, I don’t think very many people are buying Liberty’s temporary bout of tolerance or that Romney is sincere in his attempts to bridge the Evangelical-Mormon gap.

    I think it’s pretty clear that Liberty is OK with Romney because he’s a Republican, and Romney showed up at Liberty because they vote Republican. It’s nice that they can paper over their differences and bond as Republicans…..that is the common ground, right?…..but no one should be under the illusion that this is anything but a marriage of convenience. There’s no real love there.

  17. Here are the characteristics of a cult:
    • Small? The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) has 14 million members in 132 countries. In America, there are more Mormons than there are Presbyterians or Jews.
    • Excessive devotion? Mormons are devoted to the Savior, but in appropriate measure He would approve of.
    • Unethical techniques? Ask the pie-throwers to name one.
    • Control by isolation? Even if Mormons wanted to, this would be impossible with 14 million members in 28,000 congregations throughout the world.
    • Control by threats? Again, evidence? Mormon missionaries may be exuberant, but do not threaten.
    • Dependency on the group? The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) is just the opposite. Mormons want members to be self-reliant and independent so they in turn can help others.
    • Powerful group pressure? Only if that’s the way the critics prefer to define love.
    Strange? Guilty as charged. Mormons plead guilty to all the strange things that were done by Christians in New Testament times that were lost during the great falling away in the aptly named Dark Ages, among them temple worship, baptism by immersion by the father of the family, vicarious baptism for the dead, definition of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit as separate but united in purpose, salvation requiring both grace and obedience to commandments, prophets and apostles, unpaid clergy, and continual revelation to guide His Church.

  18. grumpy realist says:

    @Mormons Are Christian: and polygamous “marriages” with underaged and/or unwilling females….

    Funny how people banging the drum for the LDS never mention that.

  19. Jenos Idanian says:

    @grumpy realist: and polygamous “marriages” with underaged and/or unwilling females….

    Funny how people banging the drum for the LDS never mention that.

    That’s a HELL of a lot more prevalent among Muslims than Mormons, but funny how the anti-Romney folks never mention THAT.