Evangelical students reject Trump at conservative US campus

Students stand for a photograph while holding a campaign bumper sticker for Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, and Mike Pence, 2016 Republican vice presidential nominee, at a Liberty University Convocation in Lynchburg, Virginia, US on Oct. 12, 2016. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Students at a major evangelical Christian university are seeking to cut ties with Donald Trump, joining other conservatives in moving away from the Republican presidential nominee following lewd comments about groping women.

"Donald Trump does not represent our values and we want nothing to do with him," read an online petition circulated Wednesday by students at Liberty University, where the White House candidate made a pitch to Christian voters in January.

"A majority of Liberty students, faculty, and staff feel as we do," said a statement entitled "Liberty United Against Trump," which also denounced school president Jerry Falwell Jr, the son of an influential evangelical pastor.

Falwell said earlier that he will vote for Trump, even if the mounting allegations that he sexually assaulted women are true.


"He has taken all the right positions on all the issues," Falwell told CNN, calling Trump a "changed man."

"He will do what's best for America as president."

The student petition angrily denounced the university leader's support for the candidate.

Trump "has made his name by maligning others and bragging about his sins. Not only is Donald Trump a bad candidate for president, he is actively promoting the very things that we as Christians ought to oppose," it added.

"Because our president has led the world to believe that Liberty University supports Donald Trump, we students must take it upon ourselves to make clear that Donald Trump is absolutely opposed to what we believe, and does not have our support."

Falwell himself promptly criticised the movement, dismissing the students as people who "are young and still learning."

"I am proud of these few students for speaking their minds but I'm afraid the statement is incoherent and false," he said in a statement.

"I am not 'touring the country' or associating Liberty University with any candidate. I am only fulfilling my obligation as a citizen to 'render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's' by expressing my personal opinion about who I believe is best suited to lead our nation in a time of crisis.

"This student statement seems to ignore the teachings of Jesus not to judge others but they are young and still learning."

Trump has less support from Republican youths than their older counterparts.

An average of September Washington Post-ABC national polls found that less than two thirds of Republican-leaning voters under 30 back Trump, compared to more than three quarters of those age 30 to 64 and 85 per cent of seniors.

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