LB Speech and Debate to sit out state championship at Liberty

January 21, 2016

Last year, LB speech and debate placed third overall as a team in the state tournament. This year, the team won’t be attending the state championship.

The venue for the VHSL state speech and debate tournament is set to be held at Liberty University on April 22-23.

In December, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., made statements calling to “end those Muslims” and encouraged students to protect themselves by carrying concealed weapons. As a result of Falwell’s actions, LB won’t be in attendance unless the location of the tournament is moved.  

“Our problem is not with the Virginia High School League (VHSL), but with the VHSL hosting an event at  school that espouses these viewpoints and encourages its students to carry arms,” LB speech and debate coach Duane Hyland said. “Even if there was no religious aspect to this situation, I, as a coach, would be hesitant to enter students into a competition held on a college campus where guns are permitted to be carried.”

Currently, eight states in the United States allow concealed weapons on college campuses. Virginia is one of 23 states that allows the college or university to make the decision, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“Liberty is not the most welcoming place for a few of the members on our team,” senior Congress captain Jake Alcott said. “The president has made some pretty radical statements, especially concerning Muslims. A large percentage of our team is Muslim so we really didn’t feel safe going there.”

The speech and debate team is disappointed that they will not be able to compete this year, but they feel that standing up for what they value is crucial.

“We took it upon ourselves to promote this [boycott], to advertise this, to get it around the school, and to get it around to as many people as possible,” senior debate captain Omar Elhaj said.

It should be noted that both Falwell’s speech and LB’s boycott are protected by the First Amendment.

“VHSL respects the right of Liberty’s President to engage in public speech, and will not take retaliatory action against the University even when that speech is found to be offensive by a significant number of VHSL member schools and their students,” said The Virginia High School League in a press release regarding Farwell’s speech and LB’s boycott. “It is a bedrock principle of American Constitutional government that a citizen has a right to speak his or her opinions, even when others find those opinions to be rude and offensive. Likewise, it is the right of VHSL members to boycott or protest in a peaceful and appropriate manner consistent with Constitutional principles.”

Since Falwell’s speech, he has clarified what he meant behind his words.

“I was referring to ‘those Muslims’ that just carried out attacks in Paris and California,” said Falwell in a Twitter response, according to The Guardian.

Falwell’s statements about arming students and faculty in case of an attack is one of the many heavily-debated topics of Congress.

“What if just one of those students or one of those faculty members had a concealed permit and was carrying a weapon when the shooter walked into Virginia Tech,” Falwell said, according to The Guardian. “Countless lives could have been saved.”

Two distinct opinions. Two distinct viewpoints. To debate or not to debate. That is the question.


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  • K

    KayFeb 9, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    I had left a comment previously, but the moderator of comments seems to have whitewashed it out of existence. It is sad that the debate team can’t attend a debate over an irrational fear of firearms by their adult leader. Where is there any evidence that students are at risk for being shot on a campus where licensed carriers of firearms attend? There is none. Students are more at risk walking the streets of their neighborhoods or going to the mall or the movie theater. Also, the debate team members fill slots on the debate team to represent their school’s interest in these competitions, not to advance their own, personal political agendas. If they don’t want to debate at an official site for debates, they should have stepped aside a long time ago and allowed another student to step in. I am personally embarrassed that Lake Braddock produces students who think as these do. The maturity level is lacking when a difference of opinions turns into a so-called “boycott.” (The mentality is, let’s not try to get along or discuss our differences, let’s boycott each other.) Finally, the first and second amendments are some of this country’s most cherished amendments of the Bill of Rights. The students and adult on this debate team appear not to appreciate this and show little respect for either a difference of an opinion or the right of an individual to self-defense.

  • J

    Jamie HFeb 7, 2016 at 9:37 pm

    The Liberty president is so inconsiderate. He’s all about the second amendment, but forgot to respect the first. I recognize that he does have the right to speak his mind, but in America we need to be more conscious of religious differences. Christianity does play a large role in the US government, from presidents being sworn in on the bible to “under God” having a spot in the pledge of allegiance, but not everyone is a Christian. We’ve got atheists, agnostics, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, even Satanists and we’re all equal under the law. That’s supposed to be the beauty of America- the ability to think independently and live a unique life. It’s a shame that we have such religious discrimination in a first world country, but it’s a reality we are forced to live with.

    I commend LB’s debate team for boycotting states. Peace is the way to deal with discrimination. We’ve seen it with MLK in front of the Lincoln memorial and Gandhi protesting the British regime in India. When we look back, the peace makers have always been more effective. War may bring you what you want, but only civil disobedience will help to cleanse minds.