Liberty University president Jerry Falwell with Donald Trump. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)
An anti-LGBT+ university that told students to return to campus despite coronavirus social distancing guidelines has seen its first confirmed case of COVID-19.
Liberty University, which is based in Virginia, found itself in the centre of a media storm last week when it decided to reopen in direct contravention of COVID-19 guidelines.
The university, which bans same-sex relationships, invited 5,000 students to return to campus last week just days after schools were shut down due to the pandemic.
The president of the university, Trump-ally Jerry Falwell Jr, was reportedly told by the physician who runs the institution’s student health service that they had “lost the ability” to control the health crisis on campus.
The physician, Dr. Thomas W. Eppes, told The New York Times that he did not instruct Falwell to shut the university down, but told him of the risks.
There has been a coronavirus outbreak on campus at Liberty University since students were allowed to return.
Unsurprisingly, there has been an outbreak of COVID-19 on campus since the university decided to bring students back to campus.
As of last Friday, there were at least 12 students displaying symptoms of the coronavirus and three were referred to a local hospital to be tested.
One of those students has so far tested positive for the virus, one tested negative and the third is still waiting on results.
“Liberty will be notifying the community as deemed appropriate and required by law,” Falwell said yesterday.
It is thought that most of the students who returned to campus last week have since left again after the outbreak in the university.
The incident will not come as too much of a surprise to those familiar with Falwell’s views on the coronavirus. The university president recently suggested that the virus is actually just a media plot designed to hurt Trump’s chances of being re-elected later this year.
“We think it’s irresponsible for so many universities to just say ‘closed, you can’t come back,’ push the problem off on other communities and sit there in their ivory towers,” Falwell told far-right conspiracy theorist and commentator Todd Starnes in a radio interview.
The university’s president previously claimed the COVID-19 pandemic was invented by the media to stop Trump getting re-elected.
“We’re conservative, we’re Christian, and therefore we’re being attacked,” he added.
He also said on Fox & Friends earlier this month that it was “strange” to him to see so many people “overreacting” to the global pandemic.
“It makes you wonder if there is a political reason for that. Impeachment didn’t work and the Mueller report didn’t work and Article 25 didn’t work, and so maybe now this is their next attempt to get Trump.”
Liberty University banned all LGBT+ groups in 2006 on the grounds of ‘morality’’, and in 2014 secured an exemption from federal anti-discrimination laws to allow it to discriminate against LGBT+ people.
All students are required to sign a statement promising not to have gay sex, or sex with a transgender person – even if they’re married.
According to the university’s honour code: “Sexual relations outside of a biblically-ordained marriage between a natural-born man and a natural-born woman are not permissible at Liberty University.”
Violations of the rule can be punished in various ways, including a $300 fine, 30 hours of community service, or expulsion.