Coming Out at Liberty University: The Story of One Gay LU Grad
Lynchburg, VA - "Training Champions for Christ," that's how Liberty University brands itself as the world's largest Christian University.
The school is known for having outspoken conservative leadership. Its policies promote abstinence and prayer. It also, has a gay student population.
Surprising? Not to some who identify themselves as gay Christians.
That begs the question though, why would any out homosexual choose to attend a school like Liberty?
There's no one answer, but ABC 13 has the story of one gay LU grad. The 27-year-old opened up and shared his experience of attending Jerry Falwell's University.
Walking on Liberty's campus for the 2008 graduate Brandon Ambrosino is like taking a trip back in time.
"All of my best friends, all my best guy friends on campus, this is where I knew them from" he said as he looked at his old college dorm.
It's a school that's carved a place in his heart.
"To me, I mean, it was like the best four years of my life" he said.
It may surprise you that Brandon is gay.
The writer shared his unique college experience in an article for the Atlantic Magazine.
"Being Gay at Jerry Falwell's University," has had a huge response. It's gotten almost 30,000 shares on Facebook. It even prompted a response from LU Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr.
In an interview with the Christian Post, Falwell says Brandon "hit the nail on the head" in describing Liberty.
So how does Brandon talk about his alma mater? And the obvious question...
"After having gone there, openly gay, it's a non-issue" said Brandon.
Brandon was the first from his family to attend college. In 2003 he followed his high school sweetheart, a girl, to Liberty. When they split, he began to realize who he was. And in a leap of faith, he came out to a professor.
"I was so scared to talk to her about it because I thought I knew what she was going to say. I thought she was going to report me to the Dean, and that I was going to be like, kicked out" said Brandon.
But he wasn't. In his article he says the professor embraced him.
He never underwent any reparative therapy, no gay healing, and no punishment.
And when he came out to his "conservative classmates," "I was like, 'Mary, I'm gay,' and she was like 'Of course you are!' Like it was a non-issue to so many people there" he said.
"The gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, people for the American way, all of them who tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say you helped this happen" said Jerry Falwell in an interview on the TV show, The 700 Club.
In that TV interview, former Chancellor and founder of LU, the late Jerry Falwell, blamed the 911 terror attacks on gays and lesbians.
Brandon says though, that's not the Falwell he knows.
"I would hate to think if people took a couple of the off the wall, idiotic, and ignorant things I said, and then tried to reduce my whole life into those sentences. Because I went to his church Thomas Road when I was here, and I was seeing all the good that he was doing, it's hard for me to think that he's a bad guy."
"He knew that Dr. Falwell would tell him the truth. That this isn't a lifestyle choice that is best for him" said Rena Lindevaldsen, an associate dean for Liberty's law school.
Lindevaldsen helped craft the school's policy towards gay students.
"On the other hand, we all struggle at times. So on the one hand it's not God's best plan for you, on the other hand, we're here to help you if you want help" she said.
The school offers counseling for those, "struggling with same-sex attraction." It isn't mandated, and gays are only punished if they're caught in a sexual act. The same goes for straight students.
"Particularly at Liberty University, we've been given the impression that we hate homosexuals, or hate those struggling with any particular sin, and that's the wrong impression" said Lindevaldsen.
But Brandon says, "a huge chunk of Brandon is indebted to Liberty."
He looks back fondly on his years at LU.
"My gay experience has at times put me on the fringes of society," he said.
The school he says taught him being gay and being Christian aren't that different after all.
"I think that Christianity shows me a God who is in those fringes with me" said Brandon.
Brandon was quick to say his experience was his own. Not everyone will experience what he did at Liberty. He did have encouragement for students struggling with coming out at the University. He said "find the safe people and trust them."
Brandon is now enrolled as a graduate student at Liberty in the school's seminary program.