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Liberty Law School Teaches Students To Violate The Law

Jim Burroway

May 16th, 2011

There have been quite a few observations that leading officials at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University Law School and the non-profit legal firm Liberty Counsel are deeply entangled in Isabella Miller-Jenkins kidnapping case. Today, we learn that the attorneys for the kidnapper are teaching their students at Liberty University to break the law when confronted with a nearly identical case.

To recap, a pastor, Timothy David Miller, was arrested on Friday in Alexandria, VA, for his role in providing plane tickets and shelter for Lisa Miller, who kidnapped 9-year-old Isabella Miller-Jenkins as part of a custody fight with her former civil union partner Janet Jenkins. Miller is believed to have fled to Nicaragua shortly before a Vermont court awarded primary custody to Jenkins over Miller’s refusal to cooperate with Jenkins’s visitation rights. It appears that Miller fled with considerable support from an employee and benefactor of Liberty University and Liberty Counsel, who provided for Miller’s legal defense, as well as encouragement from at least one ex-gay leader in the Lynchburg, Virginia area.

Today, Religion Dispatches associate editor Sarah Posner reports that Lisa Miller’s attorneys Mat Staver and Rena Lindevaldsen, who teach a required Foundations of Law course at Liberty University, are teaching their students that when confronted with a case like Lisa Miller’s, that the attorney has an obligation to resolve the conflict between “God’s Law” and “man’s law” by advising the client to solve the conflict through “civil disobedience”:

This student and two others, who all requested anonymity for fear of reprisal by Staver (who is also the law school’s dean), recounted the classroom discussion of civil disobedience, as well as efforts to draw comparisons between choosing “God’s law” over “man’s law” to the American revolution and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. According to one student, in the Foundations course both Staver and Lindevaldsen “espoused the opinion that in situations where God’s law is in direct contradiction to man’s law, we have an obligation to disobey it.”

…That semester’s mid-term exam, obtained by RD [see excerpts of the actual exam here], included a question based on Miller’s case asking students to describe what advice they would give her “as a friend who is a Christian lawyer.” After laying out a slanted history of the protracted legal battle, the exam asked, “Lisa needs your counsel on how to think through her legal situation and how to respond as a Christian to this difficult problem. Relying only on what we have learned thus far in class, how would you counsel Lisa?”

Students who wrote that Miller should comply with court orders received bad grades while those who wrote she should engage in civil disobedience received an A, the three students said. “People were appalled,” said one of the students, adding, “especially as lawyers to be, who are trained and licensed to practice the law—to disobey that law, that seemed completely counterintuitive to all of us.”

Some of the students who got an “A” on that exam write that the client should engage in civil disobedience and leave the country. The student added, “I knew that I needed to write that.” Some students worry that as more people learn what is being taught at Liberty University, that lawyers who are Liberty grads will be “laughed out of the courtroom.” A painting of Mat Staver hangs in “Revolutionary Hall,” which also commemorates Martin Luther King, Jr., Ronald Reagan, Ghandi, Mother Teresa and others.

If one wonders where Lisa Miller got the idea and support necessary to flee to Nicaragua, look no further than her own attorneys.

Comments

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Ben In Oakland
May 16th, 2011 | LINK

God’s law?

Is that the part where jesus says, “Render unto Casear that which is Caesar’s?”

Karen
May 16th, 2011 | LINK

I wonder if they are also teaching that when the law is broken in an act of civil disobedience one should expect and be willing to suffer the consequences? Just wondering. . .

elaygee
May 16th, 2011 | LINK

Someone from the same state as the Liberty “Law” School needs to make a formal complaint to that state’s Bar Association.

Martin
May 16th, 2011 | LINK

“Some students worry that as more people learn what is being taught at Liberty University, that lawyers who are Liberty grads will be “laughed out of the courtroom.””

If this is what’s being taught at Liberty University, then Liberty grads should be laughed out of the courtroom, if, that is, they’re allowed into the courtroom (as anything but spectators) in the first place.

fannie
May 16th, 2011 | LINK

I agree with elaygee.

The disciplinary authority would be very interested in a law school and licensed attorneys that are encouraging law students/attorneys to aid and abet criminals.

Hunter
May 16th, 2011 | LINK

Just remember that a lot of the ideologically correct lawyers that Monica Goodling hired for DoJ, who are now in career slots, were Liberty graduates.

Scary, isn’t it?

NoxiousNan
May 16th, 2011 | LINK

Not that they had any to beging with – certainly not with me – but Liberty U has lost all credibility.

In other news – I just got notification that the Ugandan Kill the Gays bill has been dropped! I’m guessing BTB editors are madly typing it up now. I’ll check back later. Weeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Lindoro Almaviva
May 16th, 2011 | LINK

Is any of this admissible in court? I would think this evidence would point to a web of conspiracy that could make the school lose its accreditation and a lot of the professors to lose their license.

Am I correct in that assumption? Wouldn’t the school be liable for conspiracy?

Jim Burroway
May 16th, 2011 | LINK

NoxiousNan,

You are SOOOOOO late to the party!

Victor
May 16th, 2011 | LINK

While not quite the same as actively *teaching* students to disregard the law, the question posed has some similarity to the City of San Francisco granting marriage licenses when it was illegal to do so, justified by a unilateral decision that the law which prevented issuance of such licenses was unconstitutional.

Regan DuCasse
May 16th, 2011 | LINK

Victor, in the case of violating the law to issue marriage licenses didn’t harm any third parties to do so. It wasn’t in violation of PARENTAL rights, custody and relationship to the child.
There was exceptional harm done to young Isabella and Janet Jenkins in this conspiracy and all other second parents for that matter who are not biological parents.
The precedent that LU is setting is to defy the laws of privacy, and individual necessity when it comes to child rearing and support.
For these people to invoke ‘god’s law’, against an innocent woman is a disgrace. And no law school deserves to operate that’s willing to violate someone against Constitutional protections.

It just chokes me royally that these same people put up Dr. King as an example for their activity. Dr. King was civilly disobedient to EXPAND equal rights, justice and to fight discrimination and the hardships that come with systemic bigotry against minorities.
What the people at LU are doing is directly contrary to that.
Their school was founded by an avowed racist. Jerry Falwell considered King an enemy of American values.

Anyone that reads civil rights law, understands what happens when the law is used to DOMINATE and HARM a vulnerable group because of their minority status. I’m with elaygee, their operating cred should be taken away.

Timothy Kincaid
May 16th, 2011 | LINK

Victor,

While I appreciated the symbolism of SF’s licenses, I suspected that it was not going to be upheld. However, that decision was based on a different premise: that the state law was in violation of the federal constitution, i.e. that US Constitution and law apply and are the final legal word in the country.

This teaching is based on a different concept: that the US Constitution and law are subsidiary to a different set of laws and rules, those believed to be established by God.

This is really an argument that the US is not a sovereign nation, rather that there are limitations on its self governance and that those who share Liberty’s religious beliefs are uniquely qualified to identify those limitations.

homer
May 16th, 2011 | LINK

These are the same people who would have us believe the Earth is 6,000-years-old and that the first woman was made out of a man’s rib. Pathetic.

Andrew
May 16th, 2011 | LINK

My question is why is this school accredited? Forget laughing anyone out of court, the program should not considered for credit toward a law degree.

CAfurrball
May 16th, 2011 | LINK

Why these instructors are not being investigated is a mystery. Hopefully, the state bar in Virginia revokes their law licenses AND the school gets their doors shut for good, by the state of Virginia.

Does anyone remember what the word “responsibility” means anymore? Apparently, not LU employees!!! What’s worse, if their fellow employees turned a deaf ear to the fact [if they knew of the clear violation of the law, as well as what will probably end up being a case of aiding and abetting criminals and obstructing justice!

The guillotine would be good for clowns like these. Too bad that’s seen as “cruel and unusual punishment”!!!

Gregory Peterson
May 16th, 2011 | LINK

Staver and Liberty U are in the news i about health care law. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-10/fight-over-obama-healthcare-law-reaches-first-of-three-u-s-appeals-courts.html

David C.
May 16th, 2011 | LINK

So I guess we can add lawbreaking to lying for Jesus. Splendid example there LU, just splendid.

I really hope the FBI dismantles this criminal enterprise.

Bruce McRoberts
May 16th, 2011 | LINK

Unfortunately, the state bar in Virginia isn’t likely to take any action; my Google-fu produces a lot of results showing photo-ops with the president of the Bar Association speaking at Liberty, praising Liberty Law School, etc. Granted, some of these derive from Liberty itself, so I could be wrong.

Further, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who is AG because of the same Tea Party/right-wing fervor that gave us the last midterm, is probably a major donor or something at Liberty.

So, while it’d be nice and normally I quite like my home state, I doubt anything will come of this except the further degradation of Liberty University’s reputation. It’s almost a pity; I know some really nice people who go there, and it’s painful because they’re basically getting fed hate.

mike
May 16th, 2011 | LINK

sounds familiar. i hope they do get them and the school loses it’s license to teach!

pauliji
May 16th, 2011 | LINK

This is the same Liberty University founded by Jerry Falwell. This is the man who blamed Hurricane Katrina on gays, unwed mothers and abortion. This is the same Liberty University which has on display some dinosaur fossils which are described as being something around 3000 years old. This is the same Liberty University, which, last year, received federal tuition grants and guarantees of over $400 million. I hope they do teach their idiot students this poorly. It will hasten their demise as any sort of credible institution of higher learning, and put an end to the pretense and deception. As Richard Dawkins said of them, ” any student enrolled here should quit, and go to a proper university.”

Regan DuCasse
May 17th, 2011 | LINK

Well, maybe their graduates will be so incompetent and unqualified to practice law because of this BS. Some young people should vet their university choices much better considering things like this.

If they think being hyper Christian is going to make them morally correct and of higher intelligence and purpose in the world, I hope the rudest of awakenings come when they are outclassed in every way by an actual court of law and attorneys not wrapping themselves up in Scripture. You have to quote legal precedent in court, not Bible verse.

We see that Paul Clements was so eager to jump on defending DOMA, that he didn’t consider the proper vetting process for King and Spalding and now he’s embarrassed them for it.
Time will tell, when LU cranks out dumb graduates. Who hopefully will feel chafed at how much money they invested in their worthless educations.

Jarred
May 17th, 2011 | LINK

Regan:

Some young people should vet their university choices much better considering things like this.

While I agree with you, there’s an important factor to consider there: For a significant number of young people raised in fundagelical culture, schools like Liberty University are all the choices they are allowed.

A lot of fundagelical culture enforces the “safe bubble,” and this includes a lot of parents making sure that their kids go to a nice “Christian” school (or “Bible College”), lest they be corrupted by those other universities, which are nothing more than hotbeds of “liberal indoctrination.”

For many of these young people, the choice is simple: Go to an “approved school” like Liberty University or don’t expect Mom and Dad to pay a single penny of your tuition. And given tuition rates these days, it’s understandable why so many young people cave in to such unreasonable demands, even if it proves to be to their detriment.

Christine
May 17th, 2011 | LINK

Andrew,

I agree – Liberty Law School should not be accredited.

Liberty Law School just received its accreditation last year for the first time – it’s time for this to be revoked (and it never should have been granted in the first place).

Richard Rush
May 17th, 2011 | LINK

Christine said,

Liberty Law School just received its accreditation last year for the first time.

If that’s the case, were prior Liberty Law graduates eligible to take the bar exam?

Where do these people find employment? Oh, never mind . . .

http://www.clsnet.org/membership/benefits/christian-legal-society-job-bank-job-openings

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