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.