On Monday evening, October 30, 2017, Jonathan Martin was escorted off Liberty University’s campus in Lynchburg, Virginia by armed police officers. Martin cites his criticism of the university’s president Jerry Falwell Jr. as the reason for his ousting.
“This was evidently in response to my strong criticism of Jerry Falwell Jr.’s alignment not only with the darkest contours of Trumpism, but expressly with Steve Bannon & the alt-right he represents,” Martin wrote in a post about the incident on his Facebook page.
On Friday, October 27, 2017, Martin criticized Falwell, Jr.’s decision to be interviewed by Breitbart News. He also criticized Falwell’s positioning with former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon on his crusade to rid Washington of “fake Republicans.”
Martin came to the Liberty University (LU) campus to attend a JOHNNYSWIM concert Monday evening. He was also planning on “a time of prayer tomorrow morning [Tuesday] to seek divine guidance as to what faithful, humble-but-clear Christian resistance might look like.” Martin was invited backstage by members of JOHNNYSWIM when he was confronted by campus police, according to The News & Advance. Martin says he was escorted out of the green room, served papers and had his picture taken. Finally, the campus police told him he “would be immediately arrested” if he returned.
Getting personal in his Facebook post, Martin asks “What precisely is Jerry Falwell Jr. afraid of? He openly encourages students to carry weapons, but is afraid of public prayer from Christians who openly embrace nonviolence.”
Speaking to the News & Advance on the phone, Falwell attributed security concerns for the decision to remove Martin. Falwell explained the campus police’s attention was drawn to a potential protest involving Martin through his social media posts. “Our tradition has been to not allow uninvited protests,” Falwell said.
Falwell didn’t hesitate to lob his own criticism at Martin, telling the newspaper, “He wanted to showboat; he wanted to get some attention.” Falwell accused Martin of being intolerant of evangelicals who support President Trump, which Falwell has done from the beginning of Trump’s election campaign last year.
On Tuesday afternoon, the university posted the following statement to its Facebook page, explaining the reasoning behind Martin’s removal.
However, lest you think this is a petty conflict between the high-profile Falwell and a disgruntled outsider, Martin is no stranger to the evangelical church that Falwell exercises influence over. Martin served as a founding pastor of Renovatus Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and as a teaching pastor of Sanctuary Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He is also an author, and has written a handful of books, including How to Survive a Shipwreck.
Despite the turmoil involving Martin, 15 students showed up to pray at the previously scheduled meeting for Tuesday, October 31, 2017. According to student Alexander Forbes, the group was monitored by several LU police officers.