The decision by Turkish officials to release American pastor Andrew Brunson, who met with President Trump at the White House on Saturday, was welcome news. It was a testament not only to the president’s strength but, more importantly, his strength of heart and character.
A Turkish court freed Brunson Friday, after he had been held prisoner for two years following an attempted military coup in Turkey. He was charged as a conspirator in the plot, but Turkish authorities were unable to provide any satisfactory evidence to back up the charges against him.
In truth, the only thing Brunson ever conspired to do was to spread the word of God, as he had been doing in Turkey for over 20 years.
After being arrested and imprisoned under appalling conditions – where he was subjected to regular attempts to convert him to Islam – Turkish officials moved the 50-year-old pastor to house arrest in July in the face of U.S. pressure. But that wasn’t enough for President Trump and his administration.
The day after Brunson was placed under house arrest, Vice President Mike Pence issued a stern warning to the Turks on behalf of President Trump.
“To believers across America, I say, pray for Pastor Brunson.” Pence said. “While he is out of jail, he is still not free. And to President Erdogan and the Turkish government, I have a message on behalf of the President of the United States of America: Release Pastor Andrew Brunson now or be prepared to face the consequences.”
“If Turkey does not take immediate action to free this innocent man of faith and send him home to America, the United States will impose significant sanctions on Turkey until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free,” Pence added.
The Turks didn’t heed Pence’s warning. In August, President Trump imposed economic sanctions against Turkey
The Trump administration didn’t stop there. It continued to threaten further sanctions unless Brunson was released. When the Turkish court finally released Brunson, it was against the wishes of the government prosecutors. They sought to imprison him for a decade.
President Trump could have easily sacrificed Brunson to maintain good relations with Turkey, a NATO ally. That nation’s strategic location makes it crucial to containing Russian ambitions in the Middle East.
Previous American presidents, pursuing the globalist agenda, would have quickly caved to Turkey, given the geopolitical realities of the situation. President Trump didn’t. I know this president’s heart – and I know he would never do such an expedient thing. Instead, he did the right thing.
That’s because President Trump isn’t just a strong and tough leader. He’s also a good and moral person.
Time and time again, we’ve seen this from the president. When pursuing a successful diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea, President Trump didn’t just seek nuclear disarmament and the normalization of diplomatic relations. He demanded the return of imprisoned Americans and the return of the remains of those who died in the Korean War.
On the eve of his inauguration, President Trump gave $10,000 of his own money to a supporter who had fallen on hard times, a FedEx employee named Shane Bouvet. Last year, he gave $1 million of his personal fortune to help with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. Since taking office, President Trump has consistently given up his quarterly salary to government agencies and causes in need of funding.
With the release of Brunson, President Trump has once again displayed his moral fortitude.
This case hits home for me both as a Christian and president of Liberty University. Brunson’s daughter, whose husband serves in the military, shouldered many burdens in her fight to get her father released. She is an online student through Liberty University and we chose to give her a full scholarship to pay her remaining tuition fees.
Now that Brunson has been released, over 3,000 letters written by Liberty students have been sent to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, thanking him for his work in this case and encouraging him to keep up the administration’s fight for religious liberty around the world. My wife Becki and I wrote one of them and we were beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to do so.
The mainstream media still take every possible opportunity to paint President Trump as egotistical and uncaring, but his positive, heartfelt actions speak far louder than their negative, heartless words.
I’m often asked how an evangelical Christian can support a man like President Trump. The answer is simple. I learned long ago to judge people – especially politicians – by their actions and not their words.
Plenty of presidents have paid lip service to God, but few, if any, have demonstrated a consistent tendency to walk in Christ’s shoes and make the morally correct decision instead of the politically easy one.
I am proud to call President Trump my friend. Above all, I’m proud of what he’s doing for our country and countrymen, at home and abroad.
God bless you, Mr. President.
Jerry Falwell Jr. is the president of Liberty University.
I met Joe Manchin in 2009 when the Liberty University football team played West Virginia University in Morgantown. It was a cordial meeting and a close game that WVU won. I told the then-Governor how my maternal grandfather grew up in a rural part of Lincoln County in the early 1900s. Today, I want Senator Manchin to know that West Virginians have an important question for him.
Will Manchin vote for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh based on the judge’s impeccable experience and judicial prudence, or will the Senator continue his resistance to President Trump by siding with Democrat obstructionists?
As one of the most qualified nominees ever to be chosen to sit on the Supreme Court, Judge Kavanaugh will uphold the values and laws that have made West Virginia, and our country, great.
As a UVA Law School-trained attorney myself, I see Judge Kavanaugh as a brilliant, mainstream jurist with incredible legal credentials. He’s an academic who earned his law degree from Yale Law School. His resume includes a clerkship with Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, and he currently sits on the D.C. Circuit — often referred to as the “second highest court in the land.” As a judge, Kavanaugh has built a thorough track-record of rulings that interpret the law, not make the law.
Like President Trump’s last Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, Kavanaugh is pro-Second Amendment, and a staunch defender of the Constitution and religious freedom. Best of all, Kavanaugh is set to join one of the most originalist Supreme Courts in recent history.
As a Christian, I believe it’s more important than ever that judges exercise integrity in how they protect religious liberty. Judge Kavanaugh exemplifies the ability to consider each individual case on its facts, rather than on the emotional public debates that can hijack a right as important as one’s faith.
President Trump didn’t require a political litmus test for Judge Kavanaugh, however. Following the “Ginsburg Standard,” a judge sworn to decide impartially shouldn’t offer forecasts or hints that would show disdain for the entire judicial process.
Instead, Kavanaugh is committed to rising above partisan politics and making the legal judgment most in line with our Constitution regardless of his own views.
It’s for these reasons that President Trump invited Senator Manchin as part of a bipartisan group of six senators to the White House to discuss the appointment to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy immediately after his retirement was announced. It was one of many collaborative steps the President took in what has been the most transparent Supreme Court selection process in history.
But things turned south quickly with Senator Manchin when President Trump made his final decision earlier this week. Manchin was invited to attend Kavanaugh’s White House ceremony, but declined President Trump’s offer. He then went a step further and said that he will only support Kavanaugh if the jurist publicly supports Obama’s failed healthcare law, instead of judging him by his ability to uphold the Constitution.
This isn’t surprising given Manchin’s allegiance to the far-left, which demonstrated outrage and theatrics over President Trump’s decision.
For instance, the Democrats publicly stated, “The SCOTUS consideration of Judge Brett Kavanaugh… represents a clear and present danger to the safety, health, and wellbeing of Americans.”
Before President Trump even announced his pick, Senator Elizabeth Warren said that “every single judge on @realDonaldTrump’s shortlist for the Supreme Court has been pre-approved by right-wing extremists.”
And Senator Bob Casey said that regardless of who President Trump picked, he would obstruct and oppose the nominee.
So all of this leaves Senator Manchin, whose state President Trump won by over 40 points in 2016, with two options: advise and consent on the President’s Supreme Court nominee who is by far the most qualified judge in the country, or side with the radical left-wing Democrats who wish to obstruct President Trump’s every decision. He has sided with them many times before, to the dismay of countless West Virginians.
Manchin voted against President Trump’s tax cuts and opposed repealing and replacing Obamacare, two of President Trump’s key legislative agenda items. He also opposed nearly half a dozen of President Trump’s other judicial nominees.
Brett Kavanaugh’s reputation and experience make him an excellent candidate for our nation’s highest court — one who will carry the torch of religious liberty and American exceptionalism for decades to come
Now is the time for West Virginians to ask Senator Manchin to put aside his left-wing obstructionism and make his choice to vote for Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Note: The following is an excerpt from my 2018 Commencement speech at Liberty University.
My family has lived in Virginia since the 1600s and moved from Richmond and nearby Buckingham County in 1834 to purchase a large farm on the northeastern slopes of Liberty Mountain. Descendants still own the land and my father’s 84-year-old twin-brother Gene and his wife JoAnne still live in the house where my dad and Uncle were born.
Every day, I drive past Poplar Forest, the summer home and plantation of Thomas Jefferson who wrote in the Declaration of Independence that we are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
One of the events that has brought great happiness into our family just recently was the birth of Virginia Rose Falwell to our son Wesley and his wife, Laura.
For three months now, Becki and I have taken great joy in becoming grandparents.
You have to admit, she’s a beautiful little girl.
The name Virginia Rose has great significance for the Falwell family, and I want to take a few minutes to tell you a small part of that family story.
Most of my Dad’s experiences were memories of joy, zeal, and adventure — growing up on the other side of the mountain to my left just two miles from here, looking down on where we sit today.
However, at least one of my dad’s experiences was bitter and full of sorrow. He wrote about it in his autobiography which I helped him research and write back in the 1980s. You see, his father Carey Falwell died at the age of fifty-five, when my dad was just fifteen years old. Of course, that was years before I was even born—so I never knew my grandfather.
We wouldn’t be sitting here today had it not been for the tragedies in Carey’s life.
You see, he had a daughter named Virginia; a second daughter named Rosha Geraldine; and a son named Lewis.
But in 1931 when Rosha (another way of saying “Rose”) was eleven she suddenly felt very ill and Carey called the family doctor. She was diagnosed with a severe cold—then pneumonia. But while the doctor was still grasping for a correct diagnosis, Rosha’s appendix burst, and she died suddenly. Carey probably couldn’t understand why a loving God would allow for such a tragedy.
Six months later, tragedy struck again. Carey had a much younger brother named Garland who had been in trouble with the law repeatedly for several years. The family was making plenty of money with a modern hotel and an upscale nightclub and dance hall atop Liberty Mountain, gas stations, restaurants, passenger bus lines that ran between Washington D.C. and Durham, N.C. — you name it, the entrepreneurial Falwells were into it. But Garland was taking dope as it was called then and drinking, and he had a fiery temper when intoxicated. One night the police were called on Garland who was drinking and driving. Garland thought his brother Carey had called the police, so he loaded two pistols and headed over for a confrontation. He almost killed him, firing off shots and grazing Carey—who jumped out a window and ran and got a shotgun. Garland came back around, firing his pistols with the intent to kill Carey. But Carey stumbled backward, whirled around, raised the shotgun and fired blindly.
In a moment’s time—Garland was dead.
The local magistrate declared Carey to be innocent on the grounds of self-defense. And the public knew that Garland had been a terror in the town for years—so nobody thought ill of my grandfather. But my grandfather spent the next seventeen years of his life living with the remorse for what had happened that night.
Now keep following me here.
My Grandparents were about 40 and thought they were done having children with their first three. But with the death of the daughter and the tragedy with Uncle Garland, they decided to have another baby. Instead, they were blessed with two—twin boys. My dad and his brother Gene.
They named my dad “Jerry” in honor of their lost daughter, Rosha Geraldine.
Even so, Carey kept on drinking. He was a successful and hard-driven businessman during all these years, always wearing a three-piece suit and working seven days a week. But every night he’d turn to the bottle and start playing back in his mind the tragic events of 1931. Friends recall how no matter what subject of conversation they started on, Carey eventually turned the conversation back to those tragedies. And interestingly to what a wonderful wife he had in my grandmother, Helen Virginia, who was always a strong Christian and who eventually was instrumental in my father becoming a Christian.
Finally, in the spring and summer of 1948—exactly seventy years ago—my fourteen-year-old father watched his father begin a painful death from cirrhosis of the liver. He would die in October, changing the trajectory of my dad’s life forever.
But I’ve just skipped over the best part of that terrible summer and fall. You see, Carey had a cousin named Virginia McKenna, whose husband was a successful industrialist and who herself was a committed Christian. Along with my Grandmother, she had prayed daily that Carey would become a Christian. She enlisted the help of a man who was a Christian and a friend of Carey’s named Frank Burford — to approach Carey on his deathbed with a local pastor. Carey responded by professing his faith in Christ just weeks before he died.
My father even remembered hearing the death rattles in his lungs the night he died – October 10, 1948.
I personally found his last wallet in an old chest in the 1980s stuffed with business papers but containing only one photograph. It was of his brother, Garland. That wallet is on display in the museum in DeMoss Hall today. It shows just how affected he was by Garland’s death.
Now if you were able to follow all that, then you understand that my own dad would not have been born had it not been for the tragedies he and his parents faced. And, humanly speaking, this University came into existence because of my dad. You would be somewhere today, but you would not be in Lynchburg, Virginia. And I wouldn’t have been born.
The suffering didn’t end with my grandparents. The first 25 years of this university’s history were marked by one financial crisis after another. My father fought many of these battles alone. I joined him in 1987 as a young attorney and helped him endure great hardships until Liberty finally emerged triumphant and became the world-class university it was envisioned to be academically, athletically, and financially. And in the last 11 years since his death, we have finally constructed the world-class facilities you see on campus today.
Of course, we usually can’t make any sense of our sorrows as we are going through them. In fact, on earth, we may never get to see the reason for those sorrows—but God knows what He is doing, and He can be trusted.
So you see, the birth of Virginia Rose Falwell, our sweet granddaughter, is the latest manifestation of God’s faithfulness in one family—my family. And reminds us of the Scripture that says, “Weeping may come for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”
All you have to do is look around this campus and look at these wonderful graduates to see how joy grew out of suffering. Whether in joy or in sorrow we all have a higher purpose.
So Graduates, go forth from Liberty in trust and confidence that God has a plan for each of you and your families—just as he did for the Falwell family.