Beating BDS: Liberty University
Liberty University is the largest Christian university in the world, and it is legendary among pro-Israel campus activists for its consistent strong support for Israel. But just because Liberty’s student body has historically stood behind Israel doesn’t guarantee it always will. As young Christians are increasingly drawn to implement their faith in the realm of social justice, they are being targeted with a false narrative that portrays Israel as an oppressor. Under the guise of fairness and compassion, some young Christians might be persuaded to support the boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. CUFI on Campus students at Liberty realized they needed to be proactive.
Chelsea Andrews had been involved with CUFI on Campus since her freshman year at Liberty. Going to Summit for the first time was a transformational experience, and after that Israel became a top passion for the young political activist. In the winter of her senior year, she was chosen to represent CUFI on a collaborative tour to Israel with other students from the top 10 pro-Israel campus organizations where she was one of only two Christians. On that trip she became close friends with Jewish students from other schools, and for the first time she connected on a personal level with a community of Jewish friends. When those friends shared their stories of fighting harassment and BDS on their own campuses, Chelsea felt compelled to fight for them.
At Liberty, the student body wasn’t anti-Israel but many of them were somewhat apathetic. In an atmosphere of general apathy, it can be easy for one or two committed anti-Israel activists to push an agenda under the noses of students and administrators who just aren’t paying close attention. But the lack of organized resistance to Israel also presented a golden opportunity for CUFI on Campus students to swoop in and create momentum in their own direction.
Led by Chelsea, the school’s CUFI on Campus chapter decided to attack BDS before it ever became a problem on their campus. As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So they drafted an amendment to Liberty’s constitution designed to permanently block the BDS movement from taking root at their university.
The amendment passed and became an official part of Liberty’s constitution on February 25, 2015. This historic moment was the first time any American university modified its constitution to pre-emptively stop the BDS movement from gaining a foothold on its campus. After the amendment passed, Chelsea said, “At Liberty University we stand with Israel, because as Christians, as Americans, and as individuals focused on freedom and human rights, there is no alternative. I hope that other students will see what LU has done and follow suit.”
Inspired by the example of students at Liberty, CUFI on Campus students at Colorado Christian University followed suit with similar successful legislation in 2016. Efforts to pro-actively block BDS are currently underway at Azuza Pacific University and other campuses where CUFI on Campus students are working hard to ensure they leave a legacy that protects Israel.
This pro-active approach is extremely important. It shows that we have a new generation of Christian leaders who take their commitment to Israel’s future safety seriously. It also shows that the investment CUFI has made in training students to be effective political activists is paying off. We currently have official CUFI on Campus chapters at 189 colleges, but we have trained pro-Israel student activists operating on an additional 210 campuses where they have not yet been able to establish official chapters. Combined, we are working to defend Israel from BDS and other forms of anti-Semitic attacks on nearly 400 campuses nationwide. This is incredible growth in just nine years since CUFI on Campus launched in 2008, and already we have a larger campus presence than any other pro-Israel organization in America.
Students like Chelsea are an invaluable resource for CUFI, not only as students, but also after they graduate. For Chelsea, working with CUFI on Campus literally shaped her life. She advocated for Israel as the president of her school’s Young Women for America chapter, and when she graduated she wanted to dedicate her life to fighting for Israel. Now she works for CUFI as one of our valuable team members, and the investment CUFI poured into her as a student is reaping huge dividends as she applies that experience to defending Israel on Capitol Hill full-time.
As more and more students are able to attend the Washington DC Summit, Student Advocacy Leadership Training (SALT), and the BDS boot camps CUFI on Campus holds around the country we will see a growing wave of successes as we beat BDS and defeat anti-Semitism on college campuses.