Jonathan Martin, an evangelical pastor and author, claims he was removed from Liberty University on Monday night following a pop concert and threatened with arrest should he return to campus.
A citation signed at 10:05 p.m. by an LU officer, images of which later were posted on social media by Martin, show he was removed by request but does not make clear who requested his removal from campus.
Martin recently caught the attention of Liberty students — and seemingly campus officials — when he spoke against LU President Jerry Falwell Jr.’s support for President Donald Trump’s administration.
Martin criticized Falwell on Twitter after Falwell gave an interview to Breitbart, a conservative news organization commanded by Steve Bannon, a former White House adviser who resigned in August.
In the interview, Falwell said voters need to oust “fake Republicans” in order to allow the Trump administration to be successful and endorsed Roy Moore, an Alabama Senate candidate. Two articles ran online last week.
Bannon and Trump have backed Moore in the upcoming election in Alabama, and Falwell has been a longtime Trump ally, first endorsing him in January 2016 as a GOP presidential candidate.
Martin took to Twitter on Friday, calling for a protest at Liberty and criticizing Falwell and Bannon.
“Let’s be clear: Steve Bannon is a brazen white supremacist & the high priest of a false religion. He blasphemes the Holy Spirit,” Martin wrote in a series of tweets critical of Falwell and Bannon.
Martin attended the JOHHNYSWIM concert in Liberty’s Music and Worship Center on Monday. On Tuesday, Martin said he was removed by the Liberty University Police Department while visiting band members backstage after the concert at its invitation, had his photograph taken and was threatened with arrest if he returned to LU’s campus.
In a phone interview, Falwell cited security concerns as the reason for Martin’s removal.
Falwell said LUPD became aware of future protest plans from Martin’s social media posts and that Ron Sloan, associate vice president for security and public safety, issued the request for removal.
“Our tradition has been to not allow uninvited protests,” Falwell said.
Martin had planned to pray with Liberty students at 7 a.m. in front of the Jerry Falwell Library on Tuesday.
“What does it mean for a college administration to be this afraid of free speech? What precisely is @JerryFalwellJr afraid of?” Martin tweeted early Tuesday morning following Monday’s incident.
Martin also elaborated on the incident in a Facebook post: “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. I came to the show tonight as a guest of JOHNNYSWIM. I committed no crime (except perhaps to sing too loudly to my favorite JOHNNYSWIM songs) I was openly considering some sort of future action oriented around prayer & repentance, but came this time only for the show & for a time of prayer tomorrow morning to seek divine guidance as to what faithful, humble-but-clear Christian resistance might look like.”
Martin did not respond to requests for an interview Tuesday.
In Tuesday’s phone interview Falwell accused Martin of seeking publicity in order to drum up support for a protest.
“He wanted to showboat; he wanted to get some attention. If we allowed him to come on campus and protest uninvited, then the next group that comes in might be a violent group, and we’ve seen recently what that can lead to,” Falwell said, referencing violent protests in Charlottesville in August.
He added he believes uninvited protests can lead to a disruption of the educational environment.
“It’s a private school, it’s private property, go somewhere else to protest,” Falwell said.
Falwell, who has been critical of free speech restrictions at other campuses across the nation, said this issue was different because controversial speakers at other schools were being disinvited, whereas Martin never was invited to speak at Liberty or lead a protest on the LU campus.
Falwell also accused Martin of intolerance because of Martin’s criticism of evangelicals who support Trump.
The morning after his alleged ban from LU, about 15 students gathered outside the library to pray, as originally planned, according to Kenny Delevante, a recent Liberty graduate.
According to Alexander Forbes, a Liberty student who attended the 7 a.m. prayer session, the group was monitored by several LU police officers, including LUPD Chief Richard Hinkley. According to Falwell, this was to ensure no outside individuals came on campus to protest.
Delevante said after the prayer, he and a group of close to 15 students met with Martin off campus for roughly 90 minutes, where they discussed “what Christianity should represent, power dynamics in administration, stigmas that exist in the student body and how things can turn around.”
On Twitter, JOHNNYSWIM referred to Martin’s removal from their dressing room as “a ridiculous act” by LUPD. On Instagram, band member Abner Ramirez posted a video describing how LUPD officers entered the band’s dressing room after the show and removed Martin from campus. He noted JOHNNYSWIM has always been treated well when performing at LU.
"[It's] just a very weird thing for a Christian school to do, especially one that shows such great hospitality," Ramirez said.