By Harriet Sherwood
Three times a week, 15,000 students stream into the Vines Center, a huge silver-domed building on the campus of Liberty University for “convocation”, an intoxicating mix of prayer, political rally and entertainment. Thousands more watch a live stream of the event.
The star attraction has twice been Donald Trump, in 2012 and 2016. His first appearance was as a successful businessman and reality TV star, the second as the man campaigning to be the Republican party’s candidate for president. Last year, he made a third appearance at Liberty, to address the university’s graduation ceremony. By then, he was one of the most divisive leaders in the country’s history.
But not at Liberty. The Christian university which dominates the town of Lynchburg, Virginia, has become almost synonymous with Trump. It sits at the heart of the alliance between the president and conservative evangelical Christians – an alliance forged in part by Jerry Falwell Jr, Liberty’s president, Lynchburg’s most prominent citizen and Trump’s close associate.
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