‘Pray for Our President’

‘Pray for Our President’

Viewed solely as a political advertisement on social media this election year, it would be largely unremarkable. A tightly framed photo shows President Donald Trump, eyes closed, hands folded. Several people lay hands on his shoulders. Text above the photo cites the Bible — the First Epistle of Paul to Timothy — and reads, “Pray for Our President.” But the advertisement is unusual because of the organization purchasing it. That organization is the Falkirk Center, a subsidiary of the private nonprofit Liberty University. And it is highly irregular for nonprofit colleges or universities to purchase advertisements that come even close to the appearance of endorsing specific candidates for office. In part, that’s because the portion of the tax code under which most private universities are registered as nonprofits forbids backing political candidates for office. It’s also a question of public relations, reputation and norms. “Most institutions are very skittish about playing too closely in the political realm,” said Bob Brock, president of Educational Marketing Group, a marketing agency. “The country is so strongly divided that you can easily offend a number of your target audiences by taking positions.” Falkirk has run about 50 advertisements on Facebook and Instagram this year that the social media giant marked as being about issues, elections or politics, according to Facebook’s ad library. It’s spent roughly $51,000. Most of those ads were not about President Trump specifically and did not picture him, although one other ad prominently featured a Republican candidate for a congressional […]

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