Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Democratic presidential candidate and a self-professed non-religious person, plans to speak next month at Liberty University, the evangelical Christian college founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell.
Liberty is a popular stop for many Republicans seeking to bolster their appeal among evangelicals, but Sanders' convocation address will likely be a sharp contrast to that of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who kicked off his presidential campaign at the Lynchburg, Virginia, school.
Sanders will join religious figures, comedians, athletes and lawmakers at the ceremony, billed as "North America’s largest weekly gathering of Christian students."
"Liberty University was kind enough to invite me to address a convocation and I decided to accept,” Sanders said in a statement on Wednesday night. “It goes without saying that my views on many issues -- women’s rights, gay rights, education and many other issues -- are very different from the opinions of some in the Liberty University community. I think it is important, however, to see if we can reach consensus regarding the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality in our country, about the collapse of the middle class, about the high level of childhood poverty, about climate change and other issues."
In the statement, Sanders said he looked forward to meeting with the students and faculty at Liberty.
“It is very easy for a candidate to speak to people who hold the same views," he stated. "It’s harder but important to reach out to others who look at the world differently.”
While Sanders has a devoted and growing following, he still trails fellow Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. HuffPost Pollster’s aggregate of national polling data has him taking 20 percent of the vote nationally, compared to Clinton’s 56 percent.
But Sanders is closing the gap, according to some polls. A WMUR/University of New Hampshire poll released Tuesday had Sanders in a statistical tie with the Democratic presidential frontrunner, trailing her by just 6 percentage points.
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