Jerry Falwell Jr. has agreed to an “indefinite leave of absence” as president and chancellor of Liberty University following a photo that was released showing the Christian leader on a boat with his pants unzipped and his arm around a woman.
Falwell defended the photo as harmless fun, but the damage was done. He has since deleted the picture and tried to ride out the storm, but the writing was on the wall when some of his strongest supporters urged his resignation.
“The Executive Committee of Liberty University’s Board of Trustees, acting on behalf of the full Board, met today and requested that Jerry Falwell, Jr. take an indefinite leave of absence from his roles as President and Chancellor of Liberty University, to which he has agreed, effective immediately,” the university said in a statement on Friday.
The decision came a day after a top House Republican called on Falwell to resign as president of the large Christian school. Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina, the vice chair of the House Republican Conference and a former pastor, said that Falwell’s “ongoing behavior is appalling.”
“Appalling” is a little harsh. It was, however, inappropriate and as leader of a Christian university that forbids premarital sex on campus, his behavior should have been above reproach.
Naturally, the left gleefully piled on.
“From advocating for so-called conversion therapy and racist transphobe Roy Moore to encouraging violence against racial and religious minorities, Falwell has perverted and turned his back on what it means to be a true Christian. Christianity at its core holds an ethic of justice, inclusion and radical love — not the anti-LGBTQ radicalism, white supremacy and hatred that Falwell and the religious right have upheld for decades. Those who misrepresent the true values of Christianity must and will be held accountable for their vile words and actions against our community.”
Well, at least they spelled his name right.
Falwell is no stranger to controversy. He was forced to apologize for retweeting an image of a face mask that was decorated with the photo of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam in blackface. There were allegations of financial irregularities and cronyism — none were proven.
What is provable is the astonishing growth of Liberty University from a small, rural religious school into a large, thriving institution of 120,000 students on campus and online.
“Unfortunately, with this success and the burdens of leading a large and growing organization comes substantial pressure. Today, my colleagues and I on the Liberty University Board of Trustees and Jerry mutually agreed that it would be good for him to take an indefinite leave of absence. This was a decision that was not made lightly, and which factored the interests and concerns of everyone in the LU community, including students, parents, alumni, faculty, staff, leaders of the Church, as well as the Falwell family.
That Falwell is human shouldn’t surprise us, but always does. Expectations from the Christian public may seem unrealistic or even fanciful, but in today’s cancel culture, being above reproach has become the norm. In another period of history, Falwell’s foibles might not have even registered on the outrage meter, or would never have seen the light of day.
Today, he’s just another scandalous Christian who’s probably wondering what hit him.