LYNCHBURG, Va. — A coalition of Liberty University alumni, students and faculty have launched a petition requesting that the Board of Trustees permanently remove Jerry Falwell Jr. from his position as president and “replace him with a responsible and virtuous Christian leader.”
Save71 states that it is not just the recent unzipped pants photo taken during the “Trailer Park Boys”-themed yacht party that gives rise to the call for Falwell’s firing but rather a pattern of behavior throughout much of his tenure.
“Over the past several years, President Jerry Falwell Jr. has damaged the spiritual vitality, academic quality, and national reputation of Liberty University,” the website for the effort reads.
“Liberty University, like any institution or person, needs to repent of its sins before seeking redemption,” it states. “The Board of Trustees must acknowledge the damage President Falwell has done to Liberty and the hypocrisy and corruption that has soaked into parts of its culture.”
The group, co-founded by alumni Dustin Wahl and Calum Best, provides dozens of examples of concerning statements and actions from Falwell from 2015 to present. Falwell became president of Liberty University in 2007 after his father, Moral Majority leader and university founder, Jerry Falwell, Sr., died suddenly of cardiac arrhythmia at age 73.
Among the examples include Mark DeMoss being asked to resign from the board after expressing concerns over Falwell’s endorsement of Donald Trump; to controversy surrounding the Falwell family’s hostel in Florida, which allows behavior prohibited on campus; to a “Miss Virginia” contest being hosted at the school’s Center for Music & Worship, which included a swimsuit competition; to Falwell calling a student “retarded” in email correspondence; to Falwell’s “end those Muslims” remarks; to Falwell using crude language in regard to McLean Bible Church pastor David Platt and then deleting it.
“Does this pattern of behavior demonstrate responsible and virtuous leadership fitting of one of the world’s largest Christian universities whose mission is ‘Training Champions for Christ’?” the site asks.
“[F]or too long, Liberty’s leaders have used the school’s virtues to shield its sins and used its power to cloak its failures. That must end now,” it states. “We put no faith in riches or comfort, in status or power. We put our faith in Christ alone, and we want Liberty University to follow Him.”
Liberty University announced on Monday that its Executive Committee of the Board has appointed current Chairman Jerry Prevo to step in as acting president since Falwell Jr. agreed to take an indefinite leave of absence at the request of its Board of Trustees.
Prevo has sat on Liberty University’s board of trustees since 1996 and has been the chairman since 2003. He is formerly the senior pastor of Anchorage Baptist Temple in Alaska, one of the largest churches in the state.
“I want to thank my fellow board members for having confidence that I could be entrusted with the responsibility of serving as the acting president during this time of Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s indefinite leave of absence,” Prevo said in a statement.
He asked for prayer for university leadership, as well as the Falwell family, “as we embark on our academic year and so we may continue to be united in our common purpose and our faith in Christ.”