50 pastors who graduated from Liberty University demand Falwell be ‘permanently removed’

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 21, 2016. | (Photo: REUTERS/Mike Segar)

A group of 50 ministers who graduated from Liberty University have sent a letter to school leadership demanding that President Jerry Falwell Jr. be “permanently removed” from office.

Falwell agreed to take an “indefinite leave of absence” earlier this month following a controversial social media post showing him with unzipped pants and his belly hanging out while his arm was wrapped around his wife's pregnant secretary who wasn't able to zip up her pre-pregnancy shorts. 

The letter was sent to Liberty’s board of trustees and acting University President Jerry Prevo, according to Faithwire.

The alumni told the university that the Lynchburg, Virginia-based evangelical Christian school needed “new leadership that represents the heart of Liberty University's mission.”

“It is because of our deep love for Liberty University and our great optimism for its future that we write to you today to urge you, the Board of Trustees, to permanently remove Mr. Falwell as president and chancellor and replace him with a new leader,” read the letter, in part.

“We do not write out of any personal vendetta against Mr. Falwell. We recognize that under his leadership, since his father's death in 2007, the school has experienced significant financial and institutional growth and added important programs that are poised to shape a generation of Christian leaders in nearly every field of study.”

The letter echoes the demands of a website called Save71, a group of alumni who posted a statement arguing for Liberty to “remove President Falwell and replace him with a responsible and virtuous Christian leader.”

“To do this, the board should appoint an independent committee of leaders from within the Liberty community, as well as leaders outside of it, to begin the search for a new president,” the group states on its website.

“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.”

While some have argued for only Falwell's removal, Liberty alumnus Curt W. Olson argued in an op-ed published by The Christian Post Friday that more leadership should be removed.

Olson cited several questionable business and professional actions Falwell has taken while president of the university, believing that the trustees were also in the wrong.  

"Isn’t it the responsibility of the Trustees to make sure the President is doing the right thing for and by the university? If Trustees were doing their job, this should never have come this far," wrote Olson. 

In recent times, Falwell has garnered controversy for his strong support of President Donald Trump and for social media posts that some either disagreed with or found offensive.

Falwell elicited a great deal of criticism, for example, when he posted, then deleted, the photo of himself wearing unzipped jeans while on a yacht during his family's vacation. 

In an interview with the WLNI program "MorningLine" earlier this month, Falwell explained the context of the photo.

“She’s pregnant (wife's assistant), so she couldn’t get her pants zipped,” he told the radio program. “I had on a pair of jeans I haven’t worn in a long time, so I couldn’t get mine zipped up, either. And so, I just put my belly out like hers.”

Falwell went on to say, “I should never have put it up” and “embarrassed her,” adding that he has “apologized to everybody.”

Some charged Falwell with hypocrisy, citing among other things Liberty University’s code of conduct that prohibits students from consuming media that contains “lewd lyrics, anti-Christian message, sexual content, nudity, pornography” either on or off campus.

Matt Walsh of The Daily Wire noted that Liberty students could be expelled and have in the past been penalized for participating in similar activities.

“It's extremely poor leadership ... to publicize yourself doing the very thing you punish other people for doing,” said Walsh.

On Aug. 7, the university announced that Falwell was taking an “indefinite leave of absence” and that Board of Trustees Chairman Prevo was assuming the role of acting president.

“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,” Prevo said in a statement.

“To support Jerry through this period, we ask that our entire community lift him up in prayer so he may be able to fulfill God’s purpose for him and for Liberty University.”

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