Fmr. Liberty U diversity officer sues school for $8M over 'emotional distress,’ racial discrimination

Liberty U says Kelvin Edwards ‘demanded five years’ salary with no work’ in compensation

L.U. monogram overlooking the Liberty University campus, Lynchburg, Virginia.
L.U. monogram overlooking the Liberty University campus, Lynchburg, Virginia. | Liberty University

A former employee of Liberty University has filed a lawsuit seeking over $8 million from the Lynchburg, Virginia-based evangelical Christian school, claiming racial discrimination.

Kelvin Edwards, a former NFL player, filed a lawsuit against Liberty on Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia.

Edwards accused Liberty of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, arguing that he was demoted and eventually dismissed by Liberty President Jerry Prevo for racial reasons.

“Defendant removed Mr. Edwards from the executive leadership position because Prevo believed that there were too many people in diversity and inclusion at Liberty and because there was already one African American male on the executive team,” the lawsuit argues.

“As a result of Defendant’s discrimination Plaintiff suffered, and continues to suffer, embarrassment, emotional distress, loss of self-esteem, and past and future wage loss.”

The Christian Post reached out to Liberty, with the university emailing a statement in which they said they rejected "the claims of Kelvin Edwards" and they "will prove them false through the legal process."

"Jerry Prevo evaluated the executive team and concluded that among his predecessor’s mistakes was the hiring of Mr. Edwards to be an Executive Vice President of Management Efficiencies and Diversity," stated Liberty.

"Efforts to work with Mr. Edwards to find an alternative role for which he was qualified with a reasonable compensation package were unfruitful."

Liberty went on to state that they "offered to compensate him for returning to Texas, the inconvenience of the false start, and the transition time," but "Edwards refused."

"He demanded five years’ salary with no work, which Liberty simply cannot pay
under governing law," the university added. 

In August 2020, Liberty University announced the hiring of former football coach Turner Gill and former NFL player Kelvin Edwards as a way to help promote diversity at the school.

Gill, who had retired in 2018 after seven seasons coaching the Liberty Flames, was tapped to serve as executive vice president of diversity, development and inclusion.

Edwards, who graduated from Liberty in 1986 and was a former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, had been hired to serve as executive vice president of management efficiencies and diversity.

In a statement included in the 2020 announcement, Edwards explained that he considered the late founder of Liberty, the Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr., a father figure for him.

“I warmly refer to Liberty’s founder, the late Dr. Jerry Falwell, Sr., as my ‘father’ not only because of the intimate relationship and mentorship between us, but also because current President Jerry Falwell and I formed a fast and easy brotherhood as college dorm mates,” said Edwards at the time.

Edwards added in the 2020 statement that he and his wife were “excited to continue our relationship with Liberty University and to uphold the charge of building Champions for Christ.”

The hiring of Edwards and Gill came not long after then Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. posted a controversial tweet showing a picture of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam from the 1984 yearbook at Eastern Virginia Medical School in which he was either wearing blackface or a white Ku Klux Klan robe and a hood. 

The tweet criticizing Northam that was widely circulated online and shared by Falwell, who later took it down from his timeline and apologized for sharing, prompted some African American staff at Liberty to resign in protest due to the racially insensitive nature of the post. 

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