Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. expressed his support for changing the name of Lynchburg, the Virginia city where his prominent evangelical Christian school is based.
Although noting that the city is named after John Lynch and not the racially charged practice of lynching, Falwell said in a statement released last Friday that it would end any confusion.
“I personally support changing the name of the city of Lynchburg. It’s been an embarrassment to Liberty University ever since we started,” stated Falwell.
“That was one of the reasons Liberty’s original name was changed from Lynchburg Baptist College to Liberty Baptist College in 1976.”
Falwell added that “many people from Liberty have told me that when they travel and tell people where they’re from, they’re often asked, ‘Why in the world would you want to live in a racist place like that?’”
“It’s because people take ‘lynch’ and they think it means there were lynchings here, when the truth is it was named after a Quaker,” he continued.
Falwell’s statement came in response to a petition aimed at changing the name of the Central Virginia city of around 82,000 people due to concerns over its similarity to the term lynching.
The online petition, which has as of Monday morning more than 5,500 signatories, was started by an individual named Daisy Howard to bring to the Lynchburg City Council.
“I understand it was named after a man named John Lynch, but why do we insist on explaining that when people react to its name poorly (understandably so)? Why do we insist on defending it? We understand the power in the word,” stated Howard.
“We can honor John and his family by removing the word that has grown to mean something he would not be proud of.”
Recently, longstanding debates over names and imagery considered racist have reignited following the highly publicized killings of African Americans, mainly George Floyd.
Many of these debates have centered on more overtly controversial items, such as Confederate imagery on public property or the Mississippi state flag.
In Richmond, the capital of Virginia, multiple statues honoring Confederate generals that were prominently displayed on Monument Avenue have been removed over the past several days.
This will eventually include the statue dedicated to General Robert E. Lee, which in particular has been the subject of many large protests and much vandalism in recent times.