Jonathan Falwell Distances Himself From Brother Jerry's Trump Endorsement: 'Character,' 'Moral Leadership' Should Be Criteria for President

Jonathan Falwell
Jonathan Falwell, senior pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., is seen here in this 2011 photo. |

Seeking to quickly distance himself from his brother Jerry Jr., the Rev. Jonathan Falwell, senior pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, issued a short statement the same day as his brother's endorsement of Donald Trump, saying Christians should vote for a "person of character" who displays "moral leadership."

In the aftermath of Jerry Falwell Jr.'s endorsement of the real estate mogul on Tuesday, the Liberty University president and son of legendary evangelical leader Jerry Falwell has been widely scrutinized for backing a candidate that many conservative evangelicals feel does not uphold strong biblical values and has a questionable track record on issues like abortion.

Jonathan Falwell, who leads the 12th most influential megachurch in the United States according to Newsmax, issued a statement to Lynchburg, Virginia's ABC News affiliate saying that he will not be endorsing any political candidates and that Christians should vote for candidates who most closely align with their beliefs. 

"As a pastor of a local church attended by people of different political parties and persuasions, I have made it my practice not to endorse political candidates," Jonathan Falwell wrote. "I do not believe it is my responsibility to point people to a candidate but rather to point people to Jesus Christ as the ultimate and only hope for mankind and the problems we face as a nation."

Donald Trump, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump points to Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr. after speaking in Lynchburg, Virginia, January 18, 2016. |

Although Jonathan Falwell doesn't believe it is his place to influence who any of Thomas Road's 24,000 congregants vote for, he does encourage them to uphold their civic duty and vote for a "person of character."

"I do, however, believe every follower of Christ should exercise their citizen right to vote," Falwell continued. "In every election cycle, I strongly urge our church members and attenders to make sure they are registered, and then to make sure they vote for a person of character, moral leadership and who most closely aligns with their beliefs and values."

Even though Jonathan Falwell might not feel it is his job as a pastor to make political endorsements, he understands that other pastors may believe God is calling on them to support one candidate over others.

"I recognize every pastor and Christian leader must do what they believe God has called them to do, and I understand that many choose to endorse candidates," Falwell said. "I respect their right to do so, even if I don't believe it is the best thing for me to do as a pastor of a local church."

In a seeming condemnation of the direction that the United States appears to be heading, Jonathan Falwell asserts that the country needs a spiritual awakening.

"Whether or not we agree on making endorsements or even agree on who would make the best next president, I think we can agree America is in need of Divine intervention, spiritual renewal and a return to righteousness if we are to solve the great challenges of our day," Falwell argued.

Jerry Falwell Jr.'s endorsement of Trump left some Liberty graduates "embarrassed" or "disappointed." The school issued a statement saying that Falwell's endorsement does not speak for the institution.

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