Thirty-five black alumni of Liberty University are calling for university President Jerry Falwell Jr. to resign, following Falwell’s tweet last week picturing a mask with someone in a KKK costume and another person in blackface.
Falwell’s tweet mocked Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, who had issued an order last week that masks must be worn in public buildings and businesses. The picture on the mask was from Northam’s medical yearbook page and was so offensive that it sparked a major controversy last year, nearly forcing Northam to resign.
In a letter posted as a petition to change.org, the alumni wrote that they have been “deeply grieved by (Falwell’s) incendiary rhetoric over the past several years. . . . While your tweet may have been in-jest about Virginia’s Governor, it made light of our nation’s painful history of slavery and racism.”
I was adamantly opposed to the mandate from @GovernorVA requiring citizens to wear face masks until I decided to design my own. If I am ordered to wear a mask, I will reluctantly comply, but only if this picture of Governor Blackface himself is on it!#VEXIT#EndLockdownNow pic.twitter.com/twu7r4rWhd
— Jerry Falwell (@JerryFalwellJr) May 27, 2020
The leaders added that Fallwell’s tweet was a “microcosm” of Falwell’s divisive rhetoric over the past several years and does not display the “Christian witness that the Gospel demands of us,” nor the “Christlike leadership that Liberty University deserves.”
“You have belittled staff, students and parents, you have defended inappropriate behaviors of politicians, encouraged violence, and disrespected people of other faiths,” they wrote.
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The alumni called on Falwell to delete his tweet and publicly apologize. They also urged Falwell, a member of Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Board, to “leave the position of school president and pursue politics full-time.”
They added that because of Falwell’s “callous rhetoric,” they will no longer donate to Liberty or encourage students to attend the university. They also said they will “actively encourage” Christian leaders to decline invitations to speak at Liberty.
“You have belittled staff, students and parents, you have defended inappropriate behaviors of politicians, encouraged violence, and disrespected people of other faiths.”
The main signatories of the letter were pastors Eric Carroll of Ascension Church RVA and Chris Williamson of Strong Tower Bible Church. Pastor Williamson’s wife, Dorena Williamson, who also signed the letter, is the daughter of the vice chairman of Liberty’s board of trustees, pastor Allen McFarland.
Other notable signatories include Latasha Morrison, an alumna who founded the racial reconciliation network called Be the Bridge, pro football player Walt Aikens, and former pro football player Eric Green.
The petition comes after Dr. Christopher House, a black pastor who’s also an online instructor for Liberty, resigned in protest to Falwell’s “blackface” tweet. “These actions are inexcusable and abhorrent,” House wrote in a letter posted to Facebook. “I cannot remain part of an institution whose senior leader would engage in such actions at any time, but then to have the unmitigated gall to do so at a time when black communities are once again grieving over recent incidents of racial violence.”
I reached out to Liberty for comment, but the school did not respond. However, last night, Falwell was defiant.
He tweeted that he would not apologize for his controversial tweet because Northam had “ended tuition assistance grants for the 27% of @LibertyU online students who are African-American.”
People have asked why I won’t apologize for reminding people of the @vagovernor racist past in a recent tweet. It’s because that same Gov just ended tuition assistance grants for the 27% of @LibertyU online students who are African-American! Put your$ where your mouth is Gov. Sad
— Jerry Falwell (@JerryFalwellJr) June 1, 2020
In March, the Virginia General Assembly passed a 2021-2022 budget that eliminates a tuition assistance grant for online students at private colleges.
As of 5:30 p.m. Monday, the petition calling for Falwell’s resignation had nearly 3,000 signatures.
The alumni who signed the petition said that even if Falwell decides to remain, they are willing to “provide counsel” on ways Liberty can “best move forward in these racially-charged and divisive times.”
“Our ultimate goal is for Jesus to be glorified in all that we say and do. We pray that is your desire as well.”
11 thoughts on “African American Alumni Call for Resignation of Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr.”
Falwell is a disgrace and as a consequence, Liberty University has quickly become a joke of a “Christian” institution.
I’m seeing a trend here with such blog posts and the replies they engender. This particular blog post will undoubtedly inspire many calls for Falwell’s ouster as President of Liberty University, and many people will claim to be outraged by Falwell’s provocative tweet. Fair enough. Yet the person who actually did wear blackface and the person who actually did don a KKK robe (“in a youthful indiscretion”) was Governor Northam himself. Moreover, this Governor was famously caught saying how women should have the right to terminate their baby even “after” the baby is born. Yet there are at least 3,000 signatures by former alumni which call for Falwell’s resignation. How many signatures are being gathered which call for Governor Northam’s resignation? It’s interesting how liberal politicians keep getting a pass, even when their own blatant racism and their own abhorrent views on the sanctity of life are far more troubling than a provocative tweet by Falwell. These are interesting times we are living in.
There were A LOT of cries for Northam’s resignation, and for there to be official resolutions condemning him to be written and publicly read. So not sure where you were to think that there was no outrage.
And here we go with the “whataboutism” YET AGAIN. This is about Falwell, making a decision that reflects poorly on him, his leadership, and the faith he claims to profess. It SHOULD be called out. We should expect better of Christian leaders of Christian universities. And we as the body of Christ should reflect and hold Falwell accountable rather than deflecting with this “what about the liberals” nonsense. It’s like we want to shout “squirrel!” to take the focus off of us. Non-believers do that. Let’s do better.
Sin is to be addressed, especially by those claiming to follow Christ. Not deflected. Not excused. Addressed.
I am a Christian black man AND I AGREE with Jerry Falwell Jr’s tweet.
If Mr. Falwell were a black man and made the exact same tweet in his same presidential position, I have to wonder whether there would be a peep of descent from any of my fellow black Christians. I didn’t find the tweet filthy or foolish or crude….as the Ephesians verse they quoted states.
At the same time, I see their claim that this is part of some enduring negative pattern of behavior from Falwell Jr. It would be helpful if they actually outlined that behavior. They could be right for all I know. But I can’t help but take a skeptical stance until the pattern of behavior is stated in detail.
Just as I am offended by the minimizing of racial injustices, on the other end of the spectrum, I’m also offended by a hypersensitivity which gets in the way of boldly staring these issues in the face. The fact that this tweet with its (in my opinion) well done use of irony would be seen as “the straw that breaks the camel’s back” only makes me hesitant to agree with the claims lobbied at Falwell. Again, I could be totally wrong. They could be right. I’d like to see the past offenses outlined in detail to affirm whether this is truly part of a broader negative pattern OR hypersensitivity towards a white man being too ‘in your face’ on matters of race.
Mal, very well said. That is my point exactly. Personally, I believe there is much to be disturbed about Jerry Falwell Jr. regarding some of his behavior, and also for the way that Liberty University has been run since Jerry’s father’s death. Also, I think it’s not helpful for Falwell to be so overtly political, since Christian leaders should focus more on the kingdom of Christ than on the kingdom of this world. Nevertheless, I find it fascinating that the “last straw” for Falwell is a somewhat provocative (yet ironic) tweet that says much more about Governor Northam than it does about Falwell. Also, Falwell said his motivation for sending his tweet was due to Northam’s recent policy that ended tuition assistance grants for online students, many of whom are African-American. It was Falwell’s way of exposing Northam for his hypocrisy. Yet Northam’s hypocrisy will be forgiven (or overlooked), but Falwell will never be forgiven, and he’ll likely be run out of town. Also, I fully expect Northam will be reelected as Governor.
One more point. I’ve been following politics since the 70s, and I recall for decades how the media and the cultural elites loved to pile on and make a mockery of Jerry Falwell Sr. He was one of their favorite punching bags and he was deemed a fundamentalist rube. Clearly, Falwell Sr. wasn’t perfect, but he seemed like a decent man and a sincere follower of Christ, seeking to help others and make a difference. Also, he was fearless. He was fearless about his faith, his advocacy, and his political beliefs. He was willing to speak out against the secular culture at a time when SO MANY of his contemporaries would not, since they didn’t want the blow-back. Hence, many of his contemporaries were more than willing to let Falwell Sr. take the punches for Evangelical Christianity.
I say all this merely to make the point that perhaps Jerry Jr. has some of the same instincts that his father had. People can judge for themselves whether or not Jerry Jr. is leading as well as his father did. But make no mistake about it: the media and the cultural elites despised Falwell Sr. at the time, and so did many of the “respectable” mainstream Christians. I think we have some of those same divides playing out today. Ironically, instead of sending his provocative tweet, if Jerry Jr. had come out in favor of, say, gay marriage, he’d be looked upon by many as “courageous” (including in many Evangelical circles, unfortunately).
It is my prayer that we as a body of Christ can get unified behind a Biblically-centered sense of right and wrong. No “but the liberals did this first” and “the cultural elites” (I don’t even know what that is) did that. No self-righteously telling other people how to react or feel (because we don’t know other people’s stories or triggers), and no determining if something is right or wrong based on if we like or approve of those reactions. But just right and wrong according to the Bible. Nothing that is up for political debate. Nothing that is justified (or vilified) because of political leaning or party affiliation. Brothers and sisters, it shouldn’t matter how the world would “look upon” Falwell or Northam or even us. It matters how GOD would look upon us.
If someone can show me where Falwell’s tweet is in line with scripture, please share. He is a Christian leader of a Christian university, and we should hold him to Biblical standards.
M H, I submit that we can do both. Christians can be upset about Falwell’s tweet, and they can be upset about Northam’s actions (although I simply do not share your outrage about Falwell’s tweet, and neither did Mal, as he stated).
There are perhaps other reasons to pursue the resignation of Falwell, but this tweet isn’t one of them (in my opinion). So we’ll just have to agree to disagree on that.
Also, we can (and should) hold our elected leaders accountable, whether they profess to be Christians or not. Believe it or not, our non-Christian leaders should be held to biblical standards, whether they acknowledge it or not. Such leaders are ordained by God too.
In my original comment in this thread, I stated the following:
“Yet the person who actually did wear blackface and the person who actually did don a KKK robe (“in a youthful indiscretion”) was Governor Northam himself. Moreover, this Governor was famously caught saying how women should have the right to terminate their baby even “after” the baby is born.”
It’s interesting to me that this struck a nerve with you (and maybe others too), since the only thing that seems to matter here is condemning Falwell’s provocative tweet and ensuring that he is run out of town. Thus, it is somehow problematic and unbiblical of me to even raise the issue of Northam’s ACTUAL racism and Northam’s ACTUAL views on the sanctity of life. I did this to give some much needed perspective, which apparently didn’t sit well with you.
To conclude, I feel no need to pile on Falwell for his provocative tweet (I’ll let others do that). Instead, I will focus on calling out real racist actions (such as Northam’s) as well as calling out leaders (such as Northam) whose decisions have real life or death consequences for “the least of these” among us (i.e. the millions of unborn babies being run through our nation’s abortion mills). I have much more outrage about that than I do about Falwell’s silly tweet.
If you’ll note, I said NOTHING about whether or not Falwell should resign. I can’t even say I agree with whether or not a sole tweet should lead to a resignation. I said I’m frustrated that we are so caught up in “whataboutism” over something that should be a very simple “right or wrong.” I’m baffled that all of this back and forth is taking place over something that IMO should be rather obvious. IMO, the black alumni shouldn’t have needed to even do any of this. It should’ve been seen as unacceptable behavior and corrected, period.
(Side note: I know black people are not a monolith and can hold more than one opinion as a community, so I’m ok with Mal disagreeing with me. I also do not see a “Mal agrees with me” as some sort of “See! A black person said it’s ok so it must be!” moment. I’ve noticed that tends to happen quite a bit when topics involving race or “what is racism” comes up.)
By the way, who determines what is “REAL” or “ACTUAL” racism? I must have missed that declaration.
Now I do agree with you, Dan, on holding ALL leaders accountable, whether believers or not. But I was VILIFIED AND DRAGGED on this blog for calling out some of President Trump’s behavior, with MANY posters using the justification of “he agreed to be POTUS, not a pastor.” Interesting to see that tone change when it’s a Democrat in the hot seat. IMO, that’s more proof of my point (and my frustration) – how we have really politicized right and wrong
I really am starting to believe the cliche of “everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarten.” In kindergarten, if I called another kid a name (my brother was a favorite target), my mom didn’t tolerate a “but…he provoked me and so….” excuses or “what about the time when” deflections. I was corrected under the guise of “it was sinful. It was wrong. Let’s go to the Bible and talk about how to get right.” Period.
And in this current environment, I must ask, when are we going to get tired of making excuses for unBiblical behavior from our own Christian leaders? We are in this chaos of racial hatred and division because everyone always has an excuse or justification for why behaving in an unBiblical manner towards another person or group is ok. And we Christians….if it’s behavior against “the left” or “the elites” or someone we don’t like or disagree with….we are not only at the forefront of making the excuses, we practically cheer it on! What happened to us setting the standard…to being the thermostat that sets the temperature of the world rather than being the thermometer that reflects it?
In this case, I find Falwell’s tweet to be unBiblical in intent and message, and unbecoming of a Christian leader of a Christian university. Period. That’s what this was about. That’s not me being triggered. That’s me refusing to be veered off the catalyst in all of this: a tweet. Not abortion or the media or the “cultural elites” or any of the other “usual Christian buzzwords” used to dodge, deflect, justify, and downright avoid admitting Falwell behaved in a poor manner. I know he doubled down on it in public, but it is my prayer that a believer is able to reach out to him in private.
I also continue to say an extra prayer for the state of our nation.
I agree with you, Mal, and Dan, there would have to be some other reason for me to think Falwell should resign. Northam’s college behavior sickens me, and I could care less for Falwell exercising his freedom of speech to remind people of Northam’s despicable behavior.
Sooner than later Falwell is going to be exposed. There have been cracks but one day the floodgate is going to open. He’s rude, abusive, immature and a habitual line crosser. He does not possess the leadership qualities required of a college leader, let alone a Christian college leader.
Well said Carla, Well said! There seems to be a rash of “Christian” Evangelical leaders who think they are not accountable to anyone but themselves and believe they are bullet-proof. I myself was caught up in the mess at Harvest Bible Chapel with with his royal imperial highness, James MacDonald. Can’t think of anything that makes me want to croak more that a high roller “Christian” leader who stomps on God’s people and gets away with it. Psalms says “there is no fear of God before their eyes”, but there will on their day of reckoning with the Lord, oh yes, there will be.
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