Conservative firebrand, Charlie Kirk, is out as the head of Liberty University’s Falkirk Center—and Liberty is renaming the think tank the Standing for Freedom Center.
Kirk, the founder of Turning Point USA, started the Falkirk Center three years ago with now-disgraced, former Liberty University President, Jerry Falwell, Jr.
The think tank was a powerhouse for the pro-Trump evangelical movement and drew numerous high-profile conservative leaders to Liberty, including Trump aide Sebastian Gorka, Christian radio host Eric Metaxas, and former Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis.
Kirk had the fire; Falwell had the institutional force.
But the center’s reputation cratered with Falwell’s. And after Falwell resigned amid sexual and financial scandal, some critics saw the Falkirk Center as a remnant of Falwell’s highly politicized and worldly leadership.
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Save 71, a group of Liberty alumni advocating for reform, publicly called for the center to close.
Though the decision is only now coming to light, Liberty decided last fall not to renew Kirk’s contract, according Scott Lamb, Liberty’s senior vice president for university communications, who spoke with the New York Times.
Lamb told the Times he personally made the decision concerning Kirk’s contract: “We gave it a lot of thought and we decided to allocate our resources in different ways than that partnership with Charlie.”
The announcement and name change has not appeased Save 71. The group tonight tweeted the news and said “whatever it’s called, it’s an embarrassment to @Liberty students, professors, and alumni.”
It's official: the Falkirk Center is changing its name to the "Standing for Freedom Center," and Charlie Kirk is no longer involved. But whatever it's called, it's an embarrassment to @LibertyU students, professors, and alumni. https://t.co/SSYxwq71sg
— Save71 (@save71LU) March 17, 2021
The Falkirk Center spearheaded an aggressive, no-holds-bared approach to the culture war.
“Bemoaning the rise of leftism is no longer enough,” its website read. “Although we do, as Jesus taught, turn the other cheek in our personal relationships, we cannot abdicate our responsibilities on the cultural battlefield. There is too much at stake in the clash for the soul of our nation. Bold, unapologetic engagement and initiative is needed on the part of every conservative American.”
Though Liberty called the center a think tank, it hasn’t produced scholarly research. It has, however, produced videos, podcasts, and articles on cultural issues. The Falkirk Center also spent $50,000 on pro-Trump Facebook ads.
Conservative Christian writer Rod Dreher wrote that Kirk practiced “Hooters conservatism.” At a Turning Point USA event, girls in scanty tight-fitting outfits shot cash into the crowd from a cannon.
Some students at Liberty said the center’s aggressive approach conflicted with Christian values.
“Liberty has always engaged in the culture war, but the Falkirk Center was unique in that it openly prioritizes lust for that war over concern for the culture,” Liberty graduate and Liberty reform activist Dustin Wahl told The New York Times.
Over the past few months, the Falkirk Center dismissed multiple former fellows. These include Sebastian Gorka, Jenna Ellis, and commentator David Harris Jr.
Jackson Elliott contributed to this report.