Liberty University Places Jerry Falwell Jr. on Indefinite Leave of Absence

By Julie Roys
Jerry Falwell Jr.
FILE - In this Nov. 28, 2018, file photo, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. speaks before a convocation at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

Liberty University has placed Jerry Falwell, Jr., on indefinite leave of absence from his roles as president and chancellor of the university, effective immediately.

Liberty gave no reason for Falwell’s departure in a one-sentence announcement Friday afternoon. But it came just days after Falwell posted a racy picture of himself and a woman with their pants unzipped and shirts hiked up. Also posted was a video of Falwell and his friends and family members at what appeared to be a Trailer Park Boys themed party on a yacht. 

Falwell later apologized for the picture and claimed that he was at a “costume party” and the picture was just in “good fun.”

In a statement released today, the university said that the Executive Committee of Liberty University’s Board of Trustees, acting on behalf of the full board, requested that Falwell take the leave of absence “to which he has agreed.”

Falwell Trump
Donald Trump with Jerry Falwell Jr. and his wife in 2016. (Twitter)

A high-profile supporter of President Donald Trump, Falwell has served since 2007 as president of the university founded by his evangelist father, the late Rev. Jerry Falwell.

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He did not immediately return a call seeking comment. University spokesman Scott Lamb said he had no further comment.

In an interview this week with Lynchburg radio station WLNI, Falwell said the woman in the photo was his wife’s assistant and that the picture was taken while on vacation.

“Lots of good friends visited us on the yacht,” the caption of the photo said, in part. “I promise that’s just black water in my glass. It was a prop only.” He said the woman — who also had her midriff exposed — was pregnant, couldn’t get her pants zipped and he imitated her.

“I’ve apologized to everybody, and I’ve promised my kids … I’m going to try to be a good boy from here on out,” he told the interviewer.

On Thursday, Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina, a pastor who previously taught at Liberty, called Falwell’s behavior “appalling” and said he should resign.

Besides Walker, some pastors who graduated from Liberty spoke out this week calling for a change in leadership at the school. Mark Davis, a Texas-based pastor, tweeted that “the name of Christ and the reputation of Liberty will continue to be dishonored” without action against Falwell by the board. Colby Garman, a pastor who has served on the executive board of the Southern Baptist Convention of Virginia, tweeted Monday that it was “bewildering” to see Falwell maintain the board’s support. He responded to Friday’s news with appreciation.

“How is this Jerry Falwell Jr. photo even real?” tweeted conservative TV personality Meghan McCain, daughter of the late U.S. Sen. John McCain. “Also if you’re running the largest Christian university in America maybe don’t put photos of yourself on social media with your pants undone on a yacht — with random women in bad wigs. So gross, so hypocritical.”

The late Falwell founded Liberty in 1971 with just 154 students. Under the leadership of Falwell Jr., who is an attorney and not a minister, Liberty has grown into a leading evangelical university, with an immaculate campus and a significant endowment. Students must follow a strict code of conduct that includes modest dress and a ban on alcohol consumption.

In recent years, Liberty has served as a regular speaking spot for ambitious Republicans courting the young evangelical vote. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz kicked off a presidential campaign there in 2015.

Falwell was among the earliest Christian conservatives to endorse Trump’s previous election campaign. In late 2016 he told The Associated Press that Trump had offered him the job of education secretary but that he turned it down for personal reasons.

The vacation photo was the most recent in a string of controversies dogging Falwell in recent years, in both his role at Liberty and his personal life.

Last year, he settled a federal lawsuit in Florida over a real estate venture that involved a young Miami pool attendant, a case that drew national attention.

He more recently sparred with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and local officials in Lynchburg over his handling of coronavirus restrictions. He also faced stinging criticism from a group of Black alumni who said in a letter that he should step down after he mocked Virginia’s mask-wearing requirement in a tweet by invoking a blackface scandal that engulfed Northam last year. Several Black Liberty staff members resigned following the tweet, and several high-profile Black student-athletes announced transfer plans.

On Friday, Pastors Chris Williamson, Eric Carroll, and Maina Mwaura, who organized the June letter, issued a statement applauding the board’s decision.

“Liberty University deeply impacted us as students and we hope that its leadership can return to a focus of training ‘young champions for Christ’ with Biblical conviction for the Gospel and justice,” the statement said.


The Associated Press writers contributed to this report.



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19 thoughts on “Liberty University Places Jerry Falwell Jr. on Indefinite Leave of Absence”

  1. How about termination?

    This will be the typical leave and then reinstatement. The good old boys network mode of operation. Thank you for continuing to shine light on these issues.

    Will this be a paid leave?

  2. Nobody seems to mention that the women in the photo was not only pregnant but there was a bed behind Falwell to the left…you can see the edge of it…they were in a bedroom on said yacht…smh…just wow…makes me wonder who the dad is…

  3. “Leave of absence”.

    The president of my secular university was summarily fired one weekend for far less.

    Once again, the low standards of “Christian” institutions bring shame to the name of Christ before a watching world.

  4. As a graduate of the seminary there, I am glad to see that they took the action they did and asked him to step down, and glad that Jerry Jr, submitted to their request. I still feel that he should resign and the university look outside the university itself for someone to replace him.

  5. I work in a private, non-Christian school. We are told from day one that anything we post on social media that reflects poorly on the school will get us a cardboard box and an escort to our car. This kind of nonsense just isn’t tolerated. I’ve always wondered what kind of power Jr. has over the board that he has been able to keep his position for so long.

  6. 2 Peter Verse 1
    But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you.

    2 Peter Verse 22
    Of them the proverbs are true, “A dog returns to his vomit,” and A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.”

  7. He acknowledged he’s going to try to “be a good boy” – clearly he needed a time out. 😑 Thankful Liberty finally acted in fear of God, not Falwell.

    1. Rather juvenile thing for him to say- how about being a good man? Holy and true? Act like men. Many of our Christian male leaders need to grow up- to full maturity.

      1. Kevin

        You write…
        “Many of our Christian male leaders need to grow up- to full maturity.”

        Have you ever wondered why? In the Bible?
        NOT one of **His Disciples** called them self “Leader?”
        NOT one of **His Disciples** called another Disciple “Leader?”

        What is popular is NOT always “Truth.”
        What is “Truth” is NOT always popular.

  8. Seems Jesus has a unique take on “Leaders” for **His Disciples.**


    And, **His Disciples** must have believed Jesus… Because…
    In the Bible, NOT one of **His Disciples** called them self “Leader.”

    Mat 23:10-12 NASB
    Do NOT be called leaders;
    for “ONE” is your Leader, that is, Christ.
    But the greatest among you shall be your “Servant”.
    Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled;
    and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

    Humble – a modest or low estimate of one’s own importance.

    Know many? any? who take the postion of Leader…
    Who are Humble?
    Having a modest or low estimate of their own importance?

    Jesus also said…

    John 5:41 – I receive *NOT* honour from men.
    John 5:44 – How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another,
    and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?

    When someone aknowledges you as a “Leader?”
    Or church leader? Or spirirtual leader? Or christian leader?

    Are you, “Receiving Honor” from men?

    Jesus also said…

    John 7:18 – He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory…
    John 8:50 – And I seek not mine own glory…

    When you let people know, you’re a “leader?”
    Or church leader? Or spirirtual leader? Or christian leader?

    Is that, “seeking your own glory?”

    Why do you want to be known as a “leader?”
    Why do you want people to follow you?
    And NOT follow Jesus?

    Isa 3:12 KJV
    …O my people, *they which lead thee*
    cause thee to err,
    and destroy the way of thy paths.

    Isa 9:16 KJV
    For *the leaders* of this people
    cause them to err;
    and they that are led of them are destroyed.

  9. First of all, the liquid in his glass has a zero chance of being a dark liquid as a prop. Jr. has a long history with alcohol abuse and so do some others in his immediate family. He doesn’t attend church anywhere and hasn’t attended regular in several years. The Trailer Boys deal is also false. It was a cover up to try and make the picture more plausible. I do not believe for one second, that he has any relationship with this particular woman, or any other, outside of his marriage. In fact, I have been told that this woman’s husband (who is Jerry’s assistant), is the one who took the picture. It is true that she is pregnant Regardless, it is one of the dumbest things he has ever done, but that happens when you imbibe. All of the above, in my humble opinion of course. I wasn’t on the boat. :)

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