On Saturday, writing for Never Trump conservative publication The Bulwark, Liberty University graduate Calum Best laid into the pattern of erratic behavior by Jerry Falwell Jr., the Trump-supporting president of the conservative Christian school who was forced into an indefinite “leave of absence” after posting a bizarre Instagram photo of himself on a yacht with a young woman, both of their pants unzipped.
“It’s nice to know that he’s finally facing consequences, however lenient and temporary, for his actions,” wrote Best, but “Let’s be clear: The problem with Jerry Falwell Jr. isn’t that he occasionally makes clownishly inept, crude posts on social media. It’s bigger than that. Falwell’s zipper has been down for years.”
“For instance, Falwell has explicitly said that he takes no responsibility for the spiritual growth of Liberty students, even though the school is a Christian university,” wrote Best. “A loyal supporter of Donald Trump, Falwell has openly said that his political activities are not influenced at all by his faith. He called a Liberty parent — which is to say, someone who helps pay his salary — a ‘dummy.’ He told one well-known evangelical pastor to ‘grow a pair,’ and chided another for being unqualified to speak ‘on any subject.’ Falwell even told Liberty students to ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,’ then threw his support behind a bizarre plan for Virginia counties to secede from the state and join West Virginia.”
Falwell has survived up until this point, Best wrote, because he has managed to increase the university’s enrollment and endowment — but at the same time, he has hollowed out the institution.
“Falwell made deep cuts to the School of Divinity (supposedly because of money); this year, he eliminated Liberty’s philosophy department (money again),” wrote Best. “Liberty spends far less than peer schools on student instruction, while Liberty professors have no tenure and are employed on one-year contracts. It’s widely known that school’s faculty is overworked and underpaid, but Falwell doesn’t prioritize them.”
“To my fellow members of the Liberty community: If anyone tries to downplay this latest incident to you (and they will; take my word for it), you should gently remind them that Falwell’s recent public indecency isn’t just a one-off parody but part of a long pattern,” concluded Best. “We’ve seen everything, and it’s too disturbing to stay quiet.”
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