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Jerry Falwell Jr. In Hot Water After Calling Liberty University Student The R-Word In Emails

Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, is dealing with significant fallout after a series of emails from his time as president came to public attention. If the emails can be believed, the negative attention is far from unwarranted.

In those emails, he derided students, faculty, staff and parents, even going so far as to refer to a former student as “emotionally imbalanced and physically r*tarded.” He also referred to the chief of campus police as a “half-wit and easy to manipulate,” and variously insulted other members of staff.

Falwell Jr. is the son of Liberty University’s founder and televangelist minister Jerry Falwell Sr., who also served as the university’s president until his death in 2007.

Among those that received the mocking treatment in Falwell’s emails were members of faculty and staff. Of Kevin Keys, former associate athletics director, Falwell said:

“Only get Kevin involved in something if you want it not to work.”

Falwell has asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to look into how these emails were leaked, and whether former board members or employees may have been responsible for the leaking of the emails and other documents to journalists.

This request comes after Falwell began facing criticism for how he has run the university during his 12 years as president. A recent Politico exposé described a “culture of fear and self-dealing” at Liberty.

The alleged self-dealing included a business deal that benefitted Falwell’s personal trainer. Benjamin Crosswhite, who was then a recent graduate of Liberty, was able to quietly purchase an 18-acre parcel of land that formerly belonged to the university.

The real estate transactions were all approved and signed by Falwell himself.

This still might have been above-board but, under the terms of the sale, Crosswhite didn’t have to put any of his own money toward the purchase. The school agreed to credit Crosswhite Fitness LLC, Crosswhite’s business, nearly $647,000 in rent to continue to use the facilities for the following nine years.

The school also provided Crosswhite the ability to finance the rest of the $1.2 million price tag with a 3% interest rate.

In a poignant statement about how much Liberty has changed, an unnamed senior official within the university told Politico:

“We’re not a school; we’re a real estate hedge fund. We’re not educating; we’re buying real estate every year and taking students’ money to do it.”

Social media reaction was largely scornful but not surprised.

The mission statement of Liberty University includes the values that should be modeled and taught to students, including:

“8. Encourage a commitment to the Christian life, one of personal integrity, sensitivity to the needs of others, social responsibility and active communication of the Christian faith, and, as it is lived out, a life that leads people to Jesus Christ as the Lord of the universe and their own personal Savior.”

Berating various people associated with the university via email certainly doesn’t seem to model personal integrity or a sensitivity to the needs of others. Nor does partying all night in nightclubs.

Falwell Jr. claimed photos of him partying at a nightclub in Miami were photoshopped, so the photographer went through their files and found more. Many more.

Falwell is facing the consequences of his decisions to lie and insult people; perhaps he will learn to be kind.

The book The Immoral Majority: Why Evangelicals Chose Political Power over Christian Values is available here.

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Written by Winona Sioux Christnot-Peters

Winona Sioux Christnot-Peters is a writer/web designer and aspiring librarian based in Northern Maine. When not writing or in class, they devote much of their time to multiple non-profit organizations, largely focusing on LGBTQ+ rights and animal welfare. During rare moments of free time Winona enjoys video and tabletop games, as well as various nerdy fiber crafts such as crocheting (mainly amigurumi Pokémon, cat toys, and blankets) and counted cross stitch.