On March 1st Mark DeMoss — Jerry Falwell, Sr.’s chief of staff from 1984-1991 and head of the largest PR firm in America working exclusively with Christian organizations — told the Washington Post’s Philip Rucker that Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. made a mistake by endorsing Donald Trump for president. Then in late April, according to DeMoss, the executive committee of the Liberty University Board of Trustees voted to ask DeMoss to resign from the Board’s executive committee. For many years, DeMoss chaired that same committee.
When I became aware that DeMoss’ name had been removed from the Liberty University listing of trustees, I asked Liberty for comment. Today, the university sent this statement:
Mark DeMoss sent an email with his resignation on Tuesday, April 26, 2016, four days after the most recent Board of Trustees meeting. He was not removed from the Board of Trustees nor did the Board of Trustees ask for his resignation.
I then asked DeMoss about the resignation and he told a more detailed story:
On March 1st a Washington Post article appeared in which I expressed my disagreement with Jerry Falwell Jr’s formal endorsement of Donald Trump. Jerry and a number of fellow Liberty University trustees expressed to me and to the other trustees their disapproval of my speaking publicly about the subject.
At our April 21 executive committee meeting the committee voted to ask me to resign from the committee I had chaired for many years. I agreed, and did so in remarks to the full board the following morning.
Subsequently, on Monday, April 25, I sent a letter to Jerry and the chairman of the board and the new chairman of the executive committee, tendering my resignation from the board I had served for 25 years.
I asked Liberty University for a reaction to the DeMoss statement but did not get a response. (Since I published this post, Liberty responded. See the update below).
In the same March 1 Washington Post article, Jerry Falwell, Jr. said that his endorsement of Trump was not on behalf of Liberty University and that he didn’t intend to influence students or faculty. However, his influence may have spread to the Liberty executive committee members who, DeMoss said, voted for him to step down from a committee he once chaired. DeMoss told me he had been on the executive committee for eight years, and chose to leave the board completely once he stepped down from the executive committee.
Liberty University does not typically give details of the occurrences at its Board of Trustee meetings but since Mark DeMoss has contradicted the University’s response and offered a different version, here is a clarification:
While members of the Executive Committee individually asked Mark DeMoss to resign from the Executive Committee, no vote was ever taken by the Executive Committee to ask Mark DeMoss to resign. On Thursday, April 21, he was encouraged by members of the Executive Committee to remain on the Board and apologize to the Board. At the Board of Trustees meeting the following day, Mark DeMoss offered an apology to the Board and tendered his resignation from the Executive Committee. The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to accept the apology of Mark DeMoss in the Christian spirit of love and grace. Mark DeMoss sent an email with his resignation on Tuesday, April 26, 2016, four days after the Board of Trustees meeting. He was not removed from the Board of Trustees nor did the Board of Trustees ask for his resignation.
As I consider the matter, I wonder why it is acceptable to the Liberty board for Jerry Falwell to endorse a candidate as an individual not speaking for the univeristy, but it is not fine for a board member to express an opinion as an individual not speaking for the university.
UPDATE 2 – In response to Liberty’s statement, Mark DeMoss told me
- I was not encouraged by members of the Executive Committee to remain on the board; Jerry Jr was the only committee member who spoke to me that evening—after they had the attorney [Liberty’s general counsel] call and ask for my committee resignation.
- The committee said nothing to me about apologizing to the board the next morning. Jerry had suggested that two months earlier and I told him I would do so in person at the April 22 meeting.
- I did not tender my resignation in the full board meeting—I informed them of it. I tendered my resignation the night before to the attorney who called me on behalf of the committee. He told me if I chose not to resign they would vote to remove me (from the committee).