Liberty University Protesters Want Investigation of Falwell

A student protest is planned this morning at Liberty University. Specifically, the students want an investigation of issues raised in the Politico article by Brandon Ambrosino about Jerry Falwell’s personal and business dealings.

Elizabeth, a LU student, is organizing the event which is slated for 11:45am.

The students have the following mission statement:

Our mission statement is to bring to light the truth of these allegations of various misconduct as brought forth by the Politico Magazine article. We are demanding and investigation both internal and external.

#StudentsForChange is the hashtag the group is using for news about the protest. There isn’t much now but there might be more during and after the event. Falwell has a compliant board but it remains to be seen what student unrest will do to his support.

Red Letter Christians Plan Revival in Lynchburg VA

The organizers are hoping for an April revival in Virginia.

This follows Twitter rumblings for several months and an open letter to Liberty University last November for a peaceful debate after Jonathan Martin was disinvited to speak at the school. That letter is below:

Dear Jerry Falwell, Jr.,

We know you did not intend to make national news this week by sending armed officers to escort the Rev. Jonathan Martin off of Liberty University’s campus. You have been clear about your support for President Trump. Rev. Martin has made clear his opposition. But this fundamental disagreement, you insist, is not why Martin was barred. “The University cannot be concerned with whether its actions provide additional oxygen to either side of a debate,” your official statement said. Your only concern, you insist, is the “safety and security” of your campus.

Despite the fact that Liberty University could not exist without federal loans and grants, it is a private institution. You have the legal authority to use its police force to stifle dissent. But you say this is not your intent: “Members of the Liberty community are always welcome to engage in peaceful debate,” you wrote. Though you might prefer to asphyxiate a prophetic Christianity that criticizes your personal political positions, you understand it is not in your interest to do so.

We write, then, to ask you to make good on your promise. If you are not opposed to a debate, then host one.

As fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we disagree with your celebration of Donald Trump as a “dream President” for evangelicals. Along with a majority of Americans, we experience his administration as more of a nightmare. But our disagreement is not about personality; rather, we see the stark divergence in our discernment about politics as a reflection of fundamental differences in how we understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. From Isaiah 58 to Luke 4 and Matthew 25, the God who is revealed in Jesus Christ speaks prophetically against false religion that props up injustice.

This divide is not new. It is as old as the many denominations that split over the abolition of slavery in the 19th century. As Frederick Douglass wrote in the midst of those divisions, “Between the Christianity of the slaveholder and the Christianity of Christ I see the widest possible difference.” In the 19th century, this basic divide led people like Angelina Grimke and William Lloyd Garrison to part ways with slaveholding religion in order to keep their faith. In the 20th century, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel argued that we forfeit the right to worship God if we do not stand with the marginalized and oppressed. We contend that the greatest threat to Christianity in the 21st century is that our Lord’s gospel would be confused with the religion of white supremacy. In our estimation, you and others who see the Trump administration as a Redemption movement are contributing to just such a conflation.

And yet, we know from the scriptures and from our own experience that the truth of the gospel is greater than our individual and corporate sins. For this reason, we are willing to pay our own way to come to Liberty University and engage in the debate which you have said is welcome. Because we believe that a diversity of voices is essential in these matters, we write together as male and female, black and white, gay and straight ministers of the gospel. We are prepared to present witnesses in equal number to those whom you would choose to represent your perspective. We only ask that we be allowed to mutually agree on a moderator and set of questions beforehand and that we have access to livestream the debate via a production company that was started by one of your alumni. You can contact us via the office of Repairers of the Breach.

We write this open letter in hope that you will be true to the promise of your public statement about why Rev. Martin was removed this week and in greater hope that America might experience a moral revival as we face the truth about how the gospel has been compromised and receive the good news that another way is possible.

That letter was signed by many people also involved in the Red Letter Revival.
I hope this doesn’t turn into a commercialized event with books and CDs for sale. Inasmuch as the event focuses on separating church and state, I wish them well.

Jerry Falwell, Sr. Condemned Jimmy Carter for Playboy Interview

Times have changed.
Yesterday, Jerry Falwell, Jr. was widely criticized for a photo of Falwell, his wife and Donald Trump posing in front of a framed copy of Playboy with Donald Trump on the cover.


Falwell has been defiant in responding to criticism even blocking critical Liberty University students on Twitter.
While Falwell, Jr. may not have known the Playboy cover was in the photo, he has taken a cavalier approach to Donald Trump’s relationship with Hugh Hefner and the publication. Trump gave interviews in 1990 and 2004 to Playboy and in 2006 rewarded an Apprentice team with a trip to the Playboy mansion. Trump showed up for the festivities.
Falwell, Jr’s approach is in sharp contrast to his father’s expressions of condemnation.
In 1976, presidential candidate Jimmy Carter gave an interview which was published in Playboy magazine. This was the famous “lust in the heart” interview where Carter acknowledged attractions to women in the context of Jesus’ teaching not to engage in lust in one’s heart.
After Carter left office, leader of the Moral Majority Jerry Falwell, Sr. condemned Carter for allowing his interview to be published in Playboy which Falwell called “a salacious vulgar magazine that did not even deserve the time of day.”
falwell carter PB

Jerry Falwell Jr Tweets Photo with Donald Trump and Playboy Cover in Background (UPDATED)

One might think this was an Onion story. However, it was tweeted by Jerry Falwell Jr.
Thumbs up, baby!


One can’t change history. Trump was featured in the magazine in 1990 (he also rewarded a winning Apprentice team with a trip to the Playboy mansion in 2006). But would you invite 500 of your closest evangelical friends and leave it on display?
Apparently, Trump revels in it. On the campaign trail, he signed a fan’s copy of the 1990 issue.
Folks, you’re being played.
UPDATES:
Falwell blocked one of his own Liberty University students for criticizing his pose with Trump.


Apparently, others are being blocked as well.
Senator Ben Sasse and Falwell got into it over biblical interpretation.


Generally Falwell has been defiant in his response to his thumbs up with Trump.

Mark DeMoss: Criticism of Jerry Falwell Jr's Trump Endorsement Led To Board Executive Committee Ouster

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.
UPDATE (5/5)

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).