Jerry Falwell Jr., the president and chancellor of Liberty University, has begun an indefinite leave of absence from the evangelical Christian college, its board announced Friday.
“The Executive Committee of Liberty University’s Board of Trustees, acting on behalf of the full Board, met today and requested that Jerry Falwell, Jr. take an indefinite leave of absence from his roles as President and Chancellor of Liberty University, to which he has agreed, effective immediately,” the board said in a brief statement.
The decision was announced within days of Mr. Falwell, whose televangelist father co-founded the college in 1971, facing calls to resign over a photo he shared on social media.
Posted on his personal Instagram account, the photo showed Mr. Falwell and a woman posing side-by-side with their midsections exposed and pants and shorts unzipped, respectively.
Mr. Falwell could also be seen holding a dark-colored beverage in the photo, resulting in speculation that he might have been drinking alcohol – a big no-no for Liberty students.
“I promise that’s just black water in my glass,” Mr. Falwell, 58, captioned the image. “It was a prop only.”
The photo was eventually removed from Mr. Falwell’s account, and he said in a subsequent radio interview the photograph was taken “just in good fun.” He also identified the woman in the photo as his wife’s assistant.
“I’ve apologized to everybody and I promised my kids I’m going to try to be a good boy from here on out,” Mr. Falwell told WLNI on Wednesday.
Calls nonetheless continued for Mr. Falwell to step down from the school prior to its board taking action.
Rep. Mark Walker, a North Carolina Republican with close ties to Liberty, was among members of its community who urged Mr. Falwell to resign before his departure was announced.
“Jerry Falwell Jr’s ongoing behavior is appalling,” Mr. Walker said Thursday on Twitter. “None of us are perfect, but students, faculty, alumni and @LUPraise deserve better.”
Jerry Prevo, the chairman of Liberty’s Board of Trustees, said Friday its members and Mr. Falwell “mutually agreed” it would be good for him to take an indefinite leave of absence.
“This was a decision that was not made lightly, and which factored the interests and concerns of everyone in the LU community, including students, parents, alumni, faculty, staff, leaders of the Church, as well as the Falwell family,” Mr. Prevo said in a statement. “To support Jerry through this period, we ask that our entire community lift him up in prayer so he may be able to fulfill God’s purpose for him and for Liberty University.”
Mr. Falwell had served as Liberty’s president since his father’s death in 2007. He could not immediately be reached for comment.
Located in Lynchburg, Virginia, the private college has a strict code of conduct that prohibits students from consuming alcohol, on or off-campus. Students are also prohibited from engaging in “sexual immorality,” or pre-marital sex, as well as “procuring, financing, facility or obtaining an abortion.”
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