A group of pastors who graduated from Liberty University are urging the college's board of trustees to "permanently remove" Jerry Falwell, Jr., from his role as president of the Christian school founded by his late father.
On Thursday, in a letter addressed to the board of trustees and Dr. Jerry Prevo, who has chaired the board since 2003 but is now serving as acting president of the university, 50 ministers from churches around the country argued the college "is in need of new leadership that represents the heart of Liberty University's mission."
"It is because of our deep love for Liberty University and our great optimism for its future that we write to you today to urge you, the Board of Trustees, to permanently remove Mr. Falwell as president and chancellor and replace him with a new leader," the letter reads. "We do not write out of any personal vendetta against Mr. Falwell. We recognize that under his leadership, since his father's death in 2007, the school has experienced significant financial and institutional growth and added important programs that are poised to shape a generation of Christian leaders in nearly every field of study."
The call for Falwell to be sidelined for good comes just weeks after the 58-year-old lawyer was placed on an indefinite leave of absence following days of criticism over an Instagram post that included a questionable photo of himself with a young woman.
In the photo, which has since been deleted, Falwell and the young woman, later revealed to be the assistant of his wife, Becki, both had their pants partially unzipped with their midriffs exposed. Falwell was also holding what appeared to be an alcoholic beverage, though he claimed it was just "a prop" filled with "black water."
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That was not the only concern, though, of the pastors who penned the letter.
Falwell sparked another controversy several weeks earlier, in late May, after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced everyone would be required to wear face masks when out in public. In response to the executive action, Falwell tweeted a photo of a custom-made mask, which featured the infamous yearbook photo appearing to show Northam in blackface while attending medical school.
In early June, Falwell posted a tweet apologizing "for any hurt my effort caused, especially within the African American community." His walk-back came after dozens of black Liberty graduates called Falwell out for the political stunt.
"The racially insensitive comments earlier this spring and the recent posting of the inappropriate picture on social media have brought embarrassment to the school," wrote the pastors. "It has also embarrassed the many alumni that work hard in our community to not only uphold the reputation of the university but to uphold a positive witness for the name of Christ."
They also pointed to another since-deleted tweet, in which Falwell mocked prominent Baptist Pastor David Platt for releasing a statement acknowledging the "hurt" some members of his congregation felt as a result of President Donald Trump's visit to McLean Bible Church. Falwell, a stalwart Trump supporter, tweeted Platt needed "to grow a pair."
The pastors voiced concern over Falwell's history of "distancing himself from the responsibility of being a spiritual leader, rather than owning the responsibility as a Christian to '"let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear," a reference to Ephesians 4:29.
"The students of Liberty University need a chancellor and president that embraces the responsibility to live out their faith with integrity and passion both publicly and privately," they wrote.
The letter continued, "We pray for Mr. Falwell and his family and hope that he received the time and privacy he needs for reflection and spiritual renewal. However, as you contemplate the direction of the school, we encourage you to take another important step by pursuing a new president and chancellor.