Falwell Jr. taking 'indefinite leave of absence' from Liberty University after controversial photo

The private evangelical Christian school was founded by Falwell Jr.'s father in 1971

Updated: August 7, 2020 - 10:15pm

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Jerry Falwell, Jr. is taking an "indefinite leave of absence" from his position as president of Liberty University, following a controversial Instagram post, the school's board of trustees confirmed in a statement Friday. 

Falwell, whose father founded the private evangelical Christian school in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1971, has been president of the university since 2007, when he assumed the role from his father.

Fawell Jr. earlier this month published a photo on his personal Instagram account showing him with his pants unzipped and his arm around a woman he later said was his wife's personal assistant. The evangelical leader claimed the photograph was taken during a costume party and the outfit was done in "good fun."

"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 statement on Friday.

Jerry Prevo, the chairman of the board of trustees, said on Friday that over Falwell's 13-year tenure, Liberty University has "experienced unprecedented success, not only academically and financially, with a world-class campus, but also spiritually."

"As we enter our 50th Anniversary year," Prevo said, "we have been blessed to grow to a record 120,000 students, both residential and online, and continue to fulfill our founder’s mission to Train Champions for Christ across the world."

"Unfortunately, with this success and the burdens of leading a large and growing organization comes substantial pressure," he continued. "Today, my colleagues and I on the Liberty University Board of Trustees and Jerry mutually agreed that 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."

"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," Prevo added.

Falwell earlier in the week had received significant criticism for the photograph. Republican Rep. Mark Walker, the vice chair of the House Republican Conference, had called on him to resign after the picture appeared on social media. 

While Falwell has garnered some negative attention over the years for comments he has made after taking over the university his father founded, he has also been credited with building the university into a financial juggernaut. 

Under his presidency the school's endowment grew from zero dollars to $2 billion; Falwell, meanwhile, directed $1.6 billion in investments into the campus itself. 

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