Jerry Falwell Jr. Takes Leave of Absence from Liberty

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The university’s board of trustees met Friday following controversy over a photo circulating on social media.

Jerry Falwell Jr. has agreed to take an indefinite leave of absence from Liberty University, the evangelical school he has led since 2007 as president and chancellor.

The six-member executive committee of Liberty’s board of trustees, of which Falwell is a member, met today and made the decision, according to a statement posted as an “Important Announcement Regarding LU Leadership.”

The leave is effective immediately.

The announcement did not indicate the reason for Falwell’s leave. However, this week, a wave of Liberty alumni and supporters spoke out against his leadership after a recent photo circulated of him posing with a woman at a party with their zippers down and midsections exposed.

The critics included a US Republican congressman, an executive board member of the state Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), and multiple evangelical pastors. Some at Liberty told CT they had been hopeful the criticism would shift the university’s response to the latest controversy.

Marybeth Davis Baggett, who concluded 17 years as a professor at Liberty this spring, told CT she was “surprised and profoundly grateful to hear about the board’s decision.” Baggett didn’t expect the board to recommend leave since Falwell had kept his position despite prior scandals.

“I am relieved for my former colleagues, for their students and parents, and for Liberty’s alumni that there is now an opportunity for the board to install leadership more fitting of the high calling of this great institution,” she said.

Karen Swallow Prior, another former Liberty professor who left earlier this year, extended her prayers for the university and the Falwells in a statement to CT.

“Liberty University …

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