Former Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. discusses his faith, family and fall from the evangelical college in a new profile in Vanity Fair magazine.
In the article, Falwell admits that he’s not a “religious person.”
People think that “because of my last name,” he says, “but I’m not. My goal was to make them realize I was not my dad.”
Falwell’s father, Jerry Falwell Sr., founded Liberty University. He died in 2007.
According to ChurchLeaders.com, Falwell says growing up, his father did not force him to go to church and did not object when Falwell said he didn’t want to be a preacher. He planned on becoming a real estate developer, but Falwell said there was pressure from his father “to help keep Liberty afloat financially.”
“We had to put on an act,” said Becki Falwell, Falwell, Jr.’s wife.
She eventually had an affair with a Miami pool boy, a decision she called her “biggest regret.”
In 2020, Falwell was a controversial figure at times. He made conspiracy claims about COVID-19, tweeted about race and posted a photo of himself with his pants unzipped and his arm around a pregnant woman. He later said the photo was from a costume party.
Later, the Miami pool boy exposed the story of the affair and said that the couple “bought his silence.” Falwell said he knew of the affair but denied taking part.
Liberty University put Falwell on leave, and he resigned in August 2020. He sued the school but then withdrew that lawsuit.
The Falwells are not allowed on campus even though their daughter is a senior there. In April 2021, the school board sued Jerry for $40 million and said he committed fraud when he negotiated his contract in 2019.
Falwell told Vanity Fair that he believes the board held him to an unfair standard.
“Liberty never had any rules for whether the president or any staff member could drink alcohol,” he said.
Russell Moore, former president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said in a newsletter this week that Falwell Jr. wasn’t a hypocrite since he “told us repeatedly how he saw the world.” Moore did admit that Falwell’s actions were hypocritical in a sense, but he also shared that “we didn’t hold Jerry Falwell Jr. accountable for all the vulnerable people who suffered because of his decisions.”
“I do know that when a man tells us he was in such a desperate, self-destructive place for so long, we owe it to him—and to ourselves—to ask, ‘Were we so deceived that we couldn’t help him? Or did we turn our attention away as long as he was succeeding?’
“If the latter, the problem isn’t Jerry Falwell Jr.’s hypocrisy. The problem is us.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla/Staff
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.