Liberty University spent millions of dollars in the final years of Jerry Falwell Jr.’s leadership on causes and efforts supporting President Trump, according to a new report.
The report in Politico doesn’t give a total figure but says Liberty gave $2.2 million to Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, and $300,000 each to Citizens United, Vineyard Outreach America and Heritage Action.
Much of the report includes comments from those within the Liberty community who are critical of the university’s Falkirk Center, a think tank whose purpose is “to uphold the Christian faith and defend America’s Constitution.” Much of its content, including its podcasts, has been used to defend the Trump administration.
"The Falkirk Center, to me, represents everything that was wrong with Liberty when Jerry [Falwell] was there,” Karen Swallow Prior, a professor at Liberty for two decades, told Politico. “It's brazenly partisan.”
In December, Liberty university professor Phill Kline appeared on the podcast and suggested that state legislators should appoint electors in states where there are election controversies -- states where Joe Biden was certified the winner. Kline is the former attorney general of Kansas and a Republican.
“Remember, these legislators are where the real power rests. They select the electors who will be voting,” Kline said. “They have the constitutional power and the right to have electors in dispute, to send two sets of electors — which then lets Congress decide [the election outcome] — or to decide their own set of electors.”
The Falkirk’s fellows include Charlie Kirk, the founder and president of Turning Point USA; Eric Metaxas, a Christian radio host; and Jenna Ellis, an attorney who has represented the Trump campaign in post-election lawsuits. Kirk co-founded the Falkirk Center.
One unidentified person told Politico the board was “split” over Liberty money being used for political reasons.
“There are those who want the school to be part of the conservative political conversation,” the person said.
The Politico report claimed the university was “pushing the boundaries of its status as a nonprofit organization under Section 501c(3) of the federal tax code.”
But Liberty University spokesperson Scott Lamb told Politico the Falkirk Center has “received hundreds of supportive emails” since the election. The money given to other organizations, he said, went to “voter education efforts on issues of importance to evangelical Christian conservatives” and “legal action to promote government transparency, civil rights, and the proper interpretation of the Constitution.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.