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Education

Jerry Falwell Jr.

Photo by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The transparent moral and religious hypocrisy of the evangelical movement in our country has never been better exemplified than in the ongoing salacious allegations, images, lawsuits, and claims going on between Liberty University and its former leader, Jerry Falwell Jr. At issue is the scandal that broke out where once close family friend Giancarlo Granda began making allegations that the Falwells lived a lifestyle filled not only with standard business and political corruption, but one that was clearly the opposite of evangelical expectations.

Now, Talking Points Memo reports that on Thursday, Liberty University launched a lawsuit against Falwell, saying that this prodigal son of the university's founder conspired to conceal important business details and personal details from the school. The lawsuit seeks $10 million in compensatory damages, which the university says can be tripled under Virginia law to no less than $30 million, from Falwell, saying that in hiding the details of his wife's intimate affair—and his alleged appreciation of this affair—Falwell mislead Liberty officials down a dark road that has damaged the school's reputation and subsequently cost them financially. They want additional money for punitive damages as well as other damages. Thoughts and prayers.

The Liberty lawsuit claims that Falwell misled the school when renegotiating his 2019 employment agreement. It's also a clear opportunity for the school to create a legal wedge between future litigation that might target their connections with the Falwells and their corruption. Of course, Liberty University sat a long time with a man who has been publicly embarrassing and wrong at every turn. They have also been sued for taking advantage of their embarrassing leader's lies to the public and the student body. As Granda tweeted along with the TPM story:

Falwell parted ways with the school in August of 2020. This came with the publishing of a report by Reuters with Granda. Granda gave a very descriptive and long interview to Reuters. He provided emails and other pieces of evidence detailing how he met the Falwells as a pool attendant at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel in 2012, and he began having a sexual affair with Becki Falwell when he was 20 years old that went on for some time in various places around the country. The salacious aspect of the story was that Granda alleged that Jerry Falwell Jr. was a willing audience for his wife's affair with Granda, and the three continued this open lifestyle for quite a while all over the country.

Falwell has admitted that his wife had an affair with Granda, but he says that all of this was extortion on Granda's part and every other allegation made by Granda about Jerry's complicity was a lie. Liberty points to the existence of numerous images, posted to social media over the months leading up to the Granda revelations, that seem to confirm that the Falwells did not live a particularly Christian lifestyle—at least not the kind of "Christian lifestyle" Liberty is selling.

Liberty accuses Falwell in the lawsuit of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and of engaging in a "conspiracy of silence" over alleged extortion attempts from Granda while negotiating a higher payment package from the evangelical institution.
"Had Liberty's Executive Committee known in 2018 and 2019 that Granda was attempting to extort Falwell Jr. and thus planning to damage Liberty, and had it known the full circumstances of Granda's extortion of Falwell Jr., then the Executive Committee would have refrained from entering into the 2019 Employment Agreement," the suit states.

Let us all be clear here: This is not a story about shaming Jerry Falwell Jr. or his wife Becki for living an open sexual lifestyle. This is a story about shaming the Falwells for living a lifestyle that they're afforded by promoting shame against that lifestyle in others. They're being shamed because the loose boundaries of their relationship have been condemned in others by themselves and the powerful organizations they represent—and from which they make lots of money. The money they make, the homes they own, and the private chartered planes they fly are built on this morally bankrupt lie.

A day before the lawsuit was filed, Politico confirmed with the university that Falwell's son, Trey Falwell, was "no longer employed by the university." According to the source, this was brand new news to Trey. It also was in line with stories that school officials were trying to further distance themselves from the Falwell family. Politico reported that the university's president, Jerry Prevo, had sent out an email to the school's employees that "No Liberty University employee at any level is permitted to communicate with Jerry Falwell, Jr. or Becki Falwell about university matters."

According to The New York Times, the lawsuit directs the court to Falwell's redesign of his contract, saying he deceived the Liberty board's executive committee into adding "a higher severance payout if he resigned for 'good reason' or if Liberty terminated his contract without cause. Mr. Falwell claimed to the committee that this would serve as a 'safety valve' for both him and the university if his full-throated support of former President Donald J. Trump proved damaging to the school's reputation." The lawsuit says that this was a little look at this hand while my other hand picks your pocket, and that Falwell was insuring himself against the Granda allegations and subsequent fallout on the horizon. In so doing, Falwell's "infidelity, immodesty, and acceptance of a loose lifestyle would stand in stark contrast to the conduct expected of leaders at Liberty."

Will this change the minds of racist evangelicals who have blindly followed this corrupt leadership for years? The short answer is no, it won't. What Falwell has been peddling for many years now is evangelicalism based in anti-Christian morality of business and land ownership over people. The fact that he seems to be a hypocrite of the highest (or lowest) order might not matter to people who think Donald Trump is someone you should vote for.

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.