The leader of a well-known Christian university has just stepped down — at least for the time being.
Breitbart reports that Jerry Falwell Jr., president and chancellor of Liberty University — an institution where President Donald Trump has delivered commencement remarks in the past — has agreed to take an “indefinite” leave of absence over a controversial post on Instagram.
Controversial photo emerges
It all started earlier this month with a vacation photo that Falwell posted to Instagram. The picture shows Falwell holding a glass of liquid with his arm around a woman — not his wife — and both he and the woman’s shirts are rolled up, their midriffs are exposed, and their pants are unzipped.
“More vacation shots,” the caption read. “Lots of good friends visited us on the yacht. I promise that’s just black water in my glass.”
Take a look:
— The Hill (@thehill) August 4, 2020
The image led to immediate and widespread disapproval, with critics arguing that Falwell’s behavior falls shorts of the standards a Christian leader should uphold.
“Jerry Falwell Jr’s ongoing behavior is appalling,” tweeted Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC). “As a Music Faculty Advisory Board Member and former instructor [at Liberty], I’m convinced Falwell should step down. None of us are perfect, but students, faculty, alumni and [Liberty’s gospel choir LU Praise] deserve better.”
Falwell, in response, apologized and took the photo down. In a recent interview with a local Virginia radio station, he also attempted to explain the photo by providing some context, including the identity of the woman — his wife’s pregnant assistant, saying:
Yeah, it was weird. She’s pregnant. She couldn’t get her pants zipped and I was like trying to like…I had on a pair of jeans I haven’t worn in a long time and couldn’t get zipped either. So, I just put my belly out like hers.
Not going to cut it
Ultimately, though, it appears that Falwell’s attempts to rectify the situation were insufficient, as Liberty University announced Friday that Falwell has agreed to a leave of absence.
“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 institution’s statement read, according to TheBlaze.
Although Liberty University did not specifically refer to the Instagram photo, it is pretty safe to assume that it was indeed the cause of Falwell’s leave of absence. We’ll have to see how this one progresses from here — and whether Falwell will ever be welcomed back at the university or will be able to keep his personal vow to “try to be a good boy.”