Shealah Craighead

Students at Christian university plan protest after shocking allegations against its president

Fri 13 Sep 2019
By Tola Mbakwe

Students at a large US Christian university have planned to protest against its president on Friday after a number allegations of "self-dealing" have been revealed.

 

The scheduled protest at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia comes days after an article by Politico Magazine featured several current and former top staff at the school anonymously detailing unethical behaviours from Jerry Falwell Jr.

Falwell, who's one of Donald Trump's advisors, has denied any wrong doing and called for the FBI to investigate a "criminal conspiracy" against him.

 

The article used screenshots of emails for evidence, which Falwell has spoken out against.

"The emails are stolen property," Falwell told CNN on Tuesday.

"And the fact that all these people in different states are joining together and sharing stolen emails with the press makes it a criminal conspiracy."

Falwell was accused of using real estate transactions that would benefit his family or his close friends and having the university give business loans to his friends.

"There is no self-dealing at Liberty University," Falwell told CNN. "I have never written a single check, have not gotten a single penny from any Liberty transaction except for my salary, which is approved by the board every year."

One example of the "self-dealing" outlined in the report was allegedly selling an athletic club, owned by the university and worth $1.2 million, at half the price to benefit his personal trainer.

Another was using his son's new company to manage properties owned by the school, including a shopping centre.

The report also detailed information about Falwell's relationship with the school's chief information officer John Gauger, who was accused of using his IT business to rig online polls in Trump's favour.

The Politico article revealed accusations of Guager being a fixer for Falwell.

It has been alleged Falwell asked him to downgrade the prominence of photos that would come up on Google searches of him clubbing in Miami, as well as helping defend him in the comments section of a local news article that was portraying him negatively.

 

The 57-year-old was also accused of being inappropriately open with Liberty employees about his sex life with his wife.

"I'm just going to say it's not true," Falwell said.

The Politico article includes statements from Falwell addressing and defending the allegations, but Liberty University has said some of the defences have been omitted.

 

On Thursday it released a 19-page document called "OMITTED STATEMENTS OF LIBERTY UNIVERSITY REGARDING BUSINESS TRANSACTIONS RECENTLY QUESTIONED IN MEDIA".

It says the Politico reporter, as well as a Reuters and Washington Post reporter who also covered similar stories "chose not to report Liberty University's side, leaving an unbalanced public narrative in place".

Politico Magazine said it stands behind its reporting.

Elizabeth Brooks, a student at the school and the organizer of the student protest, said the point of the demonstration is not to call for him to resign immediately, but to call for an internal and external investigation to "bring to light the truth of these allegations of various misconduct."

According to CNN, Falwell said he is considering filing a civil suit against "6 to 8" unnamed former employees and board members for breaking confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements they had signed with Liberty.

Liberty University boasts itself as one of the largest Christian evangelical universities in the world, with a total enrolment of on campus and online students that exceeds 100,000.

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