In Virginia, Jerry Falwell Jr. Drops Lawsuit Against Liberty University


Jerry Falwell Jr. has dropped his lawsuit for defamation against Liberty University, although he says he is keeping his options open. Falwell, the former president and chancellor of the university, did not explain why he dropped the suit.

“In Virginia, you are allowed to non-suit your case, one time, which we have chosen to do. You can then refile it at any time you like so long as it within the Virginia statute of limitation,” Falwell said in a Friday statement.

Liberty University said there were no behind-the-scenes negotiations that led to dropping the suit.

“Falwell’s unilateral and voluntary dismissal was not prompted by any payments, promises, or other consideration from Liberty,” the school said in a statement. “The University’s administration and Board of Trustees are pleased that Falwell has dropped his lawsuit and look forward to pressing onward with the work of Liberty’s President and Chancellor Search Committee to find the new leadership to succeed Falwell.”

Falwell’s announcement is the latest step in the divorce between Falwell and the university his father founded. Falwell had tried to take the University in a more Notre-Dame-like direction — a university founded in Christianity, but that has shifted over the years to focus on sports and Ivy League-level prestige. However, he faced a Board of Directors focused on maintaining the conservative Christian values of Jerry Falwell Sr.

The school has a Doctrinal Statement that upholds the core theology of protestant Biblical Christianity, a Mission Statement focused on training students in Christian and politically conservative ideals, and a student code that bans sex outside of traditional marriage and also bans alcohol.

Jerry Falwell Jr. did succeed in boosting the school’s sports programs. Falwell endorsed Trump, who spoke at the school. However, alleged scandals involving sex and alcohol surfaced repeatedly, painting Falwell as someone who didn’t believe in the rules Liberty University enforced on students. With the board unwilling to look the other way, Falwell was eventually forced out.

“On the first day of classes of Liberty University’s fall term, Jerry Falwell, Jr., agreed to resign as its President and from its Board of Directors, but following media reports about the resignation, withdrew it,” the board said in a press release on August 24.

In October, Falwell sued the school for defamation and breach of contract. According to Fox News, the lawsuit said, “When Mr. Falwell and his family became the targets of a malicious smear campaign incited by anti-evangelical forces, Liberty University not only accepted the salacious and baseless accusations against the Falwells at face value, but directly participated in the defamation. This action seeks redress for the damage Liberty has caused to the reputation of Mr. Falwell and his family.”

With Falwell’s departure and the lawsuit ended, the board is free to follow its own vision for a more conservative Christian school like Bob Jones University. Falwell hinted that he might re-file the lawsuit, but didn’t say what action he was hoping for from the school.

In his statement, Falwell said, “We are waiting to see if Liberty does the right thing. We are keeping all our options open.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network.  Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Jerry Falwell Jr.” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. Background Photo “Liberty University Campus” by Liberty University.


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