Appearing on Fox & Friends on March 26, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. whitewashed the school’s history of anti-LGBTQ policies and falsely claimed that he has “never made any comment about gay rights one way or the other in my whole life.” Falwell’s appearance came after Liberty upset Mississippi State in the first round of the NCAA men's Division I basketball tournament, and attention quickly turned to the university’s anti-LGBTQ history.
Liberty University’s nondiscrimination policy excludes sexual orientation and gender identity and instead asserts that it “reserves its right to discriminate on the basis of religion.” In fact, a version of the university’s official honor code, known as the “Liberty Way,” stated, “Sexual relations outside of a biblically ordained marriage between a natural-born man and a natural-born woman are not permissible.” Additionally, another version of the honor code reportedly included language explicitly prohibiting “homosexual conduct” that has since been dropped. An undercover Liberty student also reported being taught about “the evils of same-sex marriage” in classes. In 2017, the university ended up on Campus Pride’s “Shame List” of campuses hostile to LGBTQ youth.
Liberty has a close relationship with extreme anti-LGBTQ group Liberty Counsel, which has legally represented the university and maintains an office on its campus that allows students to intern with the organization. In 2003, the group launched the Center for Constitutional Litigation and Policy in conjunction with Liberty University’s law school to “train law students in all aspects of constitutional litigation, with a particular emphasis on the defense of religious liberty, the sanctity of human life and traditional family values.” Liberty Counsel’s co-founder and Chairman Mat Staver served as the dean of Liberty University School of Law from 2006 until 2015, and around the time that Staver became dean in 2006, the university gave hundreds of thousands of dollars in donated services to Liberty Counsel. Staver has claimed that trans youth have high rates of suicide because they're defying God and compared LGBTQ to pedophiles.
Outside of his university’s anti-LGBTQ history, Falwell's claim on Fox & Friends that he “never made any comment about gay rights one way or the other in my whole life” is false. Just a few weeks prior to this Fox appearance, Falwell and his wife Becki denied transgender identities during a CPAC event held on Liberty’s campus, saying, “God makes the choice of what the babies are going to be and God decided she would be a girl.” Falwell has discussed the idea of pulling Liberty from federal programs if they prohibited the school from discriminating against LGBTQ people, and in 2009, he refused to grant official club status to a College Democrats' chapter because of the party’s support for marriage equality and reproductive rights. Falwell praised an autobiography of a “man who gave up homosexuality for God” as a story that “needed to be told” that “will serve to offer hope to those struggling with this sin.”
Despite this clear history of bigoted comments and actions, Falwell still went on Fox and whitewashed his and the university's anti-LGBTQ records. From the March 26 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
ASHLEY SINGLETON (LIBERTY UNIVERSITY CHEERLEADER): Were you surprised at the backlash?
JERRY FALWELL JR. (PRESIDENT, LIBERTY UNIVERSITY): You know, I really was. It's funny because I have lots of conservative friends who support universities who are -- the faculty and staff are very liberal. Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave a speech at Harvard a few years ago, and he chastised the Ivy League. He said, “How can you give a fair and balanced education to these students when 96 percent of Ivy League faculty and staff donated to the Obama campaign?” But, in spite of that, I have lots of conservative friends who support liberal, liberal teams, and maybe conservatives are just more tolerant than the, than liberal counterparts. You know, Liberty has -- has never refused admission to gay students. We -- that’s one of the things they accused us of. We’ve never, we’ve never been segregated.
We’ve always been -- when we were young school, Bible school, the rules were stricter, but it’s -- we’ve found a good balance now. The students have more fun probably than at any other university without the party atmosphere. And you know, it’s just, they take something conservatives say -- I've never made any comment about gay rights one way or the other in my whole life, and they act like Liberty is anti-LGBTQ, whatever. And it’s the only thing they can do is label conservatives because they don't have substantive arguments. So, it didn't surprise me, but -- well I guess it did, but it’s sports. Come on, guys.