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Fear, Self-Dealing Rule at Liberty University: Officials

'We’re a real estate hedge fund,' one says
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 9, 2019 6:45 PM CDT
Jerry Falwell Jr. took over Liberty University in 2007 after his father's death.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(Newser) – "We’re not a school; we’re a real estate hedge fund,” a senior official at Liberty University said. "We’re not educating; we’re buying real estate every year and taking students' money to do it." Those are among the accusations in a Politico Magazine report about Jerry Falwell Jr.'s stewardship of the Christian school in Virginia. More than two dozen current and past employees—even board members—are hesitant to have their names used, but they disclosed information about Falwell's reign in a sign of increasing opposition to his leadership. They described an atmosphere of fear, sweetheart deals that enrich his family and friends, and personal behavior they see as falling short of the evangelical Christian ideal—including partying, sharing racy photos, and telling employees about his sex life in graphic detail. "Everybody walks around in fear," said one employee who provided information about the school. "But someone’s gotta tell the freakin’ truth,” said another.

Falwell became president of the university after the death of Jerry Falwell Sr. in 2007. Liberty, which has nonprofit status, listed assets of about $259 million at the time; assets now appear to top $3 billion. When Falwell Sr. was in charge, "there were never questions about his business dealings or whether he was profiting from a business deal,” said an official who worked with father and son. "There was never a hint or suspicion of that because Falwell Sr. was only doing things that were for the benefit of the university or church—not for himself." Those and other changes don't agree with many. Falwell Sr. "knew everyone’s names, their stories and struggles. He was genuine and loving," one former official told Politico. His son and his wife, Becki, keep people afraid for their jobs. "It's a cold place now," the former official said. (Read more Jerry Falwell Jr. stories.)

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