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Did Jerry Falwell Jr. Force a Liberty University Board Member Out?

Jerry Falwell Jr.
Jerry Falwell Jr. ousted a longtime Board of Trustees member over comments critical of his endorsement of Donald Trump, the former board member has said. (Video Screenshot Image)

Every story has three sides—his, theirs and the truth that typically rests somewhere in between. Such is probably the case of now-former Liberty University Board of Trustees member Mark DeMoss.

Back in March, DeMoss—who previously served as chief of staff to Liberty founder Jerry Falwell Sr.—said he could no longer remain silent about Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr.'s endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. The endorsement had occurred in January.

"It bothered me that he said Donald Trump reminded him of his father," DeMoss said in March. "Donald Trump certainly does not demonstrate Jerry Falwell Sr.'s graciousness and love for people. Jerry Falwell Sr. would never have made fun of a political opponent's face or makeup or ears. He would not have personally insulted anybody—ever."

DeMoss said he thought it would be difficult for any evangelical to defend supporting the now-presumptive GOP nominee.

Thursday, Grove City College psychology professor Warren Throckmorton posted in his blog at Patheos that he had received an email from DeMoss stating he had resigned from the Liberty board of trustees. In it, he shared his letter of resignation.

On March 1st a Washington Post article appeared in which I expressed my disagreement with Jerry Falwell Jr.'s formal endorsement of Donald Trump. Jerry and a number of fellow Liberty University trustees expressed to me and to the other trustees their disapproval of my speaking publicly about the subject.

At our April 21 executive committee meeting the committee voted to ask me to resign from the committee I had chaired for many years. I agreed, and did so in remarks to the full board the following morning.

Subsequently, on Monday, April 25, I sent a letter to Jerry and the chairman of the board and the new chairman of the executive committee, tendering my resignation from the board I had served for 25 years.

In response to DeMoss' statement, Liberty told Throckmorton the following:

While members of the Executive Committee individually asked Mark DeMoss to resign from the Executive Committee, no vote was ever taken by the Executive Committee to ask Mark DeMoss to resign. On Thursday, April 21, he was encouraged by members of the Executive Committee to remain on the Board and apologize to the Board. At the Board of Trustees meeting the following day, Mark DeMoss offered an apology to the Board and tendered his resignation from the Executive Committee. The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to accept the apology of Mark DeMoss in the Christian spirit of love and grace. Mark DeMoss sent an email with his resignation on Tuesday, April 26, 2016, four days after the Board of Trustees meeting. He was not removed from the Board of Trustees nor did the Board of Trustees ask for his resignation.

Throckmorton went back to DeMoss for his reply. He offered three points he said contradicted the Liberty statement:

    1. I was not encouraged by members of the Executive Committee to remain on the board; Jerry Jr was the only committee member who spoke to me that evening—after they had the attorney [Liberty's general counsel] call and ask for my committee resignation.
    2. The committee said nothing to me about apologizing to the board the next morning. Jerry had suggested that two months earlier and I told him I would do so in person at the April 22 meeting.
    3. I did not tender my resignation in the full board meeting—I informed them of it. I tendered my resignation the night before to the attorney who called me on behalf of the committee. He told me if I chose not to resign they would vote to remove me (from the committee).

Throckmorton had his own thoughts on the matter, that perhaps many others have thought, as well:

"As I consider the matter, I wonder why it is acceptable to the Liberty board for Jerry Falwell to endorse a candidate as an individual not speaking for the univeristy, but it is not fine for a board member to express an opinion as an individual not speaking for the university."

But, that's not the end of the story. Late Thursday, DeMoss further clarified his side of the story, this time to Religion News Service. In that statement, he said there was concern that his comments, which were published on Super Tuesday I, were politically motivated.

While the decision to leave the committee I chaired was not mine, the decision to step down from the board was mine. The president/chancellor and the board chair and new executive committee chair were suggesting my motive for speaking to the Post was entirely political (that I was a political pawn of rival campaigns), rather than a genuine concern for the reputation of the university we trustees have (had) a fiduciary responsibility to protect. I concluded if they could not accept the reasons I gave them there was not sufficient trust to continue serving together.

This prompted another rebuttal from Liberty:

Individual board members have varied reasons for their displeasure regarding Mark DeMoss' comments to the Washington Post, most of which are not related to his disagreement with Jerry Falwell's personal endorsement of Donald Trump or a belief that Mark DeMoss' motivations were entirely political. Liberty would prefer to not inventory or detail all these reasons.

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