President Trump has rewarded one of his most outspoken campaign surrogates, Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University and son of the Religious Right icon Jerry Falwell, with the top spot on an education policy panel.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reported yesterday that Trump asked Falwell to “head up a new task force that will identify changes that should be made to the U.S. Department of Education’s policies and procedures.”
In November, Falwell said that Trump had offered him the position of secretary of education, but that he had turned it down. Trump later offered the job to conservative mega-donor and voucher activist Betsy DeVos.
As we’ve reported, Liberty University has emerged as a right-wing activist institution, and Falwell used his position to convince evangelical voters to back Trump:
Falwell was one of Trump’s earliest and most outspoken Religious Right supporters. He appeared in Trump campaign ads, hosted the business mogul at Liberty, sang his praises—even going so far as to compare him to Jesus Christ and suggest that God called on him to run for president—and joined Trump in leveling harsh attacks against Muslims, telling students that “if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in.”
Liberty, under Falwell’s direction, has promoted views from opposition to LGBT rights to Creationism to climate change denialism. Its code of conduct—which puts a tight leash on free expression, women’s fashion, and students’ conduct in their personal time—would be a troubling example for schools nationwide.
Just as Trump has expressed contempt for freedom of the press, Falwell reportedly spiked a story critical of Trump from the school newspaper. Liberty’s code of conduct has not only restricted demonstrations on campus, but reserved the right to stop students from participating in off-campus protests.
Falwell told the Richmond Times-Dispatch this year that he is a stronger supporter of school vouchers, which direct taxpayer funds to religious academies at the expense of public schools.