Among the officials and activists meeting with Donald Trump last week as he worked on picking his Cabinet members was Jerry Falwell Jr., the son of televangelist and Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell and president of Liberty University, the school founded by his father.
According to the Associated Press, Falwell met with Trump in Manhattan “to discuss the U.S. Department of Education and Falwell’s potential role.”
“He wouldn’t confirm or deny whether he was being vetted as secretary of education, but says he will ‘definitely play a role’ in the administration,” the AP reported.
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.”
The possibility of Falwell at the helm of the Department of Education is disturbing, to say the least.
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.
Falwell would also have an interest in protecting the hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid that Liberty receives thanks to its online programs—but such potential conflicts probably wouldn’t bother Trump.