The Jesus Scam

I want to put aside talking about the awful Trump administration to instead talk about the awful Christian Right, specifically Jerry Falwell, Jr. A few days ago Politico published a long exposé on Falwell that accuses him of multiple ethical lapses and possible criminal activity.

Falwell is president of the nonprofit Liberty University, a 501(c)(3) organization. Under Falwell’s direction, Liberty has become less of a school and more of a real-estate empire.

Falwell presides over a culture of self-dealing, directing university resources into projects and real estate deals in which his friends and family have stood to make personal financial gains. Among the previously unreported revelations are Falwell’s decision to hire his son Trey’s company to manage a shopping center owned by the university, Falwell’s advocacy for loans given by the university to his friends, and Falwell’s awarding university contracts to businesses owned by his friends.

“We’re not a school; we’re a real estate hedge fund,” said a senior university official with inside knowledge of Liberty’s finances. “We’re not educating; we’re buying real estate every year and taking students’ money to do it.”

Falwell also has other interests, as summarized at TPM:

Jerry and his wife Becki seem to have a pattern of striking up intimate relationships with younger, extremely fit men; nude or provocative pics of Becki get into the mix somehow and then suddenly the younger guy is set up with his own business courtesy of a few million from the Falwells or Liberty University. …

…Provocative or nude photos of Becki Falwell also seem to be an open secret among top Liberty executives and even present in many inboxes.

Falwell also enjoys clubbing, which wouldn’t be a scandal except that Liberty University students are not allowed to drink and dance. So when Jerry and his son Trey are photographed at a Miami night spot, the photos have to be made to disappear.

Jerry brings in his cyber fixer from Liberty to make the pictures disappear. This is the same cyber-fixer who Michael Cohen hired to fix a series of online polls for Donald Trump back in 2015. How did he do that since the cyber-fixer works for Liberty University?

Well, he has a private consulting business on the side. He’s also now been promoted to the top at Liberty.

And then there is Falwell’s endorsement of Trump. The endorsement itself wouldn’t be a scandal, but he managed to drag Liberty University itself into Trump’s online poll fixing scheme by using a university social media account to promote one of the rigged polls. Politico quotes a tax expert: “A 501(c)(3) organization trying to influence a poll so that a candidate’s fortunes are promoted or demoted is not permitted.”

See also Jerry Falwell Jr., and the allegations against him, explained at Vox.

What is more American than big-name evangelicals getting caught in sex-and-money scandals? Certainly Falwell is part of the rich tradition of Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggart, and Jim Bakker. However, it should be said that Fallwell is not ordained; he’s a lawyer. Jesus is just the family business.

I take it from reading several articles that the students and faculty are very upset with Falwell. I’d feel bad for them except that they all appear to venerate the late Jerry Falwell, Sr., a despable segregationist whose political influence is still warping this country.