Jerry Falwell, Jr. has been appointed by President Trump to head the new task force on the U.S. Department of Education. It will be his job to pinpoint areas where changes need to be made to policies of the Department of Education. The exact scope size and mission of the project has yet to be determined.
Until the mission of the project is stated, it’s difficult to criticize the direction Falwell, Jr. will take, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to look at his past so we can keep an eye on his endeavors. The late Jerry Falwell, Sr, his father, started Liberty College, which became Liberty University, to provide fundamentalists a Christian education. While it catered to independent fundamentalists, Liberty would eventually be accepted as a Southern Baptist Convention university.
Falwell, Sr, was good friends with my former pastor, Robert Calhoun Gray of Trinity Baptist Church. Gray eventually left Trinity to avoid arrest as accusations of child abuse were hurled against him. Gray told his congregation he was leaving to be a missionary to Germany and, yes, there were accusations against him but they were neither ‘sexual nor immoral’. Gray returned to Jacksonville in 2006 when he was promptly arrested.
Jerry Falwell visited Trinity and told his congregation that all of this would one day be ‘a bump in the road’. Tim Gilmore’s book Devil in the Baptist Church chronicles the events of that time. Falwell died not long after making this statement. Bob Gray died just a few days before his trial was to begin.
Jerry Falwell’s pride and joy, at the time, was his new law college. Boz Tchividjian, a professor at Liberty’s law school, started an organization called GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment), whose job was to equip churches and Christian schools to combat child abuse. GRACE sponsored seminars in various churches and schools regarding abuse and, by and large, they were helpful.
Boz wrote several articles chastising various churches and fellowships for how they handled abuse, but more notable was his silence regarding abuse issues that occurred in the world of Liberty University. Did Falwell know of Bob Gray’s predilections toward minors? Silence. What was Falwell’s answer when congregation members asked, ‘Why did Brother Gray leave Trinity?’ Silence.
Lester Roloff, a Texas evangelist who ran a chain of children’s homes in Texas and throughout the South, was accused of abuse. Two girls at his Rebekah Home stabbed another inmate in order to draw attention to the outside world about the abuse. Jerry Falwell was a staunch supporter of Lester Roloff, even participating in a rally with Bob Jones, Jr, supporting the ministry of Lester Roloff. Lester Roloff died in a plane crash, but his minions, like the late Mack Ford, proprietor of the New Bethany Home for Girls in Arcadia, Louisiana, were still at large. Again, silence from Liberty regarding abuse in fundamentalist homes.
Pastor G, of the Richmond Outreach Center, was eventually sentenced to 40 years in prison for his abuse of young girls. Jonathon Falwell, brother of Jerry Falwell, Jr, heartily endorsed Pastor G and gave him a shout out before his arrest. After his arrest? Again, more silence.
When Donald Trump was accused of sexual assault, Jerry Falwell, Jr’s response was, “We are not electing a pastor in chief.”
This is such a far cry from his father’s insistence that Bill Clinton should be removed from office because of the allegations of sexual harassment by Paula Jones.
We see that the Falwell family has a history of fundamentalist situational ethics. Not too far off from humanist situational ethics, except they use the bible to justify their flip flops and inconsistencies. Pulling out references to King David killing Bathsheba’s husband because he lusted after the man’s wife. That sort of thing!
So, what are we to make of Jerry Falwell, Jr, overseeing a task force on the U.S. Department of Education?
I predict a renewed campaign against sexual abuse in public schools. This could be a good thing if Erin Merryn, the woman who has been traveling to public schools and putting on presentations against sexual abuse, gets involved. There will probably be more accounts of public school teachers arrested for inappropriate relations with their students. Unfortunately, I see sex education being tossed out in favor of abstinence courses which teach ‘sex is bad unless you’re a married heterosexual couple’.
Gay people will be scapegoated since our vice president, Mike Pence, can’t tell the difference between pedophilia and child abuse. Pence is also a believer in gay conversion ‘therapy’, which he claims to simply be abstinence programs but those who went through such legalized torture have different stories to tell.
Look for attacks, if not a dismantling, of teacher’s unions. There will be cuts in science classes with more emphasis on creationism, or as they like to call it, ‘intelligent design’. History classes with a bias against liberals and civil rights. It will be a ‘safe’ place with inferior education.
None of this will affect fundamentalist Christian schools or abusive youth camps. Look for a ‘hands off’ response regarding abuse in private schools and colleges. Abuse regulations will only be for public schools and universities! Bible based educators will get a free pass. There will naturally be student rebellion, but with the lines between church and state now blurred, public school students can now be sent to abusive homes like New Bethany and Roloff’s Rebekah Home for Girls.
It’s not like we weren’t warned! Many survivors of abusive fundamentalist homes have spoken out in magazine articles, video interviews, and news programs.
Quite a few of them voted for Donald Trump!
Could they not see this coming? Nope! They were too busy looking for the Illuminati, investigating unsolved crimes, and bullying each other with posts like ‘a vote for Hillary Clinton is a betrayal of the cause’.
There will most likely be more harm than good with a Falwell at the helm of public education. We should all be vigilant, yet cautious.