Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Alleged Personal Photos May Have Violated Liberty University’s Sexual Code of Ethics

Jerry Falwell Jr., left, denies hiring Michael Cohen to help cover up any lewd photographs. (Fallwell by Shealah Craighead; Cohen by AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The news that Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. allegedly sought out President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen to help prevent the release of some embarrassing personal photos has rocked the mediasphere for mostly political reasons.

Those have to do with whether Cohen’s intervention led Falwell to issue a crucial evangelical endorsement of Trump ahead of the 2016 Republican presidential primaries.

Falwell, who has denied Cohen’s account, is an ardent champion of the president. Just this week Falwell tweeted that Trump was owed an extension of his term as “reparations” for the time spent on the Mueller investigation.

But while some evangelicals faulted Falwell for his endorsement of a president whose behavior has been at odds with many evangelical values, the allegations of racy personal photos call into question Falwell’s own behavior and whether they align with evangelical sexual mores.

President Trump talks with Liberty University president, Jerry Falwell Jr., right, during commencement ceremonies at the school in Lynchburg, Va., on May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Christian colleges take sexual impropriety seriously. Many schools, including Liberty University, have strict codes regarding sexual misconduct, including the viewing and sharing of pornography and nude or indecent photos.

While “sexting” or other forms of sharing erotic photos has become common in the broader culture evangelicals would mostly consider them sexual sins.

“I would think that should a president wind up exposed with having engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior, that would reflect back on the character of the institution, and I would expect the trustees would take that more seriously,” said John Hawthorne, a sociologist of religion at Spring Arbor University, a Christian school in Spring Arbor, Mich.

Many similar schools, such as Liberty University, have honor codes that spell out what they consider to be Christian standards for sexual conduct.

Those codes include a broad category of sexual offenses that are considered crimes, including sexual harassment and sexual assault. But Christian schools often go a step further, prohibiting premarital sex, cohabitation, extramarital sex and the viewing of erotic photos or pornography.

Falwell has denied Cohen’s account, made in a phone call in March with actor Tom Arnold. According to a recording of the call, Cohen claimed he flew to Florida around 2015, and got the person with the Falwell photos to agree to destroy them.

Neither Falwell nor Liberty University responded to a request for comment from RNS.

Reuters first reported the story on Tuesday (May 7), quoting Cohen as saying, “I actually have one of the photos. It’s terrible.”

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Source: Religion News Service