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World News

Jerry Falwell Jr takes indefinite leave of absence from Liberty University following unzipped trousers photo

by Tola Mbakwe

The head of a large Christian university in the US has taken an indefinite leave of absence after being asked to by its board of trustees.

On Friday, Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia announced that the leave of absence of its president and chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr is effective immediately. 

Jerry Prevo, chairman of the Liberty University Board of Trustees, said in a statement: "Unfortunately, with this success and the burdens of leading a large and growing organization comes substantial pressure. Today, my colleagues and I on the Liberty University Board of Trustees and Jerry mutually agreed that it would be good for him to take an indefinite leave of absence. This was a decision that was not made lightly, and which factored the interests and concerns of everyone in the LU community, including students, parents, alumni, faculty, staff, leaders of the Church, as well as the Falwell family."

While Liberty did not give a reason for its action, it comes after Falwell faced backlash for posting a photo on Instagram of himself and a woman, both with their trousers unzipped.

Falwell deleted the photo and apologised, claiming it was a joke because the woman is pregnant and couldn't get her shorts to zip up.

He told local radio station WLNI: "Yeah, it was weird. She's pregnant. She couldn't get her pants zipped and I was like trying to like… I had on a pair of jeans I haven't worn in a long time and couldn't get zipped either. 

"So, I just put my belly out like hers. She's my wife's assistant she's a sweetheart. I should have never put it up and embarrassed her. I've apologized to everybody. I promised my kids I will try to be a good boy from here on out."

He also clarified that he was at a party on a yacht during a family vacation. 

Despite the apology, Falwell's actionS didn't sit well US lawmakers, faculty and alumni. US Congressman Mark Walker and former Liberty University faculty member said Falwell should resign.

Walker told CNN: "We cannot look the other way with this kind of behaviour where you have this strict code -- one that I don't disagree with in many cases -- but you're out here promoting and talking, speaking with undertones and being smug about even the Instagram posts that I'm going to try to be a better boy from now on.

"There's no penitent heart in that. And, and I would hope that he could do better. I'm not here to try to attack him, but I am saying this is not the design of the university or his founding father who literally blood, sweat, and tears created this on the side of a mountain."

This is not the first time this year Falwell has been embroiled in controversy. In June Falwell announced on Twitter that he had designed his own facemask, emblazoned with a picture of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam wearing blackface. 

Falwell repeatedly refused to wear a mask after Gov Northam announced a statewide requirement for people to wear the piece of personal protective equipment when they are in public indoor settings. 

After massive criticism he apologised for the tweet and deleted it. 

The incident was followed by a group of 35 black alumni from Liberty University writing a letter to Falwell criticising him for the "inappropriate statements" he has made over recent years. 

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