An instructor for Liberty University’s popular online division and a director from the school’s Office of Equity and Inclusion abruptly and publicly resigned after university President Jerry Falwell Jr. tweeted an image of a face mask emblazoned with a controversial image
Professor Christopher House, who also teaches at Ithaca College, posted his resignation letter on Thursday on Facebook, a day after Falwell’s tweet. House rebuked Falwell and cited an obligation to God, himself, and the people he serves to stand for what is just, right, and true.
“As an African American man and Christian pastor, I am horrified and appalled that the president of the largest Christian university in the world would knowingly and intentionally use images that evoke a deep history of racial terror for people of color in the U.S., specifically individuals who look like me, for the purposes of making a political statement to the Governor of Virginia,” House said.
On Wednesday, Quan McLaurin, who has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Liberty and worked at the university for nearly seven years, announced on LinkedIn and Twitter he was stepping down as director of diversity retention on July 2. Although he didn’t reference Falwell’s tweet in his statement, the timing and public nature of his announcement indicate a connection.
The image in question came from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook and showed an individual sporting blackface standing next to another person cloaked in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe. The notorious photo caused a scandal last year when it first surfaced, nearly resulting in the governor’s ouster from office. Falwell tweeted a picture of a mask with the yearbook photo on it in protest of the governor’s recent order requiring everyone to wear a face mask in indoor public settings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Falwell said he made the jab at Northam on behalf of minority students at Liberty who would suffer from the governor’s proposed tuition assistance cuts.
Nearly three dozen black Liberty alumni—including numerous pastors, authors, ministry leaders, and even current and former NFL athletes—signed a letter urging Falwell to retract the offensive tweet and apologize. The letter accuses the son of the university’s founder, Jerry Falwell Sr., of making comments that “have repeatedly violated and misrepresented” Christian principles and asks him to “stop this infantile behavior and lead our alma mater with dignity as your father did.” The signers state they will no longer recommend the university to future students and athletes of color, and that they are withdrawing their financial support. The letter is currently posted in conjunction with a Change.org petition that included more than 29,000 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon. —L.E.