One of Donald Trump’s earliest evangelical supporters is expected to be rewarded with a role in the next administration.
The News & Advance in in Lynchburg, Va., reported Nov. 17 that Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. visited Trump Tower in New York City last Thursday to meet with the president-elect, who is in the process of assembling a new cabinet.
Falwell declined to confirm or rule out whether he was being vetted as secretary of education but told the newspaper he will “definitely play a role” in the Trump administration.
“We’re still discussing exactly what that role will be,” Falwell said. “Nothing’s been decided.”
Falwell earlier told the Richmond Times Dispatch he had spoken with both the next president and Vice President-elect Mike Pence about his interest in serving the new administration.
“I let them know one of my passions is reforming higher education and education in general,” Falwell said in an interview reported by the newspaper Nov. 15. “I told them I’d be willing — I have a lot of responsibilities here — but I’d be willing to serve in some capacity that sort of brings education back to some form of sanity.”
Falwell, who endorsed Trump early in the Republican primaries, is one of the president-elect’s best-known evangelical backers, in part because of the legacy of his late father, Jerry Falwell, whose Moral Majority movement in the 1980s helped transform American presidential politics for a generation.
Jerry Falwell Jr., who inherited leadership of Liberty University from his father while his brother, Jonathan, took over the elder’s pulpit at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, was criticized by fellow evangelicals when he introduced Trump as a fellow Christian at a speech to students in January.
Falwell’s support of Trump remained controversial, prompting the resignation of a Liberty trustee in May, a highly publicized letter from students calling Trump “one of the worst presidential candidates in American history” and a censorship controversy when the administration pulled an anti-Trump column from the campus newspaper in October.
With an enrollment of more than 15,000 residential students and nearly 100,000 online, Liberty University is likely the largest Christian university in the world. Niche recently rated Liberty No. 1 in the list of the most conservative colleges in America in the coming year.
Liberty’s Center for Creation Studies promotes “a robust young-Earth creationist view of Earth history,” placing it at odds with a majority of the academic community.
One point of agreement Falwell shares with Trump is repeal of the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 tax law barring tax-exempt organizations from overtly endorsing or opposing political candidates. Falwell claims the ban suppresses free speech and is applied unfairly against conservatives.
“It’s just something that liberal schools don’t worry about,” Falwell said. “There are no qualms about violating the Johnson Amendment.”