Over at Religion News Service, Liberty University Professor Marybeth Davis Baggett has penned an op-ed criticizing Jerry Falwell Jr.’s handling of his school during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s ban on gatherings of more than 100 persons forced Liberty to cancel classes, Falwell has opted to leave the campus open for students to return to the dorms and is still requiring faculty and staff to come to work.
As Davis Baggett notes, the three other schools in the Lynchburg area have closed their campuses, although students with nowhere else to go have been allowed back to the dorms.
“This foolhardy decision tracks Falwell’s conspiratorial thinking about COVID-19 and smacks of defiance,” Davis Baggett wrote.
“His public comments on the pandemic have manifested bravado, self-congratulation, and callousness in the extreme …” she wrote. “For one charged with leading a Christian institution of higher learning, these are troubling qualities, fundamentally at odds with both Christian faith convictions and an academic mindset. For a leader dealing with a situation of such magnitude, they are outright terrifying.”
Falwell’s public statements about COVID-19 have run the gamut from dismissive to bizarre. On March 13, Falwell appeared on Fox and Friends to float a theory that COVID-19 was actually a bioweapon created by North Korea and China. He appeared on Todd Starnes radio show to suggest equally unsubstantiated theories, accusing the media of deliberately overhyping the threat of COVID-19 as a way to make President Donald Trump look bad.
Davis Baggett’s op-ed was as scathing as they come, accusing Falwell of “reckless behavior” and said he has proven to be “unfit for this moment.” She also called out the deans and senior leadership of the school for refusing to stand up to what she considers to be irresponsible behavior from Falwell.
“The leadership’s willingness to enable Falwell’s self-professed politically motivated decision bespeaks a spirit of fear, or worse, that shames the mission they ostensibly pursue,” she wrote. “These leaders may think they are helping the institution, but in fact, they are sowing the seeds for its devastation.”
You can read the whole article at RNS.