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Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. in 2019. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Jerry Falwell Jr. will take an “indefinite leave of absence” from his roles as president and chancellor of Liberty University after posting a photo of himself with unzipped pants and an arm around a woman on social media, according to the school.

The state of play: The picture, which has since been deleted, drew backlash and charges of hypocrisy from conservative political figures because the university's honor code strictly prohibits students from having "sexual relations outside of a biblically-ordained marriage," and recommends they dress with“appropriateness” and “modesty."

  • Falwell, an ally of President Trump's, has drawn criticism for his political positions in the past, including his decision to bring students back to campus in March despite the threat of the coronavirus.

What they're saying: Falwell, who has served as Liberty's president since 2007, apologized for the photo on local radio in Lynchburg, Virginia, saying, “I’ve apologized to everybody. And I’ve promised my kids I’m going to try to be — I’m gonna try to be a good boy from here on out.”

  • Falwell defended the incident as a "costume party" parodying the comedy TV show “Trailer Park Boys.”
  • "It was a costume party on a — we were on vacation. And, anyway, long story short it was just in good fun. That’s it.” Falwell described the woman in the photo as his “wife’s assistant.”

GOP Rep. Mark Waller, a minister with ties to Liberty University, called on Falwell to resign on Friday, tweeting: “Jerry Falwell Jr’s ongoing behavior is appalling. As a Music Faculty Advisory Board Member and former instructor @LibertyU, I’m convinced Falwell should step down."

Go deeper

Student media sounds alarm on unsafe university reopenings

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

College media outlets are calling out their universities for failing to address the potentially-devastating communal spread of COVID-19 in their college towns.

Why it matters: With local newspapers in decline, campus papers have increasingly become the default for how students and community members get their news.

Corporate America finds downside to politics

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Corporate America is finding it can get messy when it steps into politics.

Why it matters: Urged on by shareholders, employees and its own company creeds, Big Business is taking increasing stands on controversial political issues during recent months — and now it's beginning to see the fallout.

Church groups say they can help the government more at border

A mural inside of Casa del Refugiado in El Paso, Texas. Photo: Stef Kight/Axios

Despite the separation between church and state, the federal government depends upon religious shelters to help it cope with migration at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Why it matters: The network supports the U.S. in times of crisis, but now some shelter leaders are complaining about expelling families to Mexico when they have capacity — and feel a higher calling — to accommodate them.

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