The president of one of the largest evangelical Christian colleges in the world has agreed to step down after posting a photo of himself with his pants unzipped.
Jerry Falwell, a strong supporter of President Donald Trump, has said he will take indefinite leave from Liberty University in Virginia.
The college council did not provide a reason for the move.
Mr Falwell had conceded that the Instagram photo was “weird” but defended it as “while having fun”.
The university said in a statement on Friday: “The Executive Committee of the University of Liberty Board of Trustees, acting on behalf of the entire board, met today and asked Jerry Falwell, Jr to take indefinite leave from his duties as President and Chancellor. from Liberty University, to which he accepted, with immediate effect. ”
The college has a strict code of conduct for how students are to behave in college, including prohibiting premarital sex and media consumption on or off campus “which is against standards and regulations. traditions of Liberty ”, such as obscene lyrics, anti-Christian messages, sexual content and nudity.
Hairstyles and fashions should “avoid extremes” and students should dress modestly at all times.
The photo showed Mr Falwell with his arm around a woman who was not his wife. His shorts also seemed unbuttoned. His other hand held a glass of dark colored liquid.
“No more vacation photos. Lots of good friends visited us on the yacht, ”read the accompanying caption. “I promise it’s only black water in my glass. ”
He then deleted the message.
The image sparked outrage and accusations of hypocrisy from both political right and left, with Republican lawmaker Mark Waller, chairman of the powerful Republican House caucus, calling on Mr Falwell to resign.
“The continued behavior of Jerry Falwell Jr is appalling,” the university’s advisory board member Mr Walker wrote on Twitter. “I have no doubts that Falwell should resign. ”
Speaking to WLNI, a local Virginia radio station, earlier this week, Mr Falwell acknowledged the criticism and identified the woman in the photo as his wife’s assistant.
“Yeah, that was weird. She is pregnant. She couldn’t close her pants and I was trying to like… I had jeans that I hadn’t worn in a long time and I couldn’t close them either. So, I just popped out my stomach like his, ”he said.
Liberty University, a private evangelical institution based in Lynchburg, was founded by Mr. Falwell’s father in 1971.
Upon his father’s death in 2007, Mr. Falwell was appointed President.
Mr. Falwell Jr has courted controversy throughout his tenure. In May, he tweeted a photo of a decorated face mask of a person with a black face and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe, a reference to a racism scandal that had engulfed the Democratic governor of Virginia.
A month earlier, a Liberty student filed a class action lawsuit against the university for its handling of the coronavirus epidemic.
And last year, the former editor of the school’s student newspaper wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post, accusing Mr. Falwell of silencing students and faculty “who reject his pro-Trump policies.” .
Mr. Falwell was one of the early evangelical supporters of the current US president, often credited with helping deliver this constituency to the then-Trump candidate in 2016.