Donald Trump has chosen the anti-LGBT fundamentalist Jerry Falwell Jr. to head a federal task force on Department of Education policy.
Falwell, the president of Liberty University, sees his appointment “as a response to what he called ‘overreaching regulation’ and micromanagement by the department,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.
In his Tuesday interview with the Chronicle, Falwell specifically mentioned policies on accreditation and student loan repayment, but it would not be surprising if he saw policies banning discrimination against LGBT students as “overreaching regulation.”
The code of conduct at Liberty University, founded by Falwell’s notoriously homophobic father, states that “sexual relations outside of a biblically ordained marriage between a natural-born man and a natural born woman are not permissible.” The university has hosted several anti-LGBT events, including some that endorse so-called conversion therapy. Among its other far-right positions, the school supports creationism and climate change denial.
Falwell has also made Islamophobic statements. After the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., in December 2015, he said, “I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits [for guns], then we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed.” He later said “those Muslims” was a reference to only the San Bernardino attackers, not Muslims generally. He supports concealed carry of firearms on college campuses, and Liberty allows students to have guns in residence halls.
He was an early supporter of Trump’s presidential campaign, at a time when some other leaders of the Christian right did not fully trust Trump to embrace their crusades against LGBT rights and abortion. He told the Chronicle that Trump offered him the position with the task force in November, after he turned down an offer to be secretary of Education because it would take him away from the university, and he was given permission this week to discuss the matter publicly.
LGBT activists were quick to denounce Falwell’s appointment. “Jerry Falwell Jr. checks all the boxes for an education post in the Trump administration: He is bigoted, unqualified, and reliably opposed to protecting students from predatory companies,” said a statement issued by Congressman Mark Takano of California. “As a gay man, I am enraged that his anti-LGBT rhetoric is being rewarded with a leadership post. As a former teacher, I am deeply concerned for students who will inevitably be exploited by unregulated for-profit education companies. And as an American, I continue to be appalled by President Trump’s pattern of selecting unqualified ideologues to guide national education policy.”
Added Equality Federation spokesman Mark Daniel Snyder: “Jerry Falwell Jr. espouses an extreme anti-LGBTQ and anti-science worldview. He poses a real threat to our community, especially young people who should have a fair opportunity to learn free from discrimination and prejudices. It is deeply troubling that Mr. Trump has surrounded himself with the ‘who’s who’ of homophobic, racist, and xenophobic leaders. We will resist any attempt to poison our educational system with anti-LGBTQ and anti-science extremism.”