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Liberty University board member resigns over Trump endorsement

Mark DeMoss, a public affairs executive with deep ties in the evangelical community, has resigned his board seat at Liberty University after clashing with university President Jerry Falwell Jr. over Falwell’s endorsement of Donald Trump.

DeMoss, who for many years served as chief of staff to Jerry Falwell Sr., the founder of the university, said he disagreed with the “appropriateness” of Falwell Jr.’s endorsement.

But, he said, “I hope we have not ‘fallen out’ over this matter. I am a Liberty graduate and have been associated with the school for nearly 40 years. Despite our differences on this endorsement, Jerry and I share a love for Liberty University.”

The resignation serves as another sign of how Trump’s emergence as the presumptive Republican presidential candidate has fractured the evangelical community.

Mark Demoss
Mark DeMoss, speaks on a panel about faith outreach by both campaigns during the Religion Newswriters Conference in Bethesda, Md., on Oct. 5, 2012. Photo by Sally Morrow

DeMoss told The Washington Post two months ago that the Republican front-runner’s insult-laden campaign has been a flagrant rejection of the values Falwell Sr. espoused and Liberty promotes on its campus.

In late April, the executive committee of Liberty’s board of trustees had voted to ask DeMoss to resign from the board’s executive committee, which he chaired, according to a statement he made to Patheos blogger Warren Throckmorton. Days later, on April 25, DeMoss decided to step down from the board as well, citing “a concern about a lack of trust.”

In an email Thursday,May 5, DeMoss clarified his resignation.

“While the decision to leave the committee I chaired was not mine, the decision to step down from the board was mine,” he said.

“The president/chancellor and the board chair and new executive committee chair were suggesting my motive for speaking to the Post was entirely political (that I was a political pawn of rival campaigns), rather than a genuine concern for the reputation of the university we trustees have (had) a fiduciary responsibility to protect. I concluded if they could not accept the reasons I gave them there was not sufficient trust to continue serving together.”

Meantime, Liberty said individual committee members had asked DeMoss to resign, but no vote ever was taken.

“Individual board members have varied reasons for their displeasure regarding Mark DeMoss’ comments to the Washington Post, most of which are not related to his disagreement with Jerry Falwell’s personal endorsement of Donald Trump or a belief that Mark DeMoss’ motivations were entirely political.  Liberty would prefer to not inventory or detail all these reasons,” according to a statement from the university.

Falwell Jr. endorsed Trump in January, but claimed his views were not intended to represent the university itself.

Demoss’ was concerned about Falwell Jr.’s endorsement of Trump and how he compared him to his father, Jerry Falwell Sr., who founded Liberty University,

“It bothered me that he said Donald Trump reminded him of his father,” DeMoss told The Post. “Donald Trump certainly does not demonstrate Jerry Falwell Sr.’s graciousness and love for people. Jerry Falwell Sr. would never have made fun of a political opponent’s face or makeup or ears. He would not have personally insulted anybody — ever.”

Demoss said that he was not upset when Trump addressed the students at Liberty University he was surprised that a speaker who understood evangelicals would go to Liberty University and say ‘what the hell’ three times in his message.

In the 2008 and 2012 campaigns, DeMoss had been a senior adviser to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and led evangelical efforts to get out the vote for Romney. DeMoss supported Marco Rubio during Super Tuesday’s primaries before the Florida senator dropped out of the presidential race.

— by Emily McFarlan Miller | RNS

CNJ staff contributed to this report.

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