The University of Lynchburg is facing calls from former students to sever ties with Liberty University and remove the name of Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr. from a newly built campus facility, The News & Advance reported.

The push reportedly comes after the University of Lynchburg constructed a new residence hall last year that was partially funded by a donation from Liberty University and as the country has seen a number of efforts in recent months aimed at removing symbols of controversial figures and causes from public spaces.

According to the newspaper, former students have pointed to a number of offensive remarks made by the late pastor, who previously attended the school before going on to co-found Liberty University in the 1970s, to back calls to remove his name from a plaque on the facility.

ADVERTISEMENT

“His values do not align with what the University of Lynchburg says they want to be. His rhetoric represented that of racism, bigotry, placism and sexism until the last day,” one graduate, Johnathan Harris, who also reportedly sent a letter to his alma mater’s leaders calling for the removal of Falwell Sr.’s name from the facility, told the paper.

However, Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University and son of Falwell Sr., pushed back on such claims about his father, who warned in the late 1990s that “Teletubbies” character Tinky Winky was gay because of his triangle-shaped antennae and bag.

“My father loved everybody, but he did have certain theological beliefs and he expressed them and he was very vocal about them. But that’s theological; it’s not anything to do with not loving people,” Falwell Jr. told The News & Advance.

His father, who died in 2007, also drew criticism years back for suggesting that “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays” were partly to blame for the 9 /11 terror attacks and for offensive comments he made about Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruling that ended school segregation.

A petition calling for the University of Lynchburg, which has had a longstanding relationship with Liberty University, to cut ties with the school “unless for purely academic experiences and in rare circumstances” and to remove Falwell Sr.’s name from part of the residence hall has racked up more than 700 signatures as of Sunday.

The University of Lynchburg graduate behind the petition, Peter Lynch, told the paper “by putting Jerry Falwell’s name on a central place on campus — and there’s not that many places on Lynchburg’s campus — it sends a message that you honor the guy and that, on some level, you are in agreement with that person.” 

Kenneth Garren, the former president of the University of Lynchburg whose office saw to the construction of the new residence hall, reportedly said in a recent call with Falwell Jr. that there was a “verbal agreement” to have part of the facility named after Falwell Sr. for the donation.

“We had a deal. We struck the deal and it’s done. If they want to give the money back, they’re welcome to give it back,” Falwell Jr. said.