The other day in the New York Times a freelance photojournalist for the New York Times wrote about how she was threatened with arrest by Jerry Falwell Jr’s Liberty University. This is an honest piece that is worth reading. Under Jerry Falwell Jr, Liberty is declining fast and this blog hopes more evangelicals will jump ship.
“We need a free press. We must have it. It’s vital.“
Do not speak to fools, for they will scorn your prudent words.
Proverbs 23:9 NIV
The Liberty Way! Jerry Falwell Jr partying in a Miami nightclub.
This blog is working on a few articles about Liberty University. There is a lot of developments going on with this institution that need to be covered and discussed. Back in April this blog wrote about how Liberty University threatened to arrest two journalists in, “Who Would Jesus Threaten? Did Jerry Falwell Jr Allegedly Threaten a New York Times Reporter? Plus Liberty University Engages in a Propaganda Campaign That Brings a Response From U.C.L.A. and Virginia Tech. Finally a Class Action Lawsuit has Been Initiated Against Liberty.” More information has come forward and one of the journalists – a free lance photographer for the New York Times wrote about how Liberty threatened her in the New York Times.
Julia Rendleman Writes About Liberty University Going After Her in the New York Times
Last week in the New York Times, Julia Rendleman a freelance photojournalist wrote about Liberty threatening her with arrest in the New York Times. She wrote about evangelical culture warriors threatening and bullying her online. Its a troubling article that raises many different issues. For the sake of the article I am going to have it below. You can read it in its original format in, “An Arrest Warrant From Liberty University, for Me.”
It was the end of March, and I had just put my two boys to bed. My phone was ringing in my pocket, but I didn’t care who it was — we were two and a half weeks into quarantine and the new reality was sinking in.
The person on the phone was calling to warn me: The police for Liberty University, the private evangelical college in southern Virginia, had gone to the authorities and had a warrant for my arrest for trespassing.
I am a freelance photographer for The New York Times, and I had recently taken pictures for an article about the decision by Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, to keep the school partially open during the growing Covid-19 pandemic.
Liberty asserted that they had recently changed policies and only staff, students and those conducting “University business” were permitted on campus.
For the assignment, I drove two hours from my home in Richmond, Va., to Lynchburg. I got there early, before 9 a.m. I had to work quickly and efficiently because my husband was working from home and because of the virus, we had no child care options. I would work in the morning. He would work in the evening when I got home.
I tried to be present in the work and take photos that accurately represented what I saw: a nearly empty campus with a few scattered clusters of students.
In the early afternoon, I headed back to Richmond. A week passed.
Soon, the news of the warrant for my arrest appeared on Twitter. By Tuesday, I felt like I had been thrown into the middle of the Covid-19 culture war. Some friends messaged me that I was so brave. A woman on Twitter said the arrest warrant meant that I’m “doing something right.” To a lot of others I was “fake news” or worse.People were commenting on my story all over Twitter. I received more hateful emails than I ever had in my life.
One read: “You media scum are indeed the ‘enemy of the people’ — it’s about time some Justice was served against your non stop continual attacks against Conservatives. You feel you can act with impunity while hiding behind the 1st Amendment.”
The truth is, I didn’t feel very brave. The maximum sentence for trespassing was a year in jail. I thought about the permanent damage my incarceration would probably do to my sons.
The night the news broke, I didn’t sleep at all. My muscles were tense and I was out of my mind with worry. I thought about how much better it would be just to go back the week before when the worst thing that was happening to me was trying to raise my boys in the middle of a pandemic.
At that moment, I was ready to give up photojournalism. It wasn’t worth it — the constant hustle to piece together a living — and now this. My mom and dad were on their knees praying for me, and I made a deal with God. I would give up my career and be a full-time mother if this went away.
The New York Times hired a local attorney to represent me. He assured me I had not done anything wrong, and I would not go to jail. The pressure valve opened. I slept for 10 hours. Eventually, Twitter forgot about me.
But I still needed to go to the police station, on Good Friday, to sign my arrest warrant. By this point, almost a month into lockdown, I had a face mask I had sewn and the knowledge that tens of thousands of Americans had died. As I entered the police station, I noticed that none of the receptionists or police officers were wearing face masks, which have since become a cultural flash point.
I thought about my beloved profession, and the people I know who are dedicated to publishing science and verifiable facts. Journalists are part of the checks and balances essential to making us a more perfect union.
After a few weeks, my attorney called. The prosecutor had agreed to dismiss the case. I didn’t think about Mr. Falwell too much, though. I felt he was just using me for what I represented. It wasn’t personal. I took assignments again. God would want me to. I do, however, need Jerry Falwell Jr.’s permission to ever return to Liberty University.
How Evangelicals Are Complicit in This Abuse and This Does Not Happen in the United States
That article in the New York Times is troubling for me for different reasons. One is that this is the United States and behavior like this is abnormal and doesn’t take place. Threatening journalists in such a way is what cults do in how they behave. As I type this I remember in my history how Mormon prophet Joseph Smith ordered Mormons to destroy printing press that were critical of him. Autocratic leaders behave lie this also. In the United States journalists are not threatened with arrest. This should not just trouble evangelicals but every American should be outraged by this behavior. Threatening to detain the press or journalists is what happens in countries like Nicaragua, Belize, Egypt, etc.. Recently the Los Angeles Times detailed how the press in Nicaragua was silenced. Falwell’s behavior is out of line and you don’t threaten someone because you do not like what they publish. That is part of living in a democracy. If we accept this then our democracy is threatened and will not survive in time.
As the mess that is Liberty University continues many evangelicals need to make a choice. Liberty is declining and going downhill under Jerry Falwell Jr’s leadership. There are other posts this blog is working on about Liberty University and Jerry Falwell Jr. Many evangelicals who support the school and give their money to it are now sustaining the abuse. They are complicit and allowing it to happen. This blog would like to ask a question to those individuals. Is this how Jesus would behave? How would Jerry Falwell Jr react to Jesus, this blog thinks he would threaten Jesus with arrest. What does that tell you about Liberty? Its time for evangelicals to sever ties and back away from this place. The evidence is mounting and people need to make a choice. Earlier this year Jerry Falwell Jr placed students at risk in the COVID-19 pandemic, and that was done just so the university could make money. Liberty isn’t a university its a Falwell family business and a personal hedge fund for Jerry Falwell Jr. If any former Liberty students want to tell their story about Liberty this blog would be happy to give them a platform.