Home Christian News Jerry Falwell’s Legal Battle With Liberty University—And His Brother—Escalates

Jerry Falwell’s Legal Battle With Liberty University—And His Brother—Escalates

The back-and-forth touches primarily on one of two lawsuits making their way through federal court. In March, the former Liberty president sued the university and the executive committee of the school’s board, alleging they have failed to pay him $8.5 million in retirement benefits. Those benefits, the suit alleges, could only be withheld if he were fired for cause or if he engaged in “any Competitive Activity,” according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia.

The board alleges the retirement benefits should be forfeited because Falwell deceived them regarding his own personal failings and his and his wife’s fiscal and alleged immoral behavior with a young man named Giancarlo Granda.

“Most damaging of all, perhaps, was Falwell’s post-contractual revelation of his overall and disqualifying departure from Liberty’s core Christian values at the time he was in the process of being Liberty’s long-term spiritual leader,” the school’s lawyers argued in a filing this month asking a federal judge to dismiss the case.

In July, Falwell sued the school again for using his father’s name, image and portrait — all of which are trademarked — without permission of the Dr. Jerry L. Falwell Family Trust, which owns the trademark.

The lawsuit pits the Falwell brothers against each other. Jerry Falwell Jr. alleges that his brother, Jonathan Falwell, betrayed the family trust by siding with the university against him in regard to the trademark and is doing so for personal gain — and that Jonathan Falwell convinced their sister to have Jerry Falwell removed as a co-trustee of the family trust. He also says the school rescued Thomas Road Baptist — where Jonathan Falwell succeeded their father as pastor — from financial ruin and that this brother hides how much money he gets from the school.

“Upon information and belief, Liberty and Jonathan have colluded to avoid publicly reporting additional income that Jonathan receives from Liberty, whether directly or indirectly, in the form of contributions to TRBC,” the complaint alleges.

Jerry Falwell Sr., the famed and controversial leader of the religious right, founded Liberty in the 1970s and spent a decade promoting the school. When he died in 2007, the school received $29 million in life insurance benefits, which rescued the school from debt.

Falwell Jr. alleged in his July complaint that the school no longer had permission to use his father’s image.

The school contested, filing a motion in late August to have the suit dismissed, arguing, among other things, that Falwell Jr. did not have authority to sue on behalf of the family trust, as his brother and co-trustee — who is also Liberty’s chancellor— did not consent.

The initial trademark lawsuit consisted primarily of a list of examples of how the school was using Jerry Falwell Sr.’s name and image.

After the school filed its motion to dismiss the case, Falwell Jr.’s attorneys filed an amended complaint, making a series of allegations about misconduct by school leaders, including “through a series of questionable self-dealing transactions that have the appearance of kickbacks” and overlooking sexual misconduct by former leaders.

This article originally appeared here.