Former Liberty University Professor Says Students 'Doubting Their Faith' After Falwell Scandal

A former Liberty University professor of 21 years said she is happy the truth came out about the "authoritarianism" imposed by Jerry Falwell Jr. in the wake of his sex scandal—but students and Christians alike are now struggling with their faith.

Professor Karen Swallow Prior, who is now at the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, responded to Falwell's back-and-forth resignations as Liberty University evangelical leader. During a CNN interview Tuesday, the professor agreed with critics who say Falwell's power at the private evangelical university in Lynchburg, Virginia was "unchecked" for far too long. Professor Prior said students at Liberty and Christian colleges across the country are now struggling to keep the faith after it was revealed Falwell ignored his own stringent sexual morality rules while imposing them strictly on staff, students and followers.

"Not only me personally, but I have many students who are aware of these things [with Falwell] who are hurt and struggling and doubting their faith now. So, the consequences are dire but ultimately it does point to the fact that the core of our belief—that we are to put our faith in God, not in men," the longtime former Liberty University professor told CNN Tuesday.

"The kinds of things that have been revealed in the last couple of days are not things that happened in isolation," she continued. "They are things that have been red flags for a long time. The kind of arrogance and authoritarian leadership that we experienced as faculty was really just a symptom of this lifestyle that was one in which that he thought he could do anything and get away with it."

Liberty University holds a religiously strict Honor Code which prevents alcohol consumption, homosexual relationships, premarital sex and the viewing of material which is averse of Christian conservative values.

The professor confirmed CNN host Anderson Cooper's inquiry about whether Falwell's power at Liberty University had remained "unchecked" for years. She went on to express concern that students who have fully embraced Christianity and trust their leaders are now going to question such individuals.

"[Falwell's power] was absolutely unchecked, you have to understand that as Christians, out of Christian university, we are all serving, we believe in the mission, we believe in our students and so we're busy doing our jobs. As evangelicals, we tend to trust authorities and institutions, probably too much we're all learning the error of those ways."

Professor Prior said the Falwell Jr. sex scandal is only the latest evidence that people of all faith should "listen to victims of abuse." She said evangelicals will continue to value behavior versus faith, but Falwell Jr.'s hypocritical actions have likely stained many current students from embracing the faith.

Newsweek reached out to Liberty University for any additional remarks Tuesday evening.

liberty university professor swallow falwell
A former Liberty University professor of 21 years said she, her students and Christians of faith alike are struggling and "doubting" their faith in the wake of Jerry Falwell Jr.'s sex scandal. Screenshot: CNN