Liberty University has named Alaska resident Rev. Jerry Prevo, the chair of the school’s Board of Trustees since 2003 and the former pastor of the Anchorage Baptist Temple, as its acting president, replacing Rev. Jerry Falwell, Jr.
Falwell, whose father founded the university, took an “indefinite” leave of absence as president and chancellor following outcry over a racy photo he posted on Instagram — and later deleted — that depicted him with a woman who was not his wife, with his pants unzipped, holding a glass of dark liquid.
For students at the university, it means one anti-LGBTQ president is being replaced by another. Prevo, like Falwell, has been vocal on what he calls “moral political issues,” including vehement opposition to LGBTQ rights, based on the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality.
“We’ve just taken a Biblical stand on morality, all through the years,” he said of his opposition to homosexuality.
He has also blamed public school education for increased acceptance of homosexuality, saying: “Young people these days, I don’t think they know what God says about it. Therefore, they are endorsing it.”
According to a local blogger, Prevo was influential in the defeat of Dave Rose, an LGBTQ rights supporter, in the 1978 Anchorage mayoral race, creating a political action committee and spending more than $5,000 in advertising to assist Rose’s opponent, incumbent George Sullivan.
The group then went on to reform as the Moral Majority of Alaska, rising to a position where they held significant sway over the Republican Party, winning all 19 delegates to the 1980 Republican National Convention and casting their votes in favor of Ronald Reagan.
The 75-year-old Prevo, a trustee of Liberty since 1996, was appointed by the board’s six-member executive committee, effective immediately, and will work from Liberty’s campus in Lynchburg, Virginia, starting on Aug. 17, according to the Lynchburg-based newspaper The News & Advance.
“I want to thank my fellow board members for having confidence that I could be entrusted with the responsibility of serving as the Acting President during this time of Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s indefinite leave of absence,” Prevo said in a statement.
“We have a world-class leadership team at Liberty University who will support me in running our operations on a day-to-day basis and fulfilling our spiritual mission unabated: Training Champions for Christ.
“Please pray for us as well as the Falwell family as we embark on our academic year and so we may continue to be united in our common purpose and our faith in Christ,” he added.
Prevo agreed to step down as board chair for the duration of time he serves as acting president, and is expected to return to that role once a permanent replacement is named. The university did not say whether it had named an interim board chair to fill in for Prevo while he runs the day-to-day operations of the campus, which will be filled with 15,000 students in less than two weeks.
Like Falwell, Prevo has been a prominent figure in the evangelical movement and in conservative politics who retired from his 47-year position as head of the Anchorage Baptist Temple last year.
Under Prevo’s leadership, the small church grew both the number of congregants and its influence, setting up an educational arm, Anchorage Christian Schools, as well as a radio station and a Christian TV broadcasting arm to assist in the propagation of the faith.
Prevo has met with every U.S. president from Jimmy Carter to Donald Trump, with the exception of Barack Obama. He also has significant clout in Alaskan politics, with a “who’s who” of former and current state officials — including former Gov. Sarah Palin, former Sen. Mark Begich, Congressman Don Young, Gov. Mike Dunleavy, and Attorney General Kevin Clarkson — in attendance for what was his final service, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
Prevo’s influence in politics eventually waned — as did that of a number of other figures in the Moral Majority — as attitudes towards religion and social issues, including acceptance of homosexuality, changed over time.
This is particularly true in Prevo’s hometown of Anchorage, where elected leaders have approved an ordinance protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination and rejected a ballot measure to bar transgender people from using restrooms consistent with their gender identity.
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