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Liberty University spokesman files lawsuit after his firing

In his complaint, Scott Lamb said the school fired him because he opposed its handling of sexual assault and harassment allegations.

Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., is one of the largest Christian universities in the world that has been a major hub for conservative politics. (Steve Helber/AP)

The former spokesman for Liberty University filed a federal lawsuit Monday alleging the school fired him after he opposed its handling of a series of sexual assault and harassment complaints.

Liberty, one of the largest Christian universities in the world that has been a major hub for conservative politics, was sued in July by 12 women who claimed they were victims of sexual assault or other sexual misconduct and that the Lynchburg, Va., university failed to help them and made the campus more dangerous through its policies.

Scott Lamb, who was the school’s senior vice president of communications until Oct. 6, was described by several former Liberty employees as the right-hand man to former president Jerry Falwell Jr., who resigned last year after a series of scandals.

After participating in several interviews conducted by an outside law firm that was hired by the university, Lamb said, he was fired on Oct. 6 for trying to call out the university’s failures to respond to concerns about sexual assault.

Lamb’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Virginia, alleges that university policies violated the federal Title IX law prohibiting discrimination based on sex at schools that receive federal funding. Lamb said he believes he is protected as a “whistleblower” as part of the investigation the school had him participate in.

Asked about Lamb’s allegations that the university failed to respond to concerns it mishandled sexual assault and harassment allegations, a Liberty spokesman said: “While we are generally reticent to comment on personnel matters, we would like to make it clear that Lamb’s advice on how to publicly respond to the Jane Doe Title IX lawsuit played no role in his termination. His termination was the result of a meeting about a recent review of the area under his management.”

While declining to comment on the Title IX lawsuit, the spokesman said the university “would like to affirm its commitment to take all allegations of sexual assault seriously and in accordance with the law.”

Lamb, who once worked for prominent Southern Baptist leader Albert Mohler and co-wrote a book about former president Donald Trump’s faith, was hired by the school in 2018. Lamb said in an interview he had no knowledge that Falwell and Falwell’s wife were allegedly engaged in a sexual relationship with a pool attendant, the allegation that became the tipping point for Falwell’s departure from the school. He said he was not aware of Falwell’s alleged private business dealings with the school.

After Falwell left, the school hired a law firm to investigate what had taken place under his leadership, and Lamb said he participated in 20 hours of interviews about a range of topics. In addition to discussing the school’s handling of sex assault allegations, he also said he told investigators about instances where the school allegedly violated its 501(c)(3) status, including what he described as nepotism by the Falwell family. Falwell’s two sons and their wives were on the school’s payroll.

Lamb said he was also asked a lot of questions about the Falkirk Center, the think tank founded by Falwell and conservative activist Charlie Kirk, whose contract was not renewed by the school earlier this year.

The lawsuit filed by 12 women earlier this year alleged Liberty has fostered a campus where sexual assaults and rapes are more likely to occur than they would in the absence of the school’s policies. Some students on campus have been wearing teal ribbons on their wrists to raise awareness around the alleged cases.

When the Jane Doe case was filed, Falwell’s successor as president Jerry Prevo addressed the entire university community. The school also issued a statement at the time that said: “Liberty has invested mightily in programs and personnel to help maintain a safe campus and to support any and all victims of sexual assault who came forward. ... We will immediately look into each of these claims to determine what needs to be done to make things right, if they turn out to be true.”

Jack Larkin, an attorney for the women, said he is talking with university officials about going into mediation. He said an additional 10 women with similar Liberty-connected cases have contacted him asking for representation.

Robert Locklear, a senior from Lynchburg who writes for the Liberty Champion, the student newspaper, said the topic of sex abuse has been a big issue for the campus this semester.

Some students heard allegations of rape, sexual harassment and coverups on the Gangster Capitalism podcast about Liberty’s scandals, or about the lawsuit filed this summer.

Then students began sharing posts from some social media accounts, and a student group called Justice for Janes formed on campus, Locklear said. In a petition, the group called for a number of changes, including an independent audit of the university’s human resources and Title IX offices, emergency call boxes on campus, and consistent enforcement and education about the amnesty policy for people who report Title IX violations. A story from ProPublica that was published Sunday sparked more conversations on social media, Locklear said.

“Most students who know about it are united,” Locklear said, wanting to learn more and to support the Jane Does.

Matt Morris, 19, a Liberty student from Fairfax County who has been critical of the university in the past, said there has been growing concern among students that the school’s leaders may be trying to cover up problems such as sexual assault. There has also been discussion about changing some of the rules governing student conduct on campus, he said, known as “the Liberty Way.”

There are also those who aren’t paying attention to the issue, he said, and for many students, the university’s current leadership remains popular.

At convocation, “Jerry Prevo gets standing ovations just by existing,” Morris said. “I encourage everyone to pray for the school and help out in any way that they can, whether they’re here or not.”

Daniel Harris, 21, a senior from Loudoun County who founded the Justice for Janes campus-reform group said, “We’ve seen people deeply disturbed by what is going on, but more people need to know about it. We’re trying to tell people. ... This is an ongoing matter of public safety that needs to be discussed.”

Ultimately, Harris added, “I’m quite optimistic that the voice of the students will be heard.”