Jerry Falwell Jr. will take an indefinite leave of absence from Liberty University after posting a racy photo to social media from his vacation where his pants were unzipped, his midriff was out, and he is standing next to a woman holding a glass of dark liquid. He later deleted the photo.

Jerry Falwell Jr.

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., shown in 2018, will take an indefinite leave after a social media post that showed him with his pants unzipped. Steve Helber/Associated Press

The school issued a brief statement saying that the executive committee of Liberty’s board of trustees met Friday and requested that Falwell take leave. That committee of eight people includes Falwell, according to the school’s website.

On Thursday, Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., a Southern Baptist minister and former Liberty instructor, called for Falwell’s resignation, citing several recent after several scandals.

“Jerry Falwell Jr’s ongoing behavior is appalling,” Walker, the vice chairman of the powerful House Republican Caucus, wrote on Twitter. “I’m convinced Falwell should step down.”

In recent months, Falwell’s behavior has been blasted by his own students, young alumni and Black alumni, but this week white evangelical leaders openly criticized him on social media.

Colby Garman, a pastor and executive committee member of the Virginia Southern Baptist Convention, echoed Walker’s call for Falwell to step down. Liberty graduate Dean Inserra, a megachurch pastor in Florida, urged the university board members to “show some courage.” Bible teacher Beth Moore wrote, “I just want everybody to zip up their pants is all.”

Speaking to the Lynchburg, Va., radio station WLNI, Falwell said the woman in the photo was his “wife’s assistant” – and, he said, the inspiration for undoing his pants zipper and exposing his stomach.

“She’s pregnant, so she couldn’t get her pants up,” he said as the host chuckled. “And I had on a pair of jeans that I hadn’t worn in a long time, so I couldn’t get mine zipped, either. And so I just put my belly out like hers.”

“She’s a sweetheart,” he added, “and I should never have put it up and embarrassed her.”

Falwell’s father, Jerry Falwell Sr., was a prominent Southern Baptist pastor who co-founded the once-influential Moral Majority, a group that pushed for conservative politics. After his death, his sons succeeded him; Jerry Falwell Jr. took over the university while his son Jonathan Falwell became senior pastor of the church his father founded.

Teo Armus contributed to this report.

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