Meet the homophobic minister taking Jerry Falwell's place at Liberty University


Jerry Prevo has spent decades fighting LGBTQ equality.

The conservative Christian Liberty University announced on Monday that it has appointed Jerry Prevo to serve as the school's acting president. Prevo, the chairman of the university's board of trustees, replaces Jerry Falwell Jr., who was placed on an "indefinite leave of absence" last week.

Falwell is the son and namesake of the university's co-founder, and had served as its president since 2007, until he posted a photo online of himself and a woman he described as his wife's assistant on a yacht, both with their pants unzipped and Falwell with a glass of dark liquid in his hand.

Falwell is an enthusiastic supporter of Donald Trump and of his administration's attacks on LGBTQ rights since the beginning of his term. He has made homophobic and transphobic comments over the years and has said that the university "believes that marriage between one man and one woman."

Prevo is likely to continue Falwell's anti-LGBTQ agenda at the private university, which has an undergraduate enrollment of more than 45,000 students. Until last year the senior pastor at Anchorage Baptist Temple in Alaska, he has fought against LGBTQ rights for more than 40 years.

Fighting against LGBTQ equality in Alaska

Prevo began fighting against LGBTQ rights after the Anchorage Assembly in 1975 voted to protect queer people from discrimination. Prevo used his influence through his large congregation to overturn the protective ordinance, helping him rise through the ranks of Alaska's religious right.

In a 2016 interview with writer Charles Wohlforth, Prevo described how he he worked with then Anchorage Mayor George Sullivan to oppose these protections: "I said, 'Mayor, I just read the Sunday headline. What do you think of this ordinance? And he said, 'I'd like to veto this blankety-blank thing. Excuse me, reverend.'"

He continued to fight against such protections. In 2009, Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, the son of the earlier Mayor Sullivan, vetoed a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation, and in 2012, voters rejected a ballot measure to include protections for queer and trans people in the city's nondiscrimination policy.

Both times, Prevo was one of the figures who led the fight against extending protections to LGBTQ Alaskans.

Sexual orientation and gender identity are now included in Anchorage's policy against discrimination in property sales, financing, employment, public accommodations, educational institutions, and practices of the municipality. The Anchorage Assembly approved the change in policy in 2015. Prevo and another conservative, Jim Minnery, president of Alaska Family Action, vowed to repeal it.

Minnery led efforts in 2018 to pass Proposition 1, which would have restricted transgender people's access to bathrooms and locker rooms. The proposition was defeated.

The Movement Advancement Project, which provides research and analysis on issues of LGBTQ equality, gives the entire state of Alaska a low rating on its legal protections for LGBTQ people.

Prevo is proud of his record of opposition to LGBTQ rights, saying he believes it is his job to tell people what the Bible says is wrong. He says he saw LGBTQ rights as a threat to religious liberties early on: "I sensed that this special protection could take away religious liberties. And in the '70s and the '80s even in the '90s, people said, 'I don't know. That will never happen,' but just now, photographers because they choose not to do a same-sex wedding are losing their business."

Prevo evicts Boy Scouts from church

In 2013, the Anchorage Baptist Temple said it would not continue to sponsor local scout troops after the Boy Scouts of America voted to scrap a policy that banned openly gay scouts.

Prevo said in response, "No homosexual will enter the Kingdom of God."

Prevo told the Anchorage Daily News in 2019 that he blames public school education for changing attitudes toward LGBTQ people: "Young people these days, I don't think they know what God says about it. Therefore, they are endorsing it."

Relationship with Franklin Graham's anti-LGBTQ organization

Prevo also has a strong relationship with Samaritan's Purse, an evangelical Christian organization headed by Franklin Graham.

The organization's website asks volunteers to read and agree with an anti-LGBTQ statement of faith that says human sexuality can only be expressed within marriage and that "God instituted monogamous marriage between male and female as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society."

Graham has called marriage equality "detestable before almighty God" and praised Trump on "Fox & Friends" in 2018 for defending Christianity.

Prevo wrote on his Facebook page in 2018, "As many of you know, I'm very involved with Samaritan's Purse" and told the Anchorage Daily News last year that he planned to continue to work with the organization after his retirement.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.