A former top Liberty University official is accusing the influential Christian school of firing him after he refused to participate in an alleged “cover-up” of mishandled sexual assault and harassment reports made by students.
Scott Lamb, who was the university’s senior vice president for communications, filed a lawsuit against Liberty on Monday that claims his firing earlier this month was retaliation for his “vocal opposition” within the university to how it addressed reports of sexual misconduct.
Lamb’s lawsuit accuses Liberty of illegal retaliation under Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education and requires universities to address reports of sexual misconduct.
Lamb claims he was fired after challenging the university’s “mishandling of sexual assault and harassment complaints in violation of Title IX.” He also claims that he “raised Title IX violations” to senior leaders at the university, including Jerry Prevo, the current president; Jerry Falwell Jr., the former president; and David Corry, the university’s general counsel.
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, does not include any specific details about how Lamb believes the university mishandled allegations of sexual assault. But it does reference a separate Title IX lawsuit filed against Liberty in July by a dozen women who say the university mishandled sexual assault claims.
Those women, Lamb’s lawsuit notes, allege that Liberty “intentionally created a campus environment where sexual assaults and rapes are foreseeably more likely to occur than they would in the absence of Liberty’s policies.”
“Liberty University prefers not to issue public comment on litigation, but the university would like to affirm its commitment to take all allegations of sexual assault seriously and in accordance with the law,” a university spokesperson said in a statement in regard to the lawsuit filed by the dozen women, who are referred to anonymously in court papers as Jane Does.
“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,” the university spokesperson said in a separate statement about Lamb's lawsuit. “His termination was the result of a meeting about a recent review of the area under his management.”
Lamb was first hired by Liberty in January 2018 as vice president of special literary projects. He was tasked with writing a history of Liberty as well as helping Falwell and other university employees write and publish books.
Lamb that year published a book, "The Faith of Donald J. Trump: A Spiritual Biography," with co-author David Brody, a conservative commentator for Christian Broadcasting Network. The book argues that Trump has a sincere “respect for the God of the universe, and a desire to draw closer to Him.” Lamb was eventually promoted to senior vice president for communications and public engagement, and he served for the past few years as Liberty University’s top spokesperson.
Lamb’s allegations that he faced retaliation for raising concerns about Title IX cases is the latest turmoil at the large evangelical university. The school was rocked last year by the ouster of its longtime president, Jerry Falwell Jr., amid allegations of inappropriate personal behavior and financial self-dealing.
In the wake of the Falwell scandal, the university’s board of trustees hired an outside firm, Baker Tilly, to conduct an investigation of the university’s operations and business dealings.
Lamb said in his lawsuit that he spoke with those outside investigators for about 20-25 hours. He claims that Liberty fired him, in part, because of his participation in that investigation, despite promises by the university that employees would be protected.
Prevo, then the acting president of Liberty University, instructed Lamb and other school employees to cooperate with the outside investigators and “to make a full and complete disclosure of truthful information to the Investigation Team, even if that information may be considered critical or disparaging of the University,” according to a document Lamb provided to POLITICO.
The document, which appears to be signed by Prevo and dated Sept. 22, 2020, said that Liberty would “not retaliate against you or anyone else who cooperates with the investigation and provides truthful information” to the investigators.
Upon his termination earlier this month, Lamb alleges that Liberty offered him a severance package on the condition that he sign a non-disclosure agreement. Part of that package included the guarantee that his children, currently enrolled at Liberty, could finish their education tuition-free. Lamb says he refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
Lamb’s lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
In addition to the Title IX concerns, Lamb’s lawsuit also said that he was “outspoken in opposition to certain perceived violations of the University’s 501(c)(3) status” as a nonprofit charity under the tax code. Liberty has previously drawn criticism for its political activities under Falwell. POLITICO reported last year that the university had spent millions of dollars on Republican causes and efforts to promote the Trump administration.