March 2020 Church & State | People & Events

Democrats took control of the Virginia legislature after elections in November, and Religious Right leader Jerry Falwell Jr. is so angry he’s ready to break up the state.

Falwell, son of the late Moral Majority founder the Rev. Jerry Falwell, appeared in West Virginia in late January alongside that state’s governor, Republican Jim Justice, to announce a scheme to convince several Virginia counties to secede and join West Virginia.

“Many counties [in Virginia] are taking a long hard look at escaping the barbaric, totalitarian and corrupt Democratic regime that is trampling on individual rights throughout the state,” Falwell said.

Justice joined in, adding, “If you’re not truly happy where you are, we stand with open arms to take you from Virginia or anywhere where you may be. We stand strongly behind the Second Amendment, and we stand strongly for the unborn.”

Virginia’s new legislative session kicked off on Jan. 8. Since then, the legislature has ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, acted to shore up abortion rights and considered some gun-control measures. It’s also moving to pass bills advancing LGBTQ rights.

Falwell admits that the plan, dubbed “Vexit,” faces long odds – and even some Republicans say he’s wasting his time. Sen. Emmett Hanger, whose district includes portions of five central Virginia counties, asked, “What are they doing, a comedy routine?”

It’s possible that Falwell may be mad at Virginia for other reasons. Falwell now runs Liberty University, the school founded by his father. Liberty, based in Lynchburg, has raked in a lot of money by enrolling online students. Of its total enrollment of 110,000 students, more than 94,000 are studying online.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has proposed a budget that cuts Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant (VTAG) aid for online students. Northam wants to boost VTAG aid – but only for students attending brick-and-mortar schools. About 2,000 of Liberty’s online students are Virginia residents, and Falwell wants to keep the government aid flowing to them.