April 2024 Church & State Magazine - April 2024

Liberty University to pay record fine for violating crime-reporting laws


Liberty U: Slapped with record fine (Photo by Taber Andrew Bain Flickr)

Liberty University, the fundamentalist Christian institution founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, will pay a record fine of $14 million for ignoring a federal law that requires institutions of higher education that receive federal funds to report crime statistics.

The school, based in Lynchburg, Va., has also agreed to spend $2 million to make its campus safer. Liberty will be monitored for two years to ensure it follows through, reported NBC News.

Liberty became the subject of an investigation in 2022 after more than a dozen women who attended the school charged that the institution had a pattern of discouraging women who had been sexually assaulted from reporting the crimes.

NBC reported that the women, known as “Jane Does” in court documents, “charged that Liberty retaliated against people who reported sexual violence, and they accused the school of tacitly condoning it by giving more weight to the denials of the alleged predators, often male athletes, than the women who claimed to have been assaulted.”

The school is accused of violating the Clery Act, a 1990 federal law that requires any college or university that receives federal aid to compile and disclose information about crimes on or near campuses. The U.S. Department of Education monitors compliance with the law, and it can assess fines if schools don’t abide by it.

Although Liberty University is a private school, many of its students receive federal financial aid, meaning it must comply with the law.

Liberty has admitted fault. In a media statement issued March 5, the school insisted it was the victim of “selective and unfair treatment” by the Department of Education but added, “[T]he university also concurs there were numerous deficiencies that existed in the past. We acknowledge and regret these past failures and have taken these necessary improvements seriously.”

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