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Liberty University counters ex-communications executive's lawsuit

Liberty University has come back swinging at a former communications executive who, having filed a lawsuit after he was fired last month, has been speaking openly with press and advocacy groups about the school administration’s inner dealings.

Scott Lamb was fired from his position as LU’s senior vice president of communications and public engagement Oct. 4 and filed his lawsuit in federal court three weeks later. In it, he positions himself as a whistleblower, tying his claim to LU’s handling of Title IX sexual misconduct reports and stating his firing was retaliation for him protesting “corrupt practices” there, including those around Title IX.

He’s been busy since then, appearing in dozens of articles, on Twitter and at a news conference Thursday that immediately preceded a campus demonstration and subsequent promises of change from the school’s top brass.

Though Lamb seemingly has rallied behind advocates, some supporters of reform efforts at Liberty have regarded his actions with suspicion, questioning why he didn’t speak up earlier about potential abuses.

Among the school’s defenses to Lamb’s suit is one claiming he falls under the “unclean hands” doctrine, where a plaintiff initially helped to set up the circumstances they’re filing suit about.

Liberty states in its response that Lamb was a close advisor to President Jerry Falwell Jr., who resigned in August 2020, and played a major hand in forming the Falkirk Center, a religious conservative “think tank” that spent tens of thousands of dollars in advertising and what some have categorized as flat-out propaganda. Co-founder Charlie Kirk removed his name from the equation after Falwell’s exit, and the organization was renamed the Standing For Freedom Center; it’s been the subject of polarized rejection and support.

The center, and whether it toes or crosses the line of political campaigning rules for nonprofits, has been a nexus point in Lamb’s arguments. LU’s tax-exempt status is based on being a 501(c)(3) nonprofit university and could be called into jeopardy if the school is found to have violated those rules.

The school filed its responses to Lamb’s suit late Thursday night into Friday, asking the court for more than $3 million in damages and for a gag order to be placed on Lamb.

Because of a confidentiality agreement, LU holds in its response that Lamb has breached his contract and fiduciary duties to the school and has defamed the school through “statements of false facts concerning Liberty and the actions of its acting President, Jerry Prevo.”

Since Lamb first filed his lawsuit, LU has countered that Lamb’s firing had nothing to do with anything related to Title IX.

“In October 2021, Lamb’s management and oversight of the [Standing For Freedom] Center came under criticism by an internal strategic analysis group, both for lack of specific authority to spend money on [communications] Department projects and for fundamental administrative sloppiness,” reads LU’s response, specifying he didn’t get approval for certain expenses.

Lamb has said Prevo, to whom he reported directly, had complimented and approved communications programming over the summer, and pointed out the results of an internal investigation launched after Falwell’s resignation — where Lamb was interviewed extensively — were relayed around the end of September.

That was about a week before Prevo and other school executives met with Lamb, according to Lamb’s complaint, where he “expressed dismay over the direction of the University” and said he wouldn’t be part of any cover-up of school activities.

In a statement posted Monday to Twitter, Lamb said he “spoke out about abuses at Liberty during my entire duration of employment.”

Liberty states in its response that Lamb started cataloging school information after Falwell left, forwarding himself emails and recording calls, meetings and other events in an act of “workplace espionage.” That resulted in a library of documents and recordings “that he could use to promote his expositional agenda, depending on how events evolved,” LU’s response states.

Besides leaking that information publicly, Liberty accuses Lamb of “leading this anti-Liberty conspiracy” by consulting with Jack Larkin, who’s suing the school on behalf of 12 anonymous women in the “Jane Doe lawsuit.” That case, which is temporarily on hold for negotiation talks, centers on claims the women experienced sexual discrimination and severe mismanagement of sexual assault reports on campus.

Liberty stated the school “has nothing to fear from the content of these materials” they allege Lamb has shown or given to Larkin and his team.

Lamb said Tuesday he’s prayed for and supported Larkin but hasn’t given him documents.

Whether “the courts untie my hands one day in the future to be able to directly help him,” Lamb said, remains to be seen.

A federal judge has yet to rule on Liberty’s response.

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