Liberty’s renamed think tank names Pompeo, Huckabee as fellows
Formerly the Falkirk Center, it's now the Standing for Freedom Center
Liberty University’s newly renamed think tank, the Standing for Freedom Center, has announced a slate of five new fellows, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Also named as fellows are Abby Johnson, an anti-abortion activist who used to work for Planned Parenthood, and Liberty alumni David and Jason Benham, twin brothers who were Minor League Baseball players and now are entrepreneurs and authors. The five will participate in the center’s virtual and eventual in-person events, as well as writing works related to the center’s mission of applying evangelical Christian beliefs to U.S. politics and culture, spokesperson Scott Lamb said Thursday.
Although the fellows will not be based in Lynchburg, they will likely deliver keynote addresses at the center once COVID-19 restrictions are further lifted in Virginia, allowing larger in-person gatherings, Scott said
“These fellows embody the core of what our center stands for: faith, freedom, and engaging culture with gospel-centered truth,” Standing for Freedom Center Executive Director Ryan Helfenbein said in a statement. “I’m proud to have these faithful world-changers on board with us and am excited to see our center grow with them.”
The center, founded in 2019 and previously named the Falkirk Center after co-founders Charlie Kirk and former Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr., was renamed after Falwell resigned from the university last August after a series of controversies that included allegations of sexual impropriety.
Kirk, a conservative activist, departed after the university decided last fall not to renew his contract. Described by The New York Times as the “de facto headquarters of evangelical Trumpism,” the Falkirk Center counted among its former fellows ex-presidential aide Sebastian Gorka. President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, appeared on a podcast from at the center. A current fellow, pundit Eric Metaxas, shared false conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election, saying it was stolen.
In late December and January, hundreds of current students and alumni at the Lynchburg private Christian university called for the Falkirk Center to be dissolved, signing a petition created by a freshman who objected to its mixture of gospel and Republican politics. The center purchased at least $50,000 in political ads supporting Trump and other Republicans in the 2020 election season, according to news reports. Former faculty members also have spoken against the think tank.
Pompeo, named as a senior adviser for the center, was former President Donald Trump’s secretary of state from 2018 to 2021 and served as director of the CIA from 2017 to 2018. He previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican representing Kansas’ fourth congressional district. He was considered one of Trump’s staunchest loyalists and was criticized by professional diplomats for negotiating with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and alienating European leaders during the previous president’s term.
Huckabee, who served as Arkansas’ governor from 1996 to 2007, hosts “Huckabee,” a weekly talk show on Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) that was previously aired on Fox News Channel. His daughter, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, served as press secretary for the Trump administration from 2017 to 2019 and currently is running for governor in Arkansas. A former GOP presidential candidate and pastor, Huckabee has gotten into past controversies for his statements, including a recent tweet that was broadly criticized as anti-Asian at a time when race-based attacks on Asians have drawn increased attention.
With more than 127,000 students enrolled, most of them online, Liberty is Virginia’s largest school by enrollment and is the nation’s second-largest online university, behind the University of Phoenix.