Friday, December 2, 2016

Falwell Takes Liberty With MacCaw

What a crock.

Liberty University, a conservative Baptist school in Virginia, has scooped up one of the leading figures behind a sex assault scandal at Baylor University, a conservative Baptist school in Texas.

Yee-haw... Lookee thar, Slim - Ah guess Bap-ists will be Bap-ists, per-tectin' thar own.

Earlier this year, on May 30, Ian MacCaw resigned as Baylor's athletic director in the midst of allegations that members of the school's football team had been sexually assaulting women with impunity.  While MacCaw has not been directly implicated in any proven cover-up, it has been widely reported that he knew of at least one of the allegations, but apparently, failed to properly report it.

The appearance of MacCaw not appreciating the gravity of sexual assault claims against members of his successful football team was enough for Baylor officials to sanction MacCaw, fire the head football coach, and force the school's president to resign.  MacCaw himself resigned four days after being sanctioned.

At the time, MacCaw piously declared that his resignation wasn't to protect himself, but to "promote the unity, healing and restoration that must occur in order to move forward."

Well, now, apparently, MacCaw has healed and restored himself enough to move forward and eastward, up to Virginia, and a similar position at a similar university.

Which, of course, has many in the media howling with cries of "Foul!"  And this time, they're right.

Yes, there is a wonderful doctrine within orthodox Christianity called redemption, and it would be nice if somebody gave MacCaw a chance to redeem himself and prove that he doesn't put male football players ahead of their girlfriends and other innocent women.  Except... MacCaw had a chance at Baylor to prove that, and so far, all we know is that he high-tailed it out of Waco as soon as he could.  Not exactly a signal of personal virtue, is it?

And yes, there is another wonderful doctrine within orthodox Christianity called forgiveness, but forgiveness sometimes involves sacrifice, and it doesn't necessarily mean that there are no consequences. MacCaw might consider his resignation a form of sacrifice on his part, but interestingly, he resigned after he was censured, not when his dropping the ball and not reporting the assault came to light.  And if he is simply a fall guy in all this, why isn't his personal reputation worth more to him than dropping out of sight, only to resurface a few months later, in the same role, at a similar school?

Talk about whack-a-mole.

Plenty of pundits have already castigated Liberty University for hiring MacCaw, at least so soon after the Baylor scandal hit the fan.  At the very least, the optics here appear to be quite sexist, and even a bit misogynistic.  And they're all correct in pointing out that there should at least be some sort of disciplinary period for MacCaw that should last longer than a college summer break.  What kind of signal is MacCaw making about his own convictions regarding the accusations against him, his fellow Baylor staffers, and his football players?  That it really doesn't amount to much, in his opinion? 

Is he desperate for the money?  It's understandable for an unemployed worker to seek further gainful employment after losing a job, but athletic directors at prestigious schools with lucrative sports programs aren't living paycheck to paycheck, are they?  And if they are, considering the size of their paychecks, maybe there's more wrong here than we already know.

Meanwhile, what about Liberty, and its decision to hire MacCaw?  On the one hand, you can't blame MacCaw for trying to find another job.  But Liberty has been skating on might thin PR ice these months, following its president's personal support of Donald Trump's presidential candidacy.  Numerous evangelicals - not to mention many embarrassed Liberty students - criticized Jerry Falwell Jr.'s stance, if for no reason than it put an uncomfortable spotlight on Liberty's supposedly non-profit status.  If anything, Falwell's gushing praise for Trump was not wise or helpful in a fiduciary sense.

And what's this "good man" stuff Falwell keeps harping about?  During Trump's campaign, Falwell repeatedly called the thrice-married, proud adulterer, and casino-owning presidential candidate a "good man."  So, Trump is Falwell's definition of a good man, huh?  Doesn't that actually say more negative things about Falwell than it does Trump?

Perhaps it should be no surprise, then, that Falwell also says MacCaw is a "good man."  Shucks, if I were MacCaw, I might take offense at being characterized in the same way as Trump!

What does it mean to be a "good man" in Falwell's eyes?  Is it just a lame figure of speech for somebody who's supposed to be the educated leader of an educational institution?  Or does Falwell possess some wonky interpretation of "good" that diverges from God's holy interpretation?

In an oddly humorous way, however, Falwell does get at least one thing right with his hire of MacCaw.  "I can’t think of an athletic director in the country who is more sensitized to the importance of complying with the intricacies of Title IX than Ian McCaw," Falwell declared in a press release.

Title IX is the United States Department of Education's protocol for providing a clearinghouse for any form of discrimination at schools receiving any sort of federal funding.  And sex abuse allegations fall under the purview of Title IX administrators who are supposed to make sure collegiate athletic programs keep their players (wink wink, nudge nudge) on the sexually-moral straight-and-narrow.

So yeah, Falwell is correct in that MacCaw has personal relevance with Title IX, after his troubled exit at Baylor.  In that regard, Liberty can be pretty confident that Title IX issues won't be a problem there, at least in the athletic department under MacCaw's watch.  Too many people will now be watching extra closely, almost waiting for the very next infraction to be alleged.

Yet it's hard to ignore the fact that, at least for Falwell, the ends justify the means.  And that's not an acceptable testimony for a supposedly evangelical school official to broadcast to the world.

"Ian’s success really speaks for itself," Falwell crowed during a recent press conference.  "You look at what Baylor was able to do during his tenure.  It fits perfectly with where we see our sports programs going."

In other words, we really don't care if anything happened to those women who claim they were sexually assaulted.  We've got our own athletic department that found a good guy who we were actually able to hire on the cheap, since he's got this big blemish on his record from that stuff at Baylor.

And you don't think sports is its own religion?

“My vision for Liberty is to position it as a preeminent Christian athletic program in America and garner the same type of appeal among the Christian community as Notre Dame achieves among the Catholic community and [Brigham Young University] garners from the Mormons,” gushed MacCaw.

Okay, let's see:  "Feds investigate Notre Dame for possible Title IX violations linked to sexual violence."

And then there's this:  "Brigham Young added to list of schools under federal investigation for handling of sexual assaults."

Now, granted, these cases don't necessarily involve football players, or any school athletes.  But as you can see, if this is the direction in which Falwell wants Liberty to travel, his pick of MacCaw may have credibility after all.

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