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Religiously-based conflicts

Controversial comments by leading
fundamentalist Jerry Falwell: 1979 - 2006

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About Jerry Falwell:

Jerry Falwell was one of the leading Fundamentalist Christian leaders in America.

He and his twin brother Gene were born in Lynchburg, VA on 1933-AUG-11. He was "saved" on 1952-JAN-20 at Park Avenue Baptist Church in Lynchburg at the age of 18. He was considering becoming a professional engineer or a journalist. However, by March of that year, he determined that God was calling him into some type of full-time ministry. He took classes for two years at Lynchburg College and then transferred to Baptist Bible College in Springfield, MO. He graduated in 1956 and became became a pastor at Thomas Road Church in Lynchburg. He married his wife Macel two years later.

In 1979, he founded a political lobbying group, the Moral Majority. It grew top over six million in membership, raised tens of millions of dollars and campaigned against abortion access, equal rights for homosexuals, pornography and bans on compulsory school prayer. In 1983, U.S. News & World Report named him one of 25 most influential people in America.

The Christian Post notes that his religious empire:

"... includes the 22,000-member Thomas Road Baptist Church, the 'Old Time Gospel Hour' carried on television stations around the country and 7,700-student Liberty University in Lynchburg, [VA] which began as Lynchburg Baptist College in 1971. He built Christian elementary schools, homes for unwed mothers and a home for alcoholics. ... [After] ... the 2004 presidential election, ... he formed the Faith and Values Coalition as the '21st Century resurrection of the Moral Majority,' to seek anti-abortion judges, a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and more conservative elected officials." 12

He was found unconscious in his office around 10:45 AM on 2007-MAY-15. CPR efforts were unsuccessful. He died at the age of 73. 12

Some events, and one non-event, in his life were:

bullet1971: He founded Lynchburg Baptist College. It became Liberty Baptist College, and finally Liberty University.
bullet1979: He founded the Moral Majority. It played a major role in the election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency in 1980. It focused opposition of Americans to abortion access, equal rights to gays and lesbians, pornography, the Equal Rights Amendment and the exclusion of state-directed prayer in public schools. He dissolved the group in 1989 after having reached his initial objectives.
bullet1986-7: The IRS determined that his Old Time Gospel Hour program had violated federal tax law. They retroactively revoked the program's tax-exempt status. He paid $50,000 in back taxes. 6
bullet1983: He organized a "I love America Committee" PAC. It is reported as having raised $485,000 in its first year, but spent $413,000 to do so. 8
bullet1988: He took over the PTL Ministry after Jim Bakker was removed in disgrace. It quickly entered bankruptcy.
bullet1996: He hosted a "Washington for Jesus" rally in Washington DC. He held a mock trial of the U.S. for persecuting the Church, and its homosexual rights, abortion access, racism, occultism, addictions, and HIV/AIDS infection. America was found guilty.
bullet2004: He founded the Faith and Values Coalition to "maintain an evangelical revolution of voters." He said:

"Yes, it is time to finish the job 1 started more than 25 years ago. It's time to rewrite the vision to return America to moral sanity. Our goal is to utilize the momentum of the sweeping conservative mandate of the November 2, 2004 elections to maintain a faith and values 'revolution' of voters who will continue to go to the polls to 'vote Christian' and call America back to God. I need your help to make this happen!" 3

bullet2005: Time Magazine's list of "The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America," did not include Jerry Falwell.

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Some controversial statements:

bulletUndated: This quote appears in multiple locations on the Internet, but we cannot locate a time or location:

"I have a Divine Mandate to go into the halls of Congress and fight for laws that will save America."

bullet1989: He allegedly commented about feminists:

"I listen to feminists and all these radical gals... These women just need a man in the house. That's all they need. Most of the feminists need a man to tell them what time of day it is and to lead them home. And they blew it and they're mad at all men. Feminists hate men. They're sexist. They hate men; that's their problem." 10

bullet1979: Sword of the Lord Publishing" produced a book allegedly containing Falwell's sermons. They claim that one stated:

"I hope to live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!" 8

He is reported as denying having had anything to do with the book.

bullet1997-JUL: He said:
"I do not believe the Republicans or the Democrats have the solution to America's moral and spiritual dilemma. Only a pervasive and national spiritual awakening can prevent us entering the post-Christian era as we go simultaneously into the 21st century. I believe America is in imminent peril. We are rotting from within." 2
bullet1980-AUG: After President Bailey Smith, president of the Southern Baptist Convention told a Dallas meeting that "God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew," Falwell is reported as giving a similar statement:

"I do not believe that God answers the prayer of any unredeemed Gentile or Jew"

After a meeting with a rabbi from the American Jewish Committee he seems to have changed his mind. He allegedly told an interviewer on NBC's "Meet the Press" that:

"God hears the prayers of all persons... God hears everything." 8

bullet1984: Jerry Sloan claimed that during a televised debate in Sacramento, CA, Falwell had called the gay-positive Metropolitan Community Churches:

"brute beasts...[and] a vile and Satanic system [that will] one day be utterly annihilated and there will be a celebration in heaven."

He denied saying this and offered to pay $5,000 if Sloan could produce a tape of the statement. According to an article in Church and State magazine,

"Sloan did so, Falwell refused to pay and Sloan successfully sued. Falwell appealed, with his attorney charging that the Jewish judge in the case was prejudiced. He lost again and was forced to pay an additional $2,875 in sanctions and court fees." 8

bullet1999-JAN: He addressed a conference of pastors in Kingsport, TN, stating that the Antichrist prophesized in the Bible is alive today:

"Who will the Antichrist be? I don't know. Nobody else knows. Is he alive and here today? Probably. Because when he appears during the Tribulation period he will be a full-grown counterfeit of Christ. Of course, he'll be Jewish. Of course, he'll pretend to be Christ. And if in fact the Lord is coming soon, and he'll [the Antichrist] be an adult at the presentation of himself, he must be alive somewhere today."

This generated heavy criticism from Jewish groups. 8 He later said that he was sorry for his comment:

"I apologize to my Jewish friends here and around the world, and I apologize to the Christians here for having created any kind of rift. I apologize not for what I believe, but for my lack of tact and judgment in making a statement that served no purpose whatsoever."

bullet1999-FEB: An article in his National Liberty Journal claimed that Tinky Winky, one of the teletubbies on the children's show by the same name, was promoting the gay lifestyle.
"Now, further evidence that the creators of the series intend for Tinky Winky to be a gay role model have surfaced. He is purple -- the gay-pride color; and his antenna is shaped like a triangle -- the gay-pride symbol."

This idea appears to have been picked up from a gay newspaper, not realizing that his source was a parody.

bullet2001-SEP-09: He said:
"Since the Antichrist will not be revealed before Jesus comes, I believe conditions are falling in place, i.e., one-world government, so he can rule the world after Jesus comes. But we're moving toward a one-world government through the United Nations, through the world court and a growing world opinion. The problem is that the one-world opinion is taking the side of the Palestinians, not the side of Israel." 2
bullet2001-SEP-13:  Two days after 9-11, in an exchange with Pat Robertson on the 700 Club program, he is reported as having commented on the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon:
"I agree totally with you that the Lord has protected us so wonderfully these 225 years. And since 1812, this is the first time that we've been attacked on our soil and by far the worst results. And I fear, as Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense, said yesterday, that this is only the beginning. And with biological warfare available to these monsters -- the Husseins, the Bin Ladens, the Arafats -- what we saw on Tuesday, as terrible as it is, could be miniscule if, in fact -- if, in fact -- God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve.....And I know that I'll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the Pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say: you helped this happen."

A few days later, he is reported as clarifying his comments, saying:

"I would never blame any human being except the terrorists, and if I left that impression with gays or lesbians or anyone else, I apologize." 2
bullet2002-OCT-06: While being interviewed on CBS's 60 Minutes, he contrasted Muhammad with the leaders of Christianity and Judaism. He said:

"Jesus set the example for love, as did Moses, and I think Muhammad set an opposite example."

This triggered a general strike in Bombay, India. That developed into a Hindu-Muslim riot in which five people were killed and about 50 injured. Iranian cleric Mohsen Mostahed Shabestari is reported as having called for Falwell's assassination.

He later allegedly clarified his statement on OCT-12:

"I sincerely apologize that certain statements of mine made during an interview for...CBS's 60 Minutes were hurtful to the feelings of many Muslims. I intended no disrespect to any sincere, law-abiding Muslim....Unfortunately, I answered one controversial and loaded question at the conclusion of an hour long CBS interview which I should not have answered. That was a mistake, and I apologize." 5

bullet2004: Falwell delivered a speech to the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX, in which he discussed the opening of his fundamentalist Christian law school. He is reported as telling the Dallas Morning News:
"We are unabashedly proactive. We are on a mission to return America to her religious heritage. We're hoping we are training the lawyers who can turn the legal profession back to the right."

He allegedly told the Associated Press:

"We want to infiltrate the culture with men and women of God who are skilled in the legal profession. We'll be as far to the right as Harvard is to the left." 4
bullet2005-DEC-03: Falwell E-mailed 500,000 followers, stating that he was backing Liberty Counsel's  "Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign." The Associated Press quoted him as saying:

"I asked about 100,000 pastors nationwide to join me in dealing with the grinches who are trying to steal Christmas."

The "grinches" were groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. These and other groups were trying to convince people to use generic terms like "Happy Holidays," thus recognizing the many holy days in December observed by various religions. 7

bullet2006-SEP-24: The New York Times reported that:

"The Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority, looked ahead to 2008 and the possibility that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton might be the Democratic presidential candidate. Ms. Clintonís nomination, Mr. Falwell said to laughs, would arouse even more Evangelical opposition than Luciferís." 11

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Jerry Falwell, "Tinky Winky Comes Out of the Closet." National Liberty Journal 1999
  2. "Jerry Falwell," at: http://www.rotten.com/
  3. "TV Preacher Falwell's 'Vote Christian' Campaign Sparks Controversy," Church and State, 2005-SEP, at: http://www.findarticles.com/
  4. "Jerry Falwell opens law school to train 'radical' attorneys," Church & State, 2004-OCT, at: http://www.findarticles.com/
  5. "Falwell recants slur against Muhammad," Christian Century, 2002-OCT-232, at: http://www.findarticles.com/
  6. "At The Falwell Follies: Jerry Finally 'Fesses Up On Fox News Channel'," Church and State, 2004-SEP, at: http://www.findarticles.com/
  7. "Falwell joins activists who fight 'grinches'," Deseret News, Salt Lake City, UT, 2005-DEC-03, at: http://www.findarticles.com/
  8. "The Falwell follies," Church and State, 2000-MAY, at: http://www.findarticles.com
  9. "Falwell sorry for saying the Antichrist is a Jew," Christian Century, 1999-FEB-17.
  10. "Falwell called NOW 'the National Order of Witches'," Media Matters for America, 2004-NOV-23, at: http://mediamatters.org/
  11. David Kirkpatrick, "Christian Conservatives Look to Re-energize Base," New York Times, 2006-SEP-25, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
  12. Sue Lindsey, "Televangelist Jerry Falwell Dies at 73," The Christian Post, 2007-MAY-15, at: http://www.christianpost.com/

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Site navigation: Home page > Religious conflicts > Specific conflicts > here

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Copyright © 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2006-APR-12
Latest update: 2006-SEP-25
Author: B.A. Robinson

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