Jerry Falwell

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Jerry L. Falwell (born August 11, 1933) is an American Baptist pastor, televangelist, founder of the Moral Majority & Liberty University, and a prominent Conservative activist. His parents were Carey and Helen Falwell. He has a fraternal twin brother, Gene. A controversial figure, Falwell is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and leads services at Thomas Road Baptist Church.


Life and career

Falwell studied journalism for a time after high school (1950) at Lynchburg College and then became a Christian in his second year. He then transferred to Baptist Bible College in Missouri. Soon afterwards, he met his future wife, Macel Pate. They were married on April 12, 1958.

Jerry Falwell was initially a supporter of racial segregation, but later recanted. "As a child growing up in that segregated society, I was in high school before I began sorting it out for myself - what is all this? By the time I was in college, I began realizing that this is so terribly wrong [1] (," he says. The time at which he gave up segregationism is disputed.

He was ordained in 1956, and in 1968 Falwell began televising his services. The program was eventually titled The Old-Time Gospel Hour. By the mid-70s, he was reaching millions. In 1979, he created the Moral Majority, a group dedicated to promoting its conservative and religious Christian-centric beliefs via support of political candidates.

In the 1980s, televangelism began to get a negative image. Another televangelist, Jim Bakker, was convicted of fraud and received jail time. Falwell, rumored to have been involved in the conviction, then took over management of Bakker's ministry, Praise The Lord (PTL), in 1987. PTL was soon bankrupt. Some argue that Falwell deliberately scuttled the competition. (source A&E's Biography; also the 1999 documentary The Eyes of Tammy Faye)

In November 2004, Falwell announced the creation of what he called a "21st century resurrection of the Moral Majority," which disbanded in 1989. The new group is called the Faith and Values Coalition, which will serve as a focal point for his group's attempts to assert its agenda in the United States government. Among its intentions are adding anti-abortion conservatives to the Supreme Court and helping to elect another "George Bush-type" conservative in the next election. Falwell announced that he would serve as the coalition's chairman for four years, along with his son, Jonathan Falwell, and Left Behind co-author Tim Lahaye. [2] (

In February 2005 Falwell was hospitalized for viral pneumonia for 13 days. He left, healthy but forbidden to preach by his doctors. He was hospitalized again, for the same condition, at the end of March 2005, and reported to be in critical but stable condition.[3] (

Falwell, an expert fundraiser, has raised $2.5 billion for his various causes. [4] (

Social and political views

The Anti-Defamation League and its leader Abraham Foxman have expressed strong support for Jerry Falwell and his staunch pro-Israel stand, referred to sometimes as "Christian Zionism." Falwell has repeatedly denounced public schools and secular education in general, calling them breeding grounds for atheism, secularism, and humanism, which he claims are in contradiction with Christian morality. He advocates that the United States abolish its public education system, replacing it with a school voucher system that allows parents to send their children to either public or private schools. Jerry Falwell wrote in America Can Be Saved that "I hope I 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." [5] (

Falwell supported President Bush's Faith Based Initiative, but had strong reservations concerning where the funding would go and the restrictions placed on churches. "My problem is where it might go under his successors... I would not want to put any of the Jerry Falwell Ministries in a position where we might be subservient to a future Bill Clinton, God forbid... It also concerns me that once the pork barrel is filled, suddenly the Church of Scientology, the Jehovah Witnesses, the various and many denominations and religious groups--and I don’t say those words in a pejorative way--begin applying for money--and I don’t see how any can be turned down because of their radical and unpopular views. I don’t know where that would take us." [6] (

SEC and bonds

In 1972, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) launched an investigation of bonds issued by Falwell's organizations. The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Falwell's church with "fraud and deceit" in the issuance of $6.5 million in unsecured church bonds. Falwell admitted that the SEC was "technically" correct. However, while his church won a 1973 federal court case prosecuted at the behest of the SEC, thousands of small religious investors who had bought church construction bonds lost their money through the bankruptcy and reorganization of Liberty University.

According to Falwell, the survival of the University could be attributed to the work of Daniel Reber and Jimmy Thomas, as leaders of the non-profit Christian Heritage Foundation of Forest, Virginia. A secret benefactor was the South Korean Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the controversial self-proclaimed "messiah." Covertly, Moon helped bail out Liberty University through one of his front groups which funneled US$3.5 million to the Reber-Thomas Christian Heritage Foundation, the non-profit organziation that had purchased the school's debt.

Hustler vs. Falwell

In November 1983, Larry Flynt's sex magazine Hustler carried a parody of a Campari ad, featuring a fake interview with Falwell in which he admits that his "first time" was incest with his mother in an outhouse while drunk. Falwell sued for compensation, alleging invasion of privacy, libel, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. A jury rejected the invasion of privacy and libel claims, holding that the parody could not have reasonably been taken to describe true events, but ruled in favor of Falwell on the emotional distress claim. This was upheld on appeal. Flynt then appealed to the Supreme Court and won on February 24, 1988 (Hustler Magazine, Inc. et al. v. Jerry Falwell, 485 U.S. 46); the ruling confirmed that public figures cannot recover damages based on emotional distress suffered from parodies however vile.

Homosexuals and libel

Falwell has been on both sides of libel cases. In 1984, he was forced to pay gay activist Jerry Sloan $5,000 after losing a court battle. During a TV debate in Sacramento, California, Falwell denied calling the gay-oriented 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."

When Sloan insisted he had a tape, Falwell promised $5,000 if he could produce it. Sloan did, 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.

Election fund improprieties

In 1987, the Federal Election Commission fined Falwell US$6,000 for illegally transferring US$6.7 million in funds intended for his religious ministry to his political action committees.

Controversial remarks

In February of 1999, an article in Falwell's National Liberty Journal suggested that a Teletubbies character, Tinky Winky, could be a hidden homosexual symbol, because the character was purple (which he claimed was a color symbolic of homosexuality), had a triangle on his head and carried a handbag.

After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack, he (along with fellow televangelist Pat Robertson) made comments interpreted as blaming various groups for the attack. The two were widely condemned for having made these comments. Falwell said:

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."

Robertson then responded:

Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted that agenda at the highest levels of our government. And so we're responsible as a free society for what the top people do. And, the top people, of course, is the court system.

In 2001, Mad magazine named Falwell the "Dumbest person of 2001" for blaming the 9/11 attacks on feminists, gays, and lesbians.

Falwell later told CNN:

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.

In an interview given on September 30, 2002 for the October 6 edition of 60 Minutes, Falwell said: "I think Muhammad was a terrorist. I read enough by both Muslims and non-Muslims, [to decide] that he was a violent man, a man of war."

The following Friday, Mohsen Mojtahed Shabestari, the spokesman of Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khameini, issued a fatwa for Falwell's death, saying that Falwell was "mercenary and must be killed," and, "The death of that man is a religious duty, but his case should not be tied to the Christian community."

Other quotes

  • "He who stands against Israel stands against God", 1981
  • "...You've got to kill the terrorists before the killing stops and I am for the President—chase them all over the world, if it takes ten years, blow them all away in the name of the Lord." CNN Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer, October 24, 2004 (
  • "And the fact that John Kerry would not support a federal marriage amendment [prohibiting gay marriage ], it equates in our minds as someone 150 years ago saying I'm personally opposed to slavery, but if my neighbor wants to own one or two that's OK. We don't buy that." Anderson Cooper 360, November 3, 2004 (
  • "The fact that Marc Cherry's a gay Republican means he should join the Democratic Party." Meet the Press 2004 Nov 28[7] (
  • "If the American Atheists Society or Saddam Hussein himself ever sent an unrestricted gift to any of my ministries," Falwell stated, "be assured I will operate on Billy Sunday's philosophy: The Devil's had it long enough, and quickly cash the check." [8] (

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