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Jerry Falwell

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Jerry Falwell

Jerry Falwell
Born Jerry Lamon Falwell
(1933-08-11)August 11, 1933
Lynchburg, Virginia,
United States
Died May 15, 2007(2007-05-15) (aged 73)
Lynchburg, Virginia,
United States
Occupation Pastor
university founder
Years active 1956–2007
Religion Southern Baptist
Spouse(s) Macel Pate Falwell
Children Jerry Falwell, Jr.
Jonathan Falwell
Jeannie Falwell
Parents Helen Falwell
Carey Hezekiah Falwell
Liberty University Bio

Jerry Lamon Falwell, Sr. (August 11, 1933 – May 15, 2007)[1] was an American evangelical Southern Baptist pastor, televangelist, and a conservative political commentator.[2] He was the founding pastor of the Thomas Road Baptist Church, a megachurch in Lynchburg, Virginia. He founded Lynchburg Christian Academy (now Liberty Christian Academy) in 1967, Liberty University in 1971, and co-founded the Moral Majority in 1979.


  • Personal life 1
  • Associated organizations 2
    • Thomas Road Baptist Church 2.1
    • Liberty Christian Academy 2.2
    • Liberty University 2.3
    • Moral Majority 2.4
      • Green v. Connally, 1971 2.4.1
      • IRS intervention, 1975 2.4.2
  • Social and political views 3
    • Families 3.1
    • War vs. Communism 3.2
    • Civil rights 3.3
    • Israel and Jews 3.4
    • Education 3.5
    • Apartheid 3.6
    • Clinton Chronicles 3.7
    • Views on homosexuality 3.8
    • Teletubbies 3.9
    • September 11th attacks 3.10
    • Labor unions 3.11
    • Relationship to American Fundamentalism 3.12
    • Islam 3.13
  • Legal issues 4
    • SEC and bonds 4.1
    • Falwell versus Penthouse 4.2
    • Falwell versus Hustler 4.3
    • Falwell versus Jerry Sloan 4.4
    • Falwell versus Christopher Lamparello 4.5
  • Apocalyptic beliefs 5
  • Failing health and death 6
  • Legacy and criticisms 7
  • Publications 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11

Personal life

Falwell and twin brother Gene were born in the Farview Heights region of Lynchburg, Virginia, the son of Helen and Carey Hezekiah Falwell.[3] His father was an entrepreneur and one-time bootlegger who was agnostic.[3] His grandfather was a staunch atheist.[3] Jerry Falwell married the former Macel Pate on April 12, 1958. The couple had two sons and a daughter (Jerry Falwell, Jr., a lawyer; Jonathan Falwell, a pastor; Jeannie, a surgeon).

He graduated from Brookville High School in Lynchburg, Va., and from Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri in 1956. This Bible college was unaccredited until 2001.[4] Falwell was later awarded three honorary doctoral degrees. The honorary doctorates were Doctor of Divinity from Tennessee Temple Theological Seminary, Doctor of Letters from California Graduate School of Theology, and Doctor of Laws from Central University in Seoul, South Korea.[5]

Associated organizations

Thomas Road Baptist Church

In 1956, at age 22, Falwell founded the Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, where he served as pastor. The Church went on to become a megachurch, and is now run by Jerry Falwell's son Jonathan Falwell, who serves in the same capacity as his father. The original church was located at 701 Thomas Road. [6]

Liberty Christian Academy

During the 1950s and 1960s, Falwell spoke and campaigned against the U.S. civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. and the racial desegregation of public school systems by the U.S. federal government. Liberty Christian Academy (LCA, founded as Lynchburg Christian Academy) is a Christian school in Lynchburg, Virginia, which was described in 1966 by the Lynchburg News as "a private school for white students."

The Lynchburg Christian Academy later opened in 1967 by Falwell as a segregation academy and as a ministry of Thomas Road Baptist Church.[7][8][9]

The Liberty Christian Academy is today recognized as an educational facility by the Commonwealth of Virginia through the Virginia State Board of Education,[10] Southern Association of Colleges and Schools,[11] and the Association of Christian Schools International.[12]

Liberty University

In 1971, Jerry Falwell founded Liberty University, the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation, the largest university in Virginia, and the largest Christian university in the world.[13] Liberty University offers over 350 accredited programs of study,[13] with approximately 13,000 residential students and 90,000 online.[14]

Moral Majority

Green v. Connally, 1971

In 1971, before the Roe v. Wade decision riveted America, the Supreme Court ruled in Green v. Connally to revoke the tax-exempt status of racially discriminatory private schools. Green v. Connally, produced a ruling that any institution that practiced segregation was not, by definition, a charitable institution and, therefore, no longer qualified for tax-exempt standing, holding: "Using federal tax funds to finance private schools for purposes of segregation of students in segregation academies violates the IRS public tax fund rules, as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, because discrimination coupled with segregation is inherently unequal. District of Columbia district court affirmed."

IRS intervention, 1975

By 1975, the Internal Revenue Service moved to revoke the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University, which forbade interracial dating (blacks were denied entry until 1971). The decisions infuriated Falwell. “In some states it’s easier to open a massage parlor than to open a Christian school,” Falwell complained.[15]

Heritage Foundation co-founder Paul Weyrich stated that Falwell launched the Moral Majority political action committee during 1979 to aid the Catholic public protest against legal abortion in the United States in response to U.S. President Jimmy Carter's "intervention against Christian schools" [the IRS intervention began during the Ford Administration] by "...trying to deny them tax-exempt status on the basis of so-called de facto segregation".[16]

The Moral Majority became one of the largest political lobby groups for evangelical Christians in the United States during the 1980s.[17] The Moral Majority was promoted as being "pro-life", "pro-traditional family", "pro-moral" and "pro-American"[18] and was credited with delivering two thirds of the white, evangelical Christian vote to Ronald Reagan during the 1980 presidential election.[19][20] According to Jimmy Carter, "that autumn [1980] a group headed by Jerry Falwell purchased $10 million in commercials on southern radio and TV to brand me as a traitor to the South and no longer a Christian."[21] During his time as head of the Moral Majority, Falwell consistently pushed for Republican candidates and for conservative politics. This led Billy Graham to criticize him for "sermonizing" about political issues that lacked a moral element, before adding, "We did not always agree on everything, but I knew him to be a man of God. His accomplishments went beyond most clergy of his generation." .[17]

Social and political views


Falwell strongly advocated beliefs and practices he believed were taught by the Bible.[22] The church, Falwell asserted, was the cornerstone of a successful family. Not only was it a place for spiritual learning and guidance, but also a gathering place for fellowship and socializing with like minded individuals. Often he built conversations he had with parishioners after the worship service into focused speeches or organized goals he would then present to a larger audience via his various media outlets.

War vs. Communism

Falwell found the Vietnam war problematic because he felt it was being fought with "limited political objectives," when it should have been an all out war against the North.[23] In general, Falwell held that the president "as a minister of God" has the right to use arms to "bring wrath upon those who would do evil."[24]

Civil rights

On his evangelist program

  • Jerry Falwell Ministries
  • Jerry Falwell Photo Gallery (1933–2007) from
  • Liberty University
  • Jerry Falwell at the Internet Movie Database

External links

  1. ^ "Jerry Falwell Told Followers He Was at Peace With Death". Associated Press via Fox News. May 16, 2007. Retrieved August 25, 2007. 
  2. ^ The Nation. Agent of Intolerance.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Applebome, Peter (May 15, 2007). "Jerry Falwell, Leading Religious Conservative, Dies at 73". The New York Times.
  4. ^ "Higher Learning Commission:Baptist Bible College". Higher Learning Commission. April 1, 2008. Retrieved January 6, 2009. 
  5. ^ "Executive Biographies:Dr. Jerry Falwell". Liberty University. Retrieved January 6, 2009. 
  6. ^ "Our History". Thomas Road Baptist Church. Archived from the original on August 1, 2008. Retrieved January 6, 2009. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Seth Dowland (2007). Defending Manhood: Gender, Social Order and the Rise of the Christian Right in the South, 1965-1995. ProQuest. p. 23.  
  9. ^ "Agent of Intolerance". The Nation.
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b "Liberty University". 
  14. ^ "Liberty University". 
  15. ^ "Book Excerpt: 'Thy Kingdom Come'. Randall Balmer.June 22, 2006
  16. ^ Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party. p. 25. Nation Books, 2009.
  17. ^ a b "Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell dies". MSNBC. May 15, 2007. Retrieved January 6, 2009. 
  18. ^ Falwell: An Autobiography, The Inside Story, Liberty House Publishers, Lynchburg, 1997 Pg. 388
  19. ^ King, Randall E. (March 22, 1997). "When worlds collide: politics, religion, and media at the 1970 East Tennessee Billy Graham Crusade. (appearance by President Richard M. Nixon)". Journal of Church and State. Retrieved August 28, 2007. 
  20. ^   One month before Election Day in 1980, Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan traveled to Lynchburg, Virginia, to speak at Jerry Falwell's Liberty Baptist College, where he advocated the restoration of classroom prayer in public schools. While it was not the first time that ...
  21. ^ Carter, Jimmy (2010). White House Diary. New York, N.Y: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. p. 469. 
  22. ^ Falwell, Jerry; Hindson, Edward E. (1986). The Fundamentalist Phenomenon. Baker Publishing Group.  
  23. ^ Falwell, Listen, America!, 85.
  24. ^ Falwell, Listen, America!, 98.
  25. ^ "Holy War". 2003-06-26. Retrieved 2010-11-07. 
  26. ^ Washington, James M. (1990). A Testament of Hope: the essential writings of Martin Luther King. San Francisco: Harper Collins.  
  27. ^ "May 28, 2007". The Nation. Retrieved 2010-11-07. 
  28. ^ Eartha Jane Melzer, Falwell hints support for some homosexual rights, The Washington Blade, August 26, 2005.
  29. ^ McKay, Mary Jayne (June 8, 2003). "Zion's Christian Soldiers". CBS News. Retrieved January 13, 2009. 
  30. ^ "ADL Condemns Falwell's Anti-Muslim Remarks; Urges Him to Apologize". Retrieved 2010-11-07. 
  31. ^ "Irving Kristol's Alliance With Anti-Semites". Retrieved December 24, 2009. 
  32. ^ Falwell, Jerry (1980). Listen, America!. New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc. p. 113.  
  33. ^ "Speech, President Ronald Reagan, Baptist Fundamentalism '84 Convention, Washington, D.C". 1984-04-13. Retrieved 2010-11-07. 
  34. ^ Falwell Left Jews with Mixed Feelings," Washington Jewish Week, May 16, 2007""". 2007-05-16. Retrieved 2010-11-07. 
  35. ^ "Biography: Falwell, Jerry". 1982-11-21. Retrieved 2010-11-07. 
  36. ^ "Beliefnet interviews Rev. Jerry Falwell –". Retrieved 2010-11-07. 
  37. ^ "Religion: An Unholy Uproar". Time. September 2, 1985. Retrieved May 6, 2010. 
  38. ^ Pear, Robert (1985-08-21). "'"Falwell Denounces Tutu As A 'Phony.  
  39. ^  
  40. ^ a b c d e The Falwell connection by Murray Waas
  41. ^ The Hunting of the President (DVD) 2005
  42. ^ a b Blumenthal, Max. "Agent of Intolerance". Retrieved May 18, 2007. 
  43. ^ Johnson, Hans and Eskridge, William (May 19, 2007). "The Legacy of Falwell's Bully Pulpit". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 18, 2007. 
  44. ^ a b Burns, Katy. "Jerry Falwell's greatest hates". Retrieved May 18, 2007. 
  45. ^ a b "about Lambda Community Fund". Retrieved April 9, 2009. 
  46. ^ Press, Bill. "Press: The Sad Legacy of Jerry Falwell". Retrieved May 18, 2007. 
  47. ^ a b "'Gay Tinky Winky bad for children'". BBC News. February 15, 1999. Retrieved May 18, 2007. 
  48. ^ a b "Falwell apologizes to gays, feminists, lesbians". CNN. September 14, 2001. Retrieved May 6, 2010. 
  49. ^ "Top Stories". NY1. Retrieved 2010-11-07. 
  50. ^ Handy, Bruce (April 14, 1997). "HE CALLED ME ELLEN DEGENERATE?". Time. Retrieved November 25, 2008. 
  51. ^ Niebuhr, Gustav (October 23, 1999). "Religion Journal; Falwell Finds an Accord With Gay Rights Backer". The New York Times.
  52. ^ "The odd couple — Gays and Lesbians". 1999-10-25. Retrieved 2010-11-07. 
  53. ^ Rich, Frank (1999-11-06). "Has Jerry Falwell Seen the Light? NY Times, November 6, 1999". Retrieved 2010-11-07. 
  54. ^ "'Tubbythumping '". Retrieved May 30, 2007.  | last=Millman | first=Joyce
  55. ^ Arizona supporter funds largest-ever gift annuity to LU (February 27, 2008) By Mitzi Bible – Liberty Journal
  56. ^ Burke, Heather (May 15, 2007). "Jerry Falwell, Evangelist, Political Activist, Dies". Bloomberg. Retrieved May 18, 2007. 
  57. ^ Falwell speaks about WTC disaster, Christian Broadcasting Network
  58. ^ "Christopher Hitchens and Ralph Reed Square Off over Late Leader's Influence; the Christian Right." Hannity & Colmes. May 17, 2007. FOX News. Retrieved June 23, 2009.
  59. ^ Ricco, Joanne "The Right Wing Attack on the American Labor Movement" at the Wayback Machine (archived May 12, 2009) Wisconsin State AFL-CIO Accessed 24 May 2011.
  60. ^ Susan Harding (2001). The book of Jerry Falwell: fundamentalist language and politics. Princeton University Press, passim.
  61. ^ A case that is forgotten...another group of takfir from Arab-West Report
  62. ^ Rev. Jerry Falwell: I think Muhammad was a terrorist from Arab-West Report
  63. ^ Recent developments from Arab-West Report
  64. ^ Christian leaders in Egypt condemn Jerry Falwell's statement about the Prophet being a terrorist from Arab-West Report
  65. ^ a b "Religion, Politics a Potent Mix for Jerry Falwell". NPR. Retrieved 2010-11-07. 
  66. ^ "Falwell Says He Will Press $10 Million Penthouse Suit." The New York Times. February 5, 1981.
  67. ^ "Penthouse Wins in Court Against Falwell Suit." The New York Times. August 7, 1981.
  68. ^ "Falwell Won't Pursue Suit". The New York Times. September 10, 1981.
  69. ^ Flynt, Larry (2007-05-20). "The porn king and the preacher". Los Angeles Times. 
  70. ^ Court rejects Rev. Falwell Appeal on $5000 payment
  71. ^ a b c Supreme Court declines Falwell Web appeal Associated Press. April 17, 2006
  72. ^ Paula Zahn Now, CNN: Transcript. July 31, 2006.
  73. ^ Jerry L. Walls (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Eschatology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 269.
  74. ^ Cohen, Debra Nussbaum. "Falwell Antichrist remark sparks anti-Semitism charges". Retrieved May 18, 2007. 
  75. ^ "NPR: Cultural Impact of the Book of Revelation". National Public Radio. September 28, 2006. Retrieved January 6, 2009. 
  76. ^ "Falwell: The church won the 2004 elections". WSFA 12. June 21, 2005. 
  77. ^ a b Falwell is taken off ventilator, upgraded to stable condition. USA Today. May 30, 2005
  78. ^ "Rev. Jerry Falwell Dies at 73 after collapsing". Sauk Valley Newspapers. May 15, 2007. 
  79. ^ Page, Susan (May 15, 2007). "Evangelist Jerry Falwell dies at 73".  
  80. ^ CNN – God's Warriors from CNN
  81. ^ Christians and Jerry Falwell, interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour from CNN
  82. ^ Hitchens, Christopher. "Jerry Falwell, faith-based fraud." Slate. May 16 2007. Retrieved September 3, 2013.
  83. ^ "Jerry Falwell's Legacy". CNN. Retrieved 2014-04-17. 
  84. ^ Interview on C-SPAN's Q&A with Brian Lamb on Sunday, April 26, 2009.
  85. ^ Hayduke, George. "Prey TV", Screw Unto Others: Revenge Tactics for all Occasions. pg. 166
  86. ^ "Evangelism: The Bell Tolls for Falwell". Time. 14 Apr 1986. Retrieved Nov 23, 2010. 


See also

  • Falwell, Jerry (January 30, 2006). Achieving Your Dreams. Thomas Nelson.  
  • Falwell, Jerry (October 17, 2005). Building Dynamic Faith. Thomas Nelson.  
  • Falwell, Jerry (1973). Capturing a town for Christ. REVELL.  
  • Champions for God. Victor Books, 1985.
  • Church Aflame. (co-author Elmer Towns) Impact, 1971.
  • Dynamic Faith Journal. Thomas Nelson (64 pages) (January 30, 2006) ISBN 0-529-12245-6
  • Falwell: An Autobiography. Liberty House, 1996. (Ghost written by Mel White[65]) ISBN 1-888684-04-6
  • Fasting Can Change Your Life. Regal, 1998.
  • Finding Inner Peace and Strength. Doubleday, 1982.
  • If I Should Die Before I Wake. Thomas Nelson, 1986. (ghost-written by Mel White)
  • Liberty Bible Commentary on the New Testament. Thomas Nelson/Liberty University, 1978.
  • Liberty Bible Commentary. Thomas Nelson, 1982.
  • Listen, America! Bantam Books (July 1981) ISBN 0-553-14998-9
  • Stepping Out on Faith. Tyndale House, 1984.
  • Strength for the Journey. Simon & Schuster, 1987. (ghost-written by Mel White)
  • The Fundamentalist Phenomenon. Doubleday, 1981.
  • The Fundamentalist Phenomenon/the Resurgence of Conservative Christianity. Baker Book House, 1986.
  • The New American Family. Word, 1992.
  • When it Hurts Too Much to Cry. Tyndale House, 1984. ISBN 0-8423-7993-2
  • Wisdom for Living. Victor Books, 1984.


Falwell was an enemy of the revenge humorist "Screw Unto Others, Hayduke mentions the story of Edward Johnson, who, in the mid-1980s, programmed his Atari home computer to make thousands of repeat phone calls to Falwell's 1–800 phone number, since Johnson claimed Falwell had swindled large amounts of money from his followers, especially Johnson's own mother. Southern Bell forced Johnson to stop after he had run up Falwell's telephone bill an estimated $500,000. At one point, prank callers, especially gay activists, made up about 25% of Falwell's total calls, until the ministry disconnected the toll-free number in 1986.[85][86]

He was described by atheist social commentator Christopher Hitchens in turns as a "Chaucerian fraud" and a "faith-based fraud". Hitchens took special umbrage with Falwell's alignment with "the most thuggish and demented Israeli settlers", and his declaration that 9/11 represented God's judgement on America's sinful behaviour; deeming it "extraordinary that not even such a scandalous career is enough to shake our dumb addiction to the 'faith-based.'" Hitchens also mentioned that, despite his support for Israel, Falwell "kept saying to his own crowd, yes, you have got to like the Jews, because they can make more money in 10 minutes than you can make in a lifetime".[82] Appearing on CNN a day after Falwell's death, Hitchens said, "The empty life of this ugly little charlatan proves only one thing: that you can get away with the most extraordinary offenses to morality and to truth in this country if you will just get yourself called 'reverend'."[83] On C-SPAN, Hitchens made the comment that "if he had been given an enema, he could have been buried in a matchbox".[84]

Falwell's legacy is strongly mixed and often a source of heated controversy. Supporters praise his advancement of his socially conservative message. They also tout his evangelist ministries, and his stress on church planting and growth. Many of his detractors have accused him of hate speech and identified him as an "agent of intolerance".[42]

Legacy and criticisms

The last televised interview with Jerry Falwell was conducted by Christiane Amanpour for the CNN original series CNN Presents: God's Warriors.[80] He had been interviewed on May 8, one week before his death.[81] Falwell's last televised sermon was his May 13, 2007, message on Mother's Day.

After his death, his two sons succeeded him at his two posts; Jerry Falwell, Jr., took over as Chancellor of Liberty University while Jonathan Falwell became the Senior Pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church.

Falwell's funeral took place on May 22, 2007, at Thomas Road Baptist Church after he lay in repose at both the church and Liberty University. Falwell's burial service was private. It took place at a spot on the Liberty University campus near the Carter Glass Mansion, near his office. Buried nearby is B. R. Lakin.

On May 15, 2007, Falwell was found without pulse and unconscious in his office at about 10:45 a.m. after missing a morning appointment, and was taken to Lynchburg General Hospital.[79] "I had breakfast with him, and he was fine at breakfast...He went to his office, I went to mine and they found him unresponsive" said Ron Godwin, the executive vice president of Falwell's Liberty University. His condition was initially reported as "gravely serious"; CPR was administered unsuccessfully. As of 2:10 p.m., during a live press conference, a doctor for the hospital confirmed that Falwell had died of "cardiac arrhythmia, or sudden cardiac death". A statement issued by the hospital reported he was pronounced dead at Lynchburg General Hospital at 12:40 p.m., EST. Falwell's family, including his wife Macel and sons Jerry Falwell, Jr. and Jonathan Falwell, were at the hospital at the time of the pronouncement.

In early 2005, Falwell was hospitalized for two weeks with a [77] He was subsequently released from the hospital and returned to his duties. Later in 2005 a stent was implanted to treat a 70% blockage in his coronary arteries.[78]

Failing health and death

In 1999, Falwell declared the Antichrist would probably arrive within a decade and "of course he'll be Jewish".[74] After accusations of anti-Semitism Falwell apologized and explained that he was simply expressing the theological tenet that the Antichrist and Christ share many attributes.[75]

Based on this and other statements, Falwell has been identified as a Dispensationalist.[73]

On July 31, 2006, Cable News Network's (CNN) Paula Zahn Now program featured a segment on "whether the crisis in the Middle East is actually a prelude to the end of the world". In an interview Falwell claimed, "I believe in the premillennial, pre-tribulational coming of Christ for all of his church, and to summarize that, your first poll, do you believe Jesus' coming the second time will be in the future, I would vote yes with the 59 percent and with Billy Graham and most evangelicals."[72]

Apocalyptic beliefs

Previous to this, "Falwell's attorneys have fought over domain names in the past" with a different man who eventually turned over and after Falwell threatened to sue for trademark infringement.[71] Lawyers for Public Citizen Litigation Group's Internet Free Speech project represented the domain name owners in both cases.

In Lamparello v. Falwell, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed an earlier District Court decision, arguing that Lamparello "clearly created his Web site intending only to provide a forum to criticize ideas, not to steal customers."[71] Lamparello's website describes itself as not being connected to Jerry Falwell and is critical of Falwell's views on homosexuality.[71] On April 17, 2006, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of the Court of Appeals ruling that Christopher Lamparello's usage of the Internet domain "" was legal.

Falwell versus Christopher Lamparello

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. The money was donated to build Sacramento's first homosexual community center, the Lambda Community Center, serving "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex" communities.[45] Falwell appealed the decision with his attorney charging that the Jewish judge in the case was prejudiced. He lost again and was made to pay an additional $2,875 in sanctions and court fees.[70]

In 1984, Falwell was ordered to pay gay rights activist and former Baptist Bible College classmate Jerry Sloan $5,000 after losing a court battle. In July 1984 during a TV debate in Sacramento, California, Falwell denied calling the homosexual-friendly 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".[44]

Falwell versus Jerry Sloan

"My mother always told me that no matter how much you dislike a person, when you meet them face to face you will find characteristics about them that you like. Jerry Falwell was a perfect example of that. I hated everything he stood for, but after meeting him in person, years after the trial, Jerry Falwell and I became good friends. He would visit me in California and we would debate together on college campuses. I always appreciated his sincerity even though I knew what he was selling and he knew what I was selling."[69]
After the death of Falwell, Larry Flynt released a comment regarding his friendship over the years with Falwell.

In November 1983, Larry Flynt's pornographic magazine Hustler carried a parody advertisement 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 $45 million in compensation alleging invasion of privacy, libel, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. After a civil trial, known as Falwell vs. Flynt, which lasted from December 3–8, 1984, 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 and ordered Larry Flynt to pay Falwell damages in the amount of $200,000. This was upheld on appeal. Flynt then appealed to the Supreme Court, winning an unanimous decision on February 24, 1988. The ruling held that public figures cannot circumvent First Amendment protections by attempting to recover damages based on emotional distress suffered from parodies. The decision in favor of Flynt strengthened free speech rights in the United States in relation to parodies of public figures.

Falwell versus Hustler

Falwell filed a $10 million lawsuit against Penthouse for publishing an article based upon interviews he gave to freelance reporters, after failing to convince a federal court to place an injunction upon the publication of that article. The suit was dismissed in Federal district court on the grounds that the article was not defamatory or an invasion of Falwell's privacy (the Virginia courts had not recognized this privacy tort, which is recognized in other states).[66][67][68]

Falwell versus Penthouse

In 1972, the fraud and deceit" in the issuance of $6.5 million in unsecured church bonds.[65] The church won a 1973 federal court case prosecuted at the behest of the SEC, in which the Court exonerated the church and ruled that while technical violations of law did occur, there was no proof the Church intended any wrongdoing.

SEC and bonds

In the 1970s Falwell began experiencing involvement in a series of legal matters which occupied much of his time for the remainder of his life and also propelled his name recognition.

Legal issues

Jerry Falwell held views in opposition to Islam. According to Asharq Al-Awsat, a pan-Arab newspaper, Falwell called Islam "satanic".[61] In a televised interview with 60 Minutes, Falwell called Muhammad a "terrorist", to which he added: "I concluded from reading Muslim and non-Muslim writers that Muhammad was a violent man, a man of war." Falwell later apologized to Muslims for what he said about Muhammad and affirmed that he did not necessarily intend to offend "honest and peace-loving" Muslims. However, as he refused to remove his comments about Islam in his website, the sincerity of his apology was doubted.[62][63] Egyptian Christian intellectuals, in response, signed a statement in which they condemned and rejected what Falwell had said about Muhammad being a terrorist.[64]


Though he never wavered in his belief in the inerrancy of the Bible (except for moderating its alleged view of racial differences, significance of baptism, and other concepts relative to his theology) and the doctrines conservative Christians widely see as essential to salvation, his rhetoric became generally more mellow, less militant and comparatively more inclusive from the 1980s onward. Cultural anthropologist Susan Friend Harding, in her extensive ethnographic study of Falwell, noted that he adapted his preaching to win a broader, less extremist audience as he grew famous. This manifested in several ways: among them were no longer condemning "worldly" lifestyle choices such as dancing, drinking wine, and attending movie theaters; softening rhetoric of apocalypse and God's vengeful wrath; and shifting from outright Biblical patriarchy to a complementarian view of appropriate gender roles. He further mainstreamed himself by aiming his strongest criticism at "secular humanists", pagans or various liberals in place of the racist, anti-Semitic or anti-Catholic rhetoric common among Southern Fundamentalist preachers but increasingly condemned as hate speech by the consensus of American society.[60]

His foray into national politics appears to be a catalyst for this change; when he established the Moral Majority which joined "Bible Christians" (Independent and conservative Southern Baptists) in a political alliance with

Falwell set out in his Christian ministry as a Fundamentalist, having attended a conservative Bible college and following strict standards of ecclesiastical and personal separatism; he was thus known and respected in IFB circles, being praised in far-right publications such as The Sword of the Lord. Though he never officially stated his rejection of this movement, the evidence of his life from the late 1970s onwards indicates he moved toward a conservative Evangelical standpoint to the right of mainline Protestantism or "open" Evangelicalism but to the left of traditional, separatist Fundamentalism. It was reported that he had refused to attend parties at which alcohol was served early in his life, but relaxed this stricture as he was increasingly invited to major events through the contacts he developed in conservative politics and religion.

Relationship to American Fundamentalism

Falwell has also said, "Labor unions should study and read the Bible instead of asking for more money. When people get right with God, they are better workers."[59]

Labor unions

After the September 11 attacks in 2001, Falwell said on Pat Robertson's The 700 Club, "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.'"[57] Falwell further stated that the attacks were "probably deserved", a statement which Christopher Hitchens called treasonous.[58] After heavy criticism, Falwell said that no one but the terrorists were to blame, and apologized saying, "If I left that impression with gays or lesbians or anyone else, I apologize."[48]

September 11th attacks

In February 1999, an unsigned article that media outlets attributed to Falwell was published in the National Liberty Journal – a promotional publication of the university he founded – claimed that the purple Teletubby named Tinky Winky was intended as a gay role model. An article published in 1998 by had noted Tinky Winky's status as a gay icon.[54][55] In response, Steve Rice, spokesperson for Itsy Bitsy Entertainment, which licenses the Teletubbies in the United States, said, "I really find it absurd and kind of offensive."[47][56] The immensely popular UK show was aimed at pre-school children, but the article stated "he is purple – the gay pride color; and his antenna is shaped like a triangle – the gay-pride symbol". Apart from those characteristics Tinky Winky also carries a magic bag which the NLJ and Salon articles said was a purse. Falwell added that "role modelling the gay lifestyle is damaging to the moral lives of children".


At the same time, Falwell's legacy regarding homosexuality is complicated by his support for LGBT civil rights (see "civil rights" section above), as well as his efforts at reconciliation with the LGBT community in later years. In October 1999 Falwell hosted a meeting of 200 evangelicals with 200 homosexuals at Thomas Road Baptist Church for an "Anti-Violence Forum", during which he acknowledged that some American evangelicals' comments about homosexuality entered the realm of hate speech that could incite violence.[51] At the forum, Falwell told homosexuals in attendance, "I don't agree with your lifestyle, I will never agree with your lifestyle, but I love you" and added, "Anything that leaves the impression that we hate the sinner, we want to change that."[52] He later commented to New York Times columnist Frank Rich that "admittedly, evangelicals have not exhibited an ability to build a bond of friendship to the gay and lesbian community. We've said 'go somewhere else, we don't need you here [at] our churches.'"[53]

After comedienne and actress Ellen DeGeneres came out as a lesbian, Falwell referred to her in a sermon as "Ellen DeGenerate". DeGeneres mocked him, saying, "Really, he called me that? Ellen DeGenerate? I've been getting that since the fourth grade. I guess I'm happy I could give him work."[50]

Falwell condemned homosexuality as forbidden by the Bible. Pro-gay rights groups called Falwell an "agent of intolerance" and "the founder of the anti-gay industry" for statements he has made and for campaigning against September 11 attacks happen.[47][48][49]

Views on homosexuality

Falwell's infomercial for the 80-minute tape included footage of Falwell interviewing a silhouetted journalist who claimed to be afraid for his life. The journalist accused Clinton of orchestrating the deaths of several reporters and personal confidants who had gotten too close to his illegalities. It was subsequently revealed, however, that the silhouetted journalist was, in fact, Patrick Matrisciana, the producer of the video and president of Citizens for Honest Government.[40] "Obviously, I'm not an investigative reporter", Matrisciana admitted to investigative journalist Murray Waas.[40] Later, Falwell seemed to back away from personally trusting the video. In an interview for the 2005 documentary The Hunting of the President, Falwell admitted, "to this day I do not know the accuracy of the claims made in The Clinton Chronicles."[41]

Funding for the film was provided by "Citizens for Honest Government", to which Jerry Falwell paid $200,000 in 1994 and 1995.[40] In 1995 Citizens for Honest Government interviewed two Arkansas state troopers, Roger Perry and Larry Patterson, regarding the murder conspiracy about Vincent Foster. Perry and Patterson also gave information regarding the allegations in the Paula Jones affair.[40]

In 1994, Falwell promoted and distributed the video documentary The Clinton Chronicles: An Investigation into the Alleged Criminal Activities of Bill Clinton. The video purported to connect Bill Clinton to a murder conspiracy involving Vincent Foster, James McDougall, Ron Brown, and a cocaine-smuggling operation. The theory was discredited, but nonetheless sold more than 150,000 copies.[40]

Clinton Chronicles

In the 1980s Jerry Falwell was critical of sanctions against the apartheid regime of South Africa. He claimed that sanctions would result in what, he felt, would be a worse situation, such as a Soviet-backed revolution. He drew the ire of many when he called Nobel Peace Prize winner and Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu a phony "as far as representing the black people of South Africa".[37] He later apologized for that remark and claimed that he had misspoken.[38] He also urged his followers to buy up gold Krugerrands and push U.S. "reinvestment" in South Africa.[39]


Falwell supported President 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 [sic], 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."[36]

Falwell repeatedly denounced certain teachings in public schools and secular education in general, calling them breeding grounds for atheism, secularism, and humanism, which he claimed to be in contradiction with Christian morality. He advocated that the United States change its public education system by implementing a school voucher system which would allow 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."[35]


One unusual link between Falwell and Conservative rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, a Navy chaplain, was created when President Ronald Reagan surprised the participants at Falwell's "Baptist Fundamentalism '84" convention in Washington, D.C., by choosing to read Resnicoff's on-site report of the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing as his keynote address.[33] When Resnicoff later served as Special Assistant for Values and Vision for the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, he would meet with Falwell to discuss issues linked to religious rights in the military, including the role and responsibilities of U.S. military chaplains. Resnicoff reported that Falwell supported the idea of using the Biblical verse that teaches that "God hears the words of our mouths and the meditations of our heart" as a basis for allowing Christian chaplains to offer "inclusive" prayers, because they could offer denominational words, such as "In Jesus's name," silently, as a "meditation of the heart."[34]

Falwell's staunch pro-Israel stand, sometimes referred to as "Christian Zionism", drew the strong support of the Anti-Defamation League and its leader Abraham Foxman.[29] However, they condemned what they perceived as intolerance towards Muslims in Falwell's public statements. They also criticized him for remarking that "Jews can make more money accidentally than you can on purpose."[30][31] In his book, "Listen, America!", Falwell referred to the Jewish people as "spiritually blind and desperately in need of their Messiah and Savior."[32]

Israel and Jews

Twenty-eight years later, in an appearance on MSNBC television, Falwell said he was not troubled by reports that the nominee for Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John G. Roberts (whose appointment was confirmed by the U.S. Senate) had done volunteer legal work for homosexual rights activists on the case of Romer v. Evans. Falwell told MSNBC's Tucker Carlson that if he were a lawyer, he too would argue for civil rights for LGBT people. "I may not agree with the lifestyle, but that has nothing to do with the civil rights of that part of our constituency," Falwell said. When Carlson countered that conservatives "are always arguing against 'special rights' for gays," Falwell said that equal access to housing, civil marriage, and employment are basic rights, not special rights. "Civil rights for all Americans, black, white, red, yellow, the rich, poor, young, old, gay, straight, et cetera, is not a liberal or conservative value. It's an American value that I would think that we pretty much all agree on."[28]

In 1977, Falwell supported Anita Bryant's campaign, which was called by its proponents "Save Our Children", to overturn an ordinance in Dade County, Florida prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and he supported a similar movement in California.[3]

"If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God's word and had desired to do the Lord's will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never had been made. The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line."[27]

In speaking of the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling, he said, in 1958:

[26], and others, who are known to have left wing associations."Mr. James Farmer he said: "I do question the sincerity and nonviolent intentions of some civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Martin Luther King About [25]

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