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Jerry Lamon Falwell, Sr. (August 11, 1933 – May 15, 2007) was an Americanmarker evangelical Christian pastor, televangelist, and a conservative commentator. He was the founding pastor of the Thomas Road Baptist Churchmarker, a megachurch in Lynchburg, Virginiamarker. He founded Lynchburg Christian Academy (now Liberty Christian Academy) in 1967, Liberty Universitymarker in 1971, and cofounded the Moral Majority in 1979.

Falwell led services at Thomas Road for many years. During his tenure, it changed affiliations from Baptist Bible Fellowship International to the mainly conservative Southern Baptist Convention, and Falwell himself ended his self-identification with fundamentalism in favor of evangelicalism.

Personal life

Falwell was one of twin brothers born in Lynchburg, Virginiamarker to Helen and Carey Hezekiah Falwell. His father was an entrepreneur and onetime bootlegger who was agnostic. His grandfather was a staunch atheist. 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 Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missourimarker in 1956. This Bible college was unaccredited until 2001. Falwell was eventually awarded three honorary doctoral degrees, and he sometimes used the title "doctor". 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 Seoulmarker, South Koreamarker.

Associated organizations

Thomas Road Baptist Church

In 1956, at age 22, Falwell founded the Thomas Road Baptist Churchmarker of Lynchburg, (TRBC) 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.

Liberty University

In 1971, Jerry Falwell founded Liberty Universitymarker, a Christian liberal arts university in Lynchburg, Virginia. Liberty University has approximately 38,000 students of whom about 12,000 are residential students.

Moral Majority

In 1979, Falwell founded the Moral Majority, which became one of the largest political lobby groups for evangelical Christians in the United States during the 1980s. The Moral Majority was founded as being "pro-family", "pro-life", "pro-defense" and pro-Israel. The group is credited with delivering two thirds of the white, evangelical Christian vote to Ronald Reagan during the 1980 presidential election. During his time as head of the Moral Majority, Falwell consistently pushed for Republican candidates and for conservative politics leading to criticism by some other conservative Christian leaders such as Billy Graham for giving sermons about political issues that did not have a moral element.

Social and political views

Families

Falwell strongly advocated beliefs and practices he believed were taught by the Bible. He believed in the quintessential patriarchal family in which, ideally, the father is the primary breadwinner and the wife takes care of the home and raises the children until they’re old enough to leave the home. 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.

Civil rights

On his Evangelist program The Old-Time Gospel Hour in the mid 1960s, he regularly featured segregation politicians like Lester Maddox and George Wallace. About Martin Luther King he said: "I do question the sincerity and nonviolent intentions of some civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mr. James Farmer, and others, who are known to have left wing associations."

In 1977, Falwell supported Anita Bryant's campaign, which was called by its proponents "Save Our Children", to overturn an ordinance in Dade County, Floridamarker prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and he supported a similar movement in California. But 28 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 gay 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."

Israel

Falwell's staunch pro-Israelmarker stand, sometimes referred to as "Christian Zionism," drew the strong support of the Anti-Defamation League and its leader Abraham Foxman. However, they condemned what they perceived as intolerance towards Muslims in Falwell's public statements.

Education

Falwell repeatedly denounced certain teachings in public school 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."

Falwell supported President George W. 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 [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."

Apartheid

In the 1980s Jerry Falwell was critical of sanctions against the apartheid regime of South Africa. He feared that sanctions would result in what, he felt, would be a worse situation, such as a Sovietmarker-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." He later apologized for that remark and claimed that he had misspoken. He also urged his followers to buy up gold Krugerrands and push U.S. "reinvestment" in South Africa.

The Clinton Chronicles

In 1994, Falwell promoted and distributed the video documentary The Clinton Chronicles: An Investigation into the Alleged Criminal Activities of Bill Clinton. The video connected Bill Clinton to a murder conspiracy involving Vincent Foster, James McDougall, Ron Brown, and a cocaine-smuggling operation. The theory was discredited, but the video served as effective exposure, and it sold over 150,000 copies.

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

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. "Obviously, I'm not an investigative reporter," Matrisciana admitted to investigative journalist Murray Waas. 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."

LGBT Issues

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 LGBT social movements. Falwell supported Anita Bryant's 1977 "Save Our Children" campaign to overturn a Floridamarker ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and a similar movement in California. In urging the repeal of the ordinance, Falwell told one crowd, "Gay folks would just as soon kill you as look at you." When the mostly gay Metropolitan Community Church was almost accepted into the World Council of Churchesmarker, Falwell called them "brute beasts" and stated, "this vile and satanic system will one day be utterly annihilated and there'll be a celebration in heaven." He later denied this, but was successfully sued over the remark. Falwell also regularly linked the AIDS pandemic to LGBT issues and stated, “AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals, it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.” Amongst many remarks over the years he is probably most known for statements attributed to him about a Teletubby being a gay role model for homosexual recruitment and stating that LGBT organizations angered God, thereby in part causing God to let the September 11 attacks happen.

After Ellen DeGeneres came out as a lesbian, televangelist Jerry Falwell referred to her in a sermon as "Ellen DeGenerate." DeGeneres responded by 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."

At the same time, Falwell's legacy regarding homosexuality is complicated by his support for homosexual's 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. 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" 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.

Teletubbies

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 Teletubby named Tinky Winky was intended as a gay role model. A 1998 Salon.com article previously had noted Tinky Winky's status as a gay icon. In response, Steve Rice, spokesperson for Itsy Bitsy Entertainment, which licenses the Teletubbies in the US, said, "I really find it absurd and kind of offensive." 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 article said was a purse. Falwell added "role modelling the gay lifestyle is damaging to the moral lives of children."

September 11th attacks

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, Falwell said on 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.'" Fellow evangelist Pat Robertson concurred with his sentiment. Falwell further stated that the attacks were “probably deserved,” a statement which was described as “treason” by columnist Christopher Hitchens. After heavy criticism, Falwell apologized,

Labor unions

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."

Legal issues

SEC and bonds

In 1972 , the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) launched an investigation of bonds issued by Falwell's organizations. The SEC charged Falwell's church with "fraud and deceit" in the issuance of $6.5 million in unsecured church bonds. 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 there had been no intentional wrong-doing.

Falwell versus Penthouse

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).

Falwell versus Hustler

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. 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 Courtmarker, winning a 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.

After the death of Falwell, Larry Flynt released a comment regarding his friendship over the years with Falwell."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." - Larry Flynt

Falwell versus Jerry Sloan

In 1984, Falwell was ordered to pay gay activist and former Baptist Bible College classmate Jerry Sloan $5,000 after losing a court battle. In July, 1984 during a TV debate in Sacramentomarker, Californiamarker, Falwell denied calling the gay-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". 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 Sacramentomarker's first gay community center, the Lambda Community Center, serving "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex" communities. Falwell appealed the decision with his attorney charging that the judge in the case was prejudiced. He lost again and was made to pay an additional $2,875 in sanctions and court fees.

Falwell versus Christopher Lamparello

On April 17, 2006, the Supreme Courtmarker declined to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling that Christopher Lamparello's usage of the Internet domain "Fallwell.com" was legal. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuitmarker had held that Lamparello "clearly created his Web site intending only to provide a forum to criticize ideas, not to steal customers." Lamparello's website describes itself as not being connected to Jerry Falwell and is critical of Falwell's views on homosexuality. Previous to this, "Falwell's attorneys have fought over domain names in the past" with a man turning over jerryfalwell.com and jerryfallwell.com "after Falwell threatened to sue for trademark infringement." Lawyers for Public Citizen Litigation Group's Internet Free Speech project represented the domain name owners in both cases.

Apocalyptic beliefs

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," "marking the third time in eight days that CNN had devoted airtime to those claiming that the ongoing Mideast violence signaled the coming of the Apocalypse." 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."

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

In 1999, Falwell declared the Antichrist would probably arrive within a decade and "Of course he'll be Jewish." 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.

Failing health and death

In early 2005, Falwell was hospitalized for two weeks with a viral infection, discharged, and then rehospitalized on May 30, 2005, in respiratory arrest. President George W. Bush contacted Falwell to "wish him well." He was subsequently released from the hospital and returned to his duties. Later in 2005, weighing very much at this point, a stent was implanted to treat a 70% blockage in his coronary arteries.

On May 15, 2007, Falwell was found without pulse and unconscious in his office about 10:45 am after missing a morning appointment and was taken to Lynchburg General Hospital.

"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 Universitymarker.

His condition was initially reported as "gravely serious"; CPR was administered unsuccessfully. As of 2:10 pm, 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 pm, 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.

Falwell's funeral took place at 1:00 PM EDT on May 22, 2007 at Thomas Road Baptist Church after lying 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 Mansionmarker, near his office. Buried nearby is B. R. Lakin.

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.

The last televised interview with Jerry Falwell was conducted by Christiane Amanpour for the CNN original series CNN Presents: God's Warriors. He had been interviewed on May 8, one week before his death – there is an online copy of the interview.

Legacy and criticisms

Falwell's legacy today is strongly mixed and often a source of heated controversy. Supporters praise his advancement of his socially conservative message. They tout too, his evangelist and soulwinning 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".

He was described by social commentator Christopher Hitchens in turns as a "Chaucer fraud" and a "faith-based fraud", and "especially disgusting in exuding an almost sexless personality while railing from dawn to dusk about the sex lives of other." Hitchens took especial umbrage at Falwell's outspoken philo-Semitism, his subsequent alignment with "the most thuggish and demented Israeli settlers", and his declaration that 9/11 represented God's judgement on America's sinful behaviour; esteeming it "a shame that there is no hell for Falwell to go to, and [...] extraordinary that not even such a scandalous career is enough to shake our dumb addiction to the 'faith-based.'".

Publications

  • Champions for God. Victor Books, 1985.
  • Church Aflame. (co-author Elmer Townsmarker) Impact, 1971.
  • Dynamic Faith Journal. Thomas Nelson (64 pages) (January 30, 2006) ISBN 0529122456
  • Falwell: An Autobiography. Liberty House, 1996. (Ghost written by Mel White ) ISBN 1888684046
  • 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 Universitymarker, 1978.
  • Liberty Bible Commentary. Thomas Nelson, 1982.
  • Listen, America! Bantam Books (July 1981) ISBN 0553149989
  • 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 0842379932
  • Wisdom for Living. Victor Books, 1984.


See also



Footnotes

  1. SPLCenter.org: Holy War
  2. Eartha Jane Melzer, Falwell hints support for some gay rights, The Washington Blade, August 26, 2005.
  3. ADL Condemns Falwell's Anti-Muslim Remarks; Urges Him to Apologize
  4. Biography: Falwell, Jerry
  5. Beliefnet interviews Rev. Jerry Falwell - Beliefnet.com
  6. An Unholy Uproar - TIME
  7. FALWELL DENOUNCES TUTU AS A 'PHONY'
  8. The Falwell connection by Murray Waas Salon.com
  9. The Hunting of the President (DVD) 2005
  10. Peter Applebome, Jerry Falwell, Leading Religious Conservative, Dies at 73, The New York Times, May 15, 2007.
  11. NY1: Top Stories
  12. "Religion Journal; Falwell Finds an Accord With Gay Rights Backer" NY Times 23 October 1999[1]
  13. http://www.salon.com/news/feature/1999/10/25/falwell/index.html
  14. Has Jerry Falwell Seen the Light? NY Times, 6 November 1999 [2]
  15. | last=Millman | first=Joyce
  16. Arizona supporter funds largest-ever gift annuity to LU (February 27, 2008) By Mitzi Bible - Liberty Journal
  17. [ https://home.comcast.net/~joe.grabko/falwell.mp3 - Falwell speaks about WTC disaster, Christian Broadcasting Network]
  18. “Christopher Hitchens and Ralph Reed Square Off over Late Leader's Influence; the Christian Right.” May 17, 2007. FOX News. Retrieved June 23, 2009 from: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,273295,00.html
  19. CNN.com - Falwell apologizes to gays, feminists, lesbians - September 14, 2001
  20. Wisconsin State AFL-CIO
  21. NPR: Religion, Politics a Potent Mix for Jerry Falwell
  22. "Falwell Says He Will Press $10 Million Penthouse Suit." The New York Times, 5 February 1981.
  23. "Penthouse Wins in Court Against Falwell Suit." The New York Times, 7 August 1981.
  24. "Falwell Won't Pursue Suit." The New York Times, 10 September 1981.
  25. Larry Flynt - Biography
  26. Access Hollywood
  27. Supreme Court declines Falwell Web appeal Associated Press. April 17, 2006
  28. CNN still fixated on Apocalypse predictors. Media matters for America. Aug 1, 2006
  29. Jerry L. Walls (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Eschatology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 269.
  30. Falwell is taken off ventilator, upgraded to stable condition USA Today May 30, 2005
  31. Rev. Jerry Falwell Dies - breitbart.com
  32. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070515/ap_on_re_us/jerry_falwell
  33. http://www.centrahealth.com/news/pressrelease78.aspx
  34. http://www.liberty.edu/administration/index.cfm?PID=14092
  35. Falwell funeral arrangements (Liberty University)
  36. Thousands Line Up To Attend Jerry Falwell's Funeral
  37. http://www.elmertowns.com/bio/BR_Lakin_History%5BETowns%5D.pdf
  38. CNN Press Release
  39. Hitchens, Christopher. " Faith-Based Fraud." Slate. 16 May 2007. (accessed September 6, 2009)


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