I have been critical of Falwell on this website and others for his pompous representation of Christianity and for the Liberty University approach to science, if it can be called that. All Christians do not share Falwell’s views. His views on education, science and his apparent hotline direct to God are not universal Christian attitudes. God told me he will die in May of next year, but that doesn’t make it true.
The concepts of Moral Right and having a culture that has it’s roots in faith are beautiful to me. But so is Marxism, in theory. When some of these ideas are played out in the real world they can become ugly.
May 1979: Falwell, a televangelist and Baptist pastor in Lynchburg, Va., is recruited by
far-right activists Howard Phillips, Ed McAteer and Paul Weyrich to form the Moral Majority, a vehicle for bringing fundamentalist Protestants into the Republican Party with the aim of unseating President Jimmy Carter. The move was an about-face for Falwell, who advised his congregation in 1965, â€œPreachers are not called to be politicians but soul winners.â€
March 1980: Falwell tells an Anchorage rally about a conversation with President Carter at the White House. Commenting on a January breakfast meeting, Falwell claimed to have asked Carter why he had â€œpracticing homosexualsâ€ on the senior staff at the White House. According to Falwell, Carter replied, â€œWell, I am president of all the American people, and I believe I should represent everyone.â€ When others who attended the White House event insisted that the exchange never happened, Falwell responded that his account â€œwas not intended to be a verbatim report,â€ but rather an â€œhonest portrayalâ€ of Carterâ€™s position.
August 1980: After Southern Baptist Convention President Bailey Smith tells a Dallas
Religious Right gathering that â€œGod Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew,â€ Falwell gives a similar view. â€œI do not believe,â€ he told reporters, â€œthat God answers the prayer of any unredeemed Gentile or Jew.â€ After a meeting with an American Jewish Committee rabbi, he changed course, telling an interviewer on NBCâ€™s â€œMeet the Pressâ€ that â€œGod hears the
prayers of all personsâ€¦.God hears everything.â€
1980-81: After the election of Ronald Reagan, the Moral Majority begins advocating for
constitutional amendments banning abortion and restoring school-sponsored prayer. The
group also demands tax aid to religious education.
September 1982: Falwell announces a drive to register 1 million new voters before the
July 1984: Falwell is forced to pay gay activist Jerry Sloan $5,000 after losing a court battle. During a TV debate in Sacramento, Falwell denied calling the gay-oriented Metropolitan Community Churches â€œbrute beastsâ€ and â€œa vile and Satanic systemâ€ that will â€œone day be utterly annihilated and there will be a celebration in heaven.â€ When Sloan insisted he had a tape, Falwell promised $5,000 if he could produce it. 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.
November 1984: Reports from the Federal Election Commission indicate that Falwellâ€™s â€œI
Love America Committee,â€ a political action committee formed in 1983, was a flop. The
PAC raised $485,000 in its first yearâ€”but spent $413,000 to do so.
May 1985: Falwell apologizes to a Jewish group for seeking a â€œChristianâ€ America. From now on, he says, he will use the term â€œJudeo-Christian.â€
January 1987: Falwell holds a Washington news conference to announce that he is changing
the name of the Moral Majority to the Liberty Foundation. The new name never catches on
and is soon abandoned.
October 1987: The Federal Election Commission fines Falwell $6,000 for transferring $6.7 million in funds intended for his ministry to political committees.
November 1987: Falwell tells reporters he is stepping down as head of the Moral Majority and retiring from politics. â€œFrom now on, my real platform is the pulpit, not politics,â€ he says at a news conference.
February 1988: The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down a $200,000 jury award to Falwell
for â€œemotional distressâ€ he suffered because of a Hustler magazine parody. Chief Justice
William H. Rehnquist, usually a Falwell favorite, wrote the unanimous opinion in Hustler v.
Falwell, ruling that the First Amendment protects free speech.
June 1989: Falwell announces that the Moral Majority will shut down its offices and
January 1991: Siding with Americans United, the Virginia Supreme Court unanimously
rejects Falwellâ€™s quest for $60 million in state bonds for his Liberty University. During the
litigation, Falwell tried to camouflage the schoolâ€™s rigidly fundamentalist character, telling the
court that the school would no longer discriminate in hiring or force students to attend
mandatory chapel (renamed convocation). All the while, Falwell assured his congregation that
Liberty had not changed, insisting chapel will be mandatory â€œuntil Jesus comes.â€
January 1993: In the wake of Bill Clintonâ€™s election to the presidency, Falwell mails
fund-raising letters nationwide asking people to vote on whether he should reactivate the
Moral Majority. He later refuses to say how much money the effort raised and tells reporters he has no intention of reactivating the organization.
February 1993: The Internal Revenue Service determines that funds from Falwellâ€™s Old Time Gospel Hour program were illegally funneled to a political action committee. The IRS forced Falwell to pay $50,000 and retroactively revoked the Old Time Gospel Hourâ€™s tax-exempt status for 1986-87.
March 1993: Despite his promise to Jewish groups to stop referring to America as a
â€œChristian nation,â€ Falwell gives a sermon saying, â€œWe must never allow our children to forget that this is a Christian nation. We must take back what is rightfully ours.â€
September 1993: Falwell announces he will not reactivate the Moral Majority but will
instead do political work through a group called the Liberty Alliance.
March 1994: Falwell announces the formation of a new group, Mission America, which he
claims will mobilize like-minded clergy across the country. Falwell describes the group as a
â€œpersonal ministryâ€ and says it will have no budget or staff. Nothing more is heard from it.
May 1994: Jerry Falwellâ€™s Liberty Flame newspaper runs an article calling TV preacher
John Hagee a heretic for saying Jews can be saved without accepting Jesus Christ. Falwell
urges every pastor to â€œtake this information to the podium next Sunday.â€
September 1994: Falwell endorses former Iran-Contra figure Oliver North for a U.S. Senate
seat in Virginia. Falwell glosses over Northâ€™s legal problems, saying they happened â€œin the
1994-1995: Falwell is criticized for using his â€œOld Time Gospel Hourâ€ to hawk a scurrilous video called â€œThe Clinton Chroniclesâ€ that makes a number of unsubstantiated charges against President Bill Clintonâ€”among them that he is a drug addict and that he arranged the murders of political enemies in Arkansas. Despite claims he had no ties to the project, evidence surfaced that Falwell helped bankroll the venture with $200,000 paid to a group called Citizens for Honest Government (CHG). CHGâ€™s Pat Matrisciana later admitted that Falwell and he staged an infomercial interview promoting the video in which a silhouetted reporter said his life was in danger for investigating Clinton. (Matrisciana himself posed as the reporter.) â€œThat was Jerryâ€™s idea to do that,â€ Matrisciana recalled. â€œHe thought that would be dramatic.â€
April 1996: Falwell hosts a â€œWashington for Jesusâ€ rally in the nationâ€™s capital where he holds a mock trial of America for engaging in seven deadly sins: persecution of the church,
homosexuality, abortion, racism, occultism, addictions and HIV/AIDS (acronym:
PHAROAH). He declares the nation guilty â€œof violating Godâ€™s law.â€
July 1996: Falwell announces a series of â€œGod Save Americaâ€ rallies in evangelical churches
to stop the United States from entering a â€œpost-Christianâ€ era.
February 1997: Falwell sponsors a pastorsâ€™ briefing in Washington, during which he
threatens to form a new political party if Republicans waver on abortion.
June 1997: Falwell announces a plan to urge fundamentalist churches to intervene in partisan
politics. He vows to send sample candidate endorsement sermons that pastors can read in
their churches and says he has already done this in the Virginia attorney generalâ€™s race. Falwell drops the plan after being reported to the IRS by Americans United.
August 1997: Falwell pleads for funds for a new group, the National Committee for the
Restoration of the Judeo-Christian Ethic. In a fund-raising letter, he promises to â€œget back in
the ringâ€ and be a â€œspiritual George Foreman.â€ He pledges to register 4 million new voters and mobilize 50,000 pastors. After publishing a couple of fund-raising letters, the group is never heard from again.
November 1997: Falwell accepts $3.5 million from a front group representing controversial
Korean evangelist Sun Myung Moon to ease Liberty Universityâ€™s financial woes. The
donation, and several Falwell appearances at Moon conferences, raised eyebrows because
Moon claims to be the messiah sent to complete the failed mission of Jesus Christ, a doctrine
sharply at odds with Falwellâ€™s fundamentalist Christian theology. (In 1978, before the Moon
money started flowing, Falwell told Esquire magazine, â€œReverend Sun Myung Moon is like
the plague: he exploits boys and girls, and he should be exported.â€)
February 1998: Falwell accepts a $70-million donation from insurance magnate Art
Williams, for his debt-ridden Liberty University. Falwell says the contribution will free him to
focus on politics again.
April 1998: Confronted on national television with a controversial quote from America Can Be Saved!, a published collection of his sermons, Falwell denies having written the book or had anything to do with it. In the 1979 work, Falwell wrote, â€œI hope to live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we wonâ€™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!â€ Despite Falwellâ€™s denial, Sword of the Lord Publishing, which produced the book, confirms that Falwell wrote it.
October 1998: In a fund-raising letter, Falwell announces plans to expand his ministry and to
â€œimmediately rededicate myself to use my God-given skills as a national spokesman for
morality and return to the moral/political arena….[W]ith Godâ€™s anointing and your prayerful
support, you will soon think I am omnipresent.â€
January 1999: Falwell tells a pastorsâ€™ conference in Kingsport, Tenn., that the Antichrist prophesied in the Bible is alive today and â€œof course heâ€™ll be Jewish.â€
February 1999: Falwell becomes the object of nationwide ridicule after his National Liberty Journal newspaper issues a â€œparents alertâ€ warning that Tinky Winky, a character on the popular PBS childrenâ€™s show â€œTeletubbies,â€ might be gay. (Americans United was responsible for releasing the information to the national press.)