I know nothing about Jerry Falwell the individual, and I certainly don't want to speak ill of the dead. Had he not relentlessly promoted himself as a public persona, I wouldn't know his name at all. But he was a very public figure as the pastor of the Thomas Road Baptist Church, and he made outrageous statements that, when he was called on them, he'd try to weasel out of
On the broadcast of the Christian television program "The 700 Club," Falwell made the following statement:
"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.'"
Falwell, pastor of the 22,000-member Thomas Road Baptist Church, viewed the attacks as God's judgment on America for "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."
But in a phone call to CNN, Falwell said that only the hijackers and terrorists were responsible for the deadly attacks.
"I do believe, as a theologian, based upon many Scriptures and particularly Proverbs 14:23, which says 'living by God's principles promotes a nation to greatness, violating those principles brings a nation to shame,'" he said.
It all depended on what audience he thought he was speaking to. But that's what public figures do; and that's why I have more regard for the desert Fathers than for most publicly religious individuals, from Jerry Falwell to the Rev. Barry Lynn. It's very difficult to be a public persona and still be true to what I consider core Christian principles. Still, even while NPR this morning
replayed Falwell's later version of his excuse for those comments about 9/11, they didn't point out his role in the "Clinton Chronicles
A conservative political organization with ties to the Rev. Jerry Falwell covertly paid more than $200,000 to individuals who made damaging allegations about President Clinton's personal conduct, Salon has learned.
The money was paid out over a three-year period, between l994 and l996, by Citizens for Honest Government, headquartered in Orange County, Calif. The payments are detailed in the organization's confidential accounting ledgers and other internal records, copies of which were obtained by Salon.
The payments and the allegations -- some of which were either fabricated or grossly exaggerated -- were part of a covert and sophisticated political propaganda effort to influence public opinion against President Clinton.
One of the allegations, that Clinton protected an Arkansas-based cocaine-smuggling operation when he was governor of that state, spread from local talk radio shows to propaganda videos to the mainstream media, and eventually prompted an exhaustive, multimillion-dollar investigation by the House Banking Committee in 1994. The investigation concluded Clinton had nothing to do with the drug operation.
In another instance, in March, 1995, the Arkansas represenative of Citizens for Honest Government signed a contract agreeing to pay two Arkansa state troopers who had made questionable allegations supporting the theory that the late White House Counsel Vincent Foster had been murdered. The troopers, Roger Perry and Larry Patteson, who had previously told news organizations about Clinton's alleged extramarital affairs, had provided information about Foster's death to Kenneth Starr, the Whitewater independent counsel.
The drug smuggling and Vincent Foster allegations were prominently featured in "The Clinton Chronicles," a video produced by Citizens for Honest Government and co-financed, publicized and distributed by Falwell. The notorious 1994 video also insinuated that Clinton's political adversaries often met untimely and suspicious deaths.
That's what I remember Jerry Falwell for: shamelessly promoting a package of evil lies for purely political purposes:
More than 150,000 copies of the video have been sold, according to Matrisciana. As many as double that number are reportedly in circulation.
The video's commercial success is due in large part to its promotion on Falwell's "Old Time Gospel Hour," as well as in an infomercial for the video, which viewers could order through Falwell's Liberty Alliance.
During the infomercial, Falwell interviews a silhouetted individual whom he identifies only as an "investigative reporter."
"Could you please tell me and the American people why you think that your life and the lives of the others on this video are in danger?" Falwell asks the man.
"Jerry, two weeks ago we had an interview with a man who was an insider," the mystery man replies. "His plane crashed and he was killed an hour before the interview. You may say this is just a coincidence, but there was another fellow that we were also going to interview, and he was killed in a plane crash. Jerry, are these coincidences? I don't think so."
Falwell reassured the man: "Be assured, we will be praying for your safety."
Falwell said in that NPR interview that they taught him in Baptist Bible College that religion and politics don't mix. They were right. And I will always remember Jerry Falwell as an object lesson in that truth.