Falwell Builds His Legacy
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Feb 19, 2007 at 12:17:11 PM EST
Kingmaker? Not any longer. Cable news attraction? Not so much. Still a political force to be reckoned with? You bet.

Given his questionable health, and his desire to devote his time, energy and fundraising abilities to building his legacy, the 2008 presidential campaign may be the last hurrah for the Reverend Jerry Falwell. "I think we got the social and moral issues on the front burner. But while we have made progress ... we have not won any of the battles yet," Falwell, the founder of the Moral Majority, recently told Reuters in an interview.

"We are at least one U.S. Supreme Court Justice short of a socially conservative court," Falwell pointed out. The Reverend, who successfully used his multi-layered platform as a Baptist preacher, televangelist, University chancellor, and regular guest on cable television's news networks to promote the religious right, revived the Moral Majority Coalition not too long ago.

"Because of his prominence, Falwell still carries some weight among religious conservatives but he doesn't have the organizational power that he once had," John Green, a political scientist at the University of Akron, told Reuters.

These days, Falwell is building his legacy at the campus of Liberty University.

Fifty years behind the pulpit and 30 years in the political spotlight

After 50 years behind the pulpit at the Thomas Road Baptist Church, in Lynchburg, Virginia, and nearly 30 years in the political spotlight, the Rev. Jerry Falwell has a lot to be proud of. While he has never achieved the revered status of Rev. Billy Graham, and his books have not sold the millions of copies that Tim LaHaye's "Left Behind" series of apocalyptic novels or megachurch Pastor Rick Warren's "The Purpose Driven Life," have, Falwell has been a major player in the changing political landscape for more than three decades.

Now, though a less potent political figure, he has set about to solidify a permanent monument to his life's work; building a multi-million dollar endowment for his thoroughly Christian Liberty University.

In the late 1970s, Paul Weyrich, widely considered as the guru of the modern conservative movement, Terry Dolan, Richard Viguerie, the godfather of conservative direct mail, and Howard Phillips, left Christian Voice and tapped televangelist Falwell to head up an entity that would be called The Moral Majority.

Over the years, as the Reverend became more politically influential, he became a favored guest on cable television's news programs.

From his pre-Moral Majority days when he preached against religious folk supporting the civil rights movement, to his support for President Ronald Reagan-backed contra movements in Central America and Africa --  movements responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people -- to his invective against Nelson Mandela and South Africa's African National Congress and his support for the apartheid regime, Falwell has been a dependable voice of reaction and a Republican Party stalwart.

From accusing Tinky-Winky, a character on the popular British children's television show "Teletubbies" of being gay, to being involved in a video entitled, "The Clinton Chronicles: An Investigation into the Alleged Criminal Activities of Bill Clinton," which accused President Clinton of being involved in a covert cocaine-smuggling operation, to blaming pagans, abortionists, feminists, gays and the American Civil Liberties Union for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Falwell has had more than his fair share of embarrassing moments.

On a broadcast of Pat Robertson's 700 Club, shortly after the Twin Towers fell, Falwell said: "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 was later pressured into issuing a rather lackluster apology.

From accepting a $3.5 million donation from the Unification Church's Rev. Sum Myung Moon in 1994 to allow his then-struggling Liberty University -- a school founded in 1971 "to develop Christ-centered men and women with the values, knowledge and skills essential to impact tomorrow's world" -- to put its financial house in order, to currently presiding over a major expansion -- including a new law school, 10 dormitories, a football clubhouse and a chapel -- of the Lynchburg campus, Falwell has had the magic touch attracting wealthy conservative benefactors and philanthropists.

Coming home to Lynchburg

After graduating from Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Mo., at the age of 22, Falwell "returned to his hometown and started his church with 35 members in an old Donald Duck soda bottling plant," the Associated Press reported in June 2006. Falwell told the AP that they "scraped syrup off the floors and walls," to get the building into shape. To build a congregation, he "began knocking on 100 doors a day, six days a week," he said. A year later, Falwell's Thomas Road Church had 864 members; it now has nearly 25,000.

"Within a few weeks of starting the church, Falwell found a way to expand his reach quickly -- first with a radio program, then a live Sunday night television show -- the "Old Time Gospel Hour" -- broadcast on the Lynchburg ABC affiliate. In 1956, the move was bold," AP pointed out. "Nobody else was doing it," Falwell said.

In the interview with AP, Falwell dated his political activism to the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling that established a woman's right to an abortion. "Believing life begins at conception, I became very exercised over this," he said.

With Falwell at the helm, the Moral Majority, founded in 1979 (it dissolved in 1989), prospered. And, unlike some of his televangelist brethren -- among them Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker -- who were severely wounded by sexual and financial scandals, Falwell's enterprises prospered throughout the 1980s.

Building the future of Liberty University

Now, in his early seventies, and having recovered from a serious illness, Falwell is focused on making Liberty University his everlasting legacy.

Liberty University's 4,400 acre campus is home to 9,600 students and another 15,000 are enrolled in its distance learning program. "Falwell's goal is to have 25,000 on the campus in 13 years," the Associated Press reported. The university offers B.A.s from its college of arts and sciences, its schools of business, communication, education and religion, and it offers graduate degrees in 15 programs. Athletics plays a major role on campus; Liberty participates in 18 NCAA division-1 programs.

In a lengthy profile of Liberty University in Forbes magazine (September 18, 2006), Dirk Smillie wrote:

"Religious instruction permeates academic and social life. Prayer leaders minister to groups of five students, who must attend chapel three times a week; the school prides itself on turning out `champions of Christ' who take the Bible literally, believe in creationism, political conservatism and free enterprise. The law school preaches that separation of church and state was never intended by the founders. Students must submit to random drug tests and adhere to hair and dress codes. Coed dorms, partying and sexual promiscuity are out. Anyone involved with `witchcraft, seances or other satanic or demonic activity,' warns the student handbook, will be slapped with a $500 fine and 30 hours of community service."

The Forbes story also pointed out that Falwell, the school's chancellor, and his son, Jerry Jr., its vice chancellor, have been experiencing some tough sledding raising money to grow Liberty University. At the same time, Jerry Jr. has been focused on a number of real estate ventures. One project -- together with a real estate developer -- involves the building of a ski resort on Lynchburg's Candlers Mountain.

"Reverend Falwell, who used his television ministry [The Jerry Falwell Ministries] to raise $2 billion for conservative causes in the 1980s, isn't the money machine he once was," the Forbes piece pointed out. "He and his son have spent the last few years battling to work off $100 million-plus in debt, just as donations to Falwell Sr.'s Thomas Road Baptist Church, the university's onetime key benefactor, have shriveled. At the same time father and son have towering ambitions: They're looking to raise $1 billion to solidify Liberty's legacy as a West Point for the faithful."

Despite some financial setbacks, the Falwells maintained that they would soon "complete $82 million in campus construction projects. Nearly half that sum is being spent to transform a million-square-foot former Ericsson plant bordering the campus into a new law school and a larger site for the church. The mammoth building came courtesy of an $11 million purchase on Liberty's behalf in 2004 by David Green, chief executive of retailing giant Hobby Lobby Creative Centers and a big backer of evangelical education.

....Since 1999 Jerry Jr. and his private development firm have raised $100 million or so via sales of land and leaseholds to pull in retailers -- Wal-Mart, Kohl's, Staples and Circuit City, plus a dozen restaurant chains -- around Liberty's campus. "Jerry Jr. is a one-man real estate boom," crack[ed] Christopher Doyle, vice president at CB Richard Ellis and the Falwells' point guy on the Candlers development.

Liberty also found a savior in life insurance mogul and Forbes 400 member Arthur L. Williams, who has dropped $70 million into the kitty. His biggest gift came in 1997 with the proviso that he be allowed to send his finance chief to scrutinize Liberty's books. It came out that the source of Liberty's ramshackle financial state was an overreliance on donations from Falwell's diminishing TV ministry. Williams also urged him to scale back his other ministries and make Liberty the focus of the family business. 'Jerry Falwell is one tough dude,' Williams says. "He refused to let his dream die."

Williams has created a few of his own: His $12 million for a new basketball arena and football stadium helped recruit University of Virginia coach Danny Rocco for the 2006-07 season. Other big gifts have come in from the likes of apocalyptic Christian novelist Tim LaHaye, whose $7 million helped to build an ice rink and a student center with five basketball courts and an Olympic-size pool.

The Moral Majority officially shut down in 1989, replaced by a host of Christian organizations including the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family, and the Family Research Council. However, 15 years later, seeing a political opening and hoping to re-connect with his funding base, Falwell announced the formation of The Moral Majority Coalition, which he characterized as a "21st century resurrection of the Moral Majority."

As the mending-fences visit of Sen. John McCain to the Liberty University campus last year indicated, Falwell's continues his deep involvement in high-level GOP politics. His close connection to the development of the Pastor John Hagee's Christian Zionist lobbying group Christians United for Israel, shows that the Reverend isn't only about setting up multi-million dollar endowments and fashioning impressive real estate deals.

Nearly 30 years after entering the political fray, Falwell is still honing his political chops.




Display:
that Falwell is in process of passing the baton to John Hagee.


by Bruce Wilson on Mon Feb 19, 2007 at 08:15:12 PM EST

We've compiled our favorite landscaping ideas in the hopes that they will encourage your next out of doors protection.
website

by Eikooz on Wed Jul 21, 2021 at 11:46:40 PM EST


WWW Talk To Action


Cognitive Dissonance & Dominionism Denial
There is new research on why people are averse to hearing or learning about the views of ideological opponents. Based on evaluation of five......
By Frederick Clarkson (330 comments)
Will the Air Force Do Anything To Rein In Its Dynamic Duo of Gay-Bashing, Misogynistic Bloggers?
"I always get nervous when I see female pastors/chaplains. Here is why everyone should as well: "First, women are not called to be pastors,......
By Chris Rodda (180 comments)
The Legacy of Big Oil
The media is ablaze with the upcoming publication of David Grann's book, Killers of the Flower Moon. The shocking non fiction account of the......
By wilkyjr (102 comments)
Gimme That Old Time Dominionism Denial
Over the years, I have written a great deal here and in other venues about the explicitly theocratic movement called dominionism -- which has......
By Frederick Clarkson (93 comments)
History Advisor to Members of Congress Completely Twists Jefferson's Words to Support Muslim Ban
Pseudo-historian David Barton, best known for his misquoting of our country's founders to promote the notion that America was founded as a Christian nation,......
By Chris Rodda (106 comments)
"Christian Fighter Pilot" Calls First Lesbian Air Force Academy Commandant a Liar
In a new post on his "Christian Fighter Pilot" blog titled "BGen Kristin Goodwin and the USAFA Honor Code," Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan......
By Chris Rodda (127 comments)
Catholic Right Leader Unapologetic about Call for 'Death to Liberal Professors' -- UPDATED
Today, Donald Trump appointed C-FAM Executive Vice President Lisa Correnti to the US Delegation To UN Commission On Status Of Women. (C-FAM is a......
By Frederick Clarkson (118 comments)
Controlling Information
     Yesterday I listened to Russ Limbaugh.  Rush advised listeners it would be best that they not listen to CNN,MSNBC, ABC, CBS and......
By wilkyjr (81 comments)
Is Bannon Fifth-Columning the Pope?
In December 2016 I wrote about how White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who likes to flash his Catholic credentials when it comes to......
By Frank Cocozzelli (229 comments)
Ross Douthat's Hackery on the Seemingly Incongruous Alliance of Bannon & Burke
Conservative Catholic writer Ross Douthat has dissembled again. This time, in a February 15, 2017 New York Times op-ed titled The Trump Era's Catholic......
By Frank Cocozzelli (56 comments)
`So-Called Patriots' Attack The Rule Of Law
Every so often, right-wing commentator Pat Buchanan lurches out of the far-right fever swamp where he has resided for the past 50 years to......
By Rob Boston (155 comments)
Bad Faith from Focus on the Family
Here is one from the archives, Feb 12, 2011, that serves as a reminder of how deeply disingenuous people can be. Appeals to seek......
By Frederick Clarkson (173 comments)
The Legacy of George Wallace
"One need not accept any of those views to agree that they had appealed to real concerns of real people, not to mindless, unreasoning......
By wilkyjr (53 comments)
Betsy DeVos's Mudsill View of Public Education
My Talk to Action colleague Rachel Tabachnick has been doing yeoman's work in explaining Betsy DeVos's long-term strategy for decimating universal public education. If......
By Frank Cocozzelli (56 comments)
Prince and DeVos Families at Intersection of Radical Free Market Privatizers and Religious Right
This post from 2011 surfaces important information about President-Elect Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. -- FC Erik Prince, Brother of Betsy......
By Rachel Tabachnick (214 comments)

Respect for Others? or Political Correctness?
The term "political correctness" as used by Conservatives and Republicans has often puzzled me: what exactly do they mean by it? After reading Chip Berlin's piece here-- http://www.talk2action.org/story/2016/7/21/04356/9417 I thought about what he explained......
MTOLincoln (242 comments)
Fear
What I'm feeling now is fear.  I swear that it seems my nightmares are coming true with this new "president".  I'm also frustrated because so many people are not connecting all the dots! I've......
ArchaeoBob (89 comments)
"America - love it or LEAVE!"
I've been hearing that and similar sentiments fairly frequently in the last few days - far FAR more often than ever before.  Hearing about "consequences for burning the flag (actions) from Trump is chilling!......
ArchaeoBob (174 comments)
"Faked!" Meme
Keep your eyes and ears open for a possible move to try to discredit the people openly opposing Trump and the bigots, especially people who have experienced terrorism from the "Right"  (Christian Terrorism is......
ArchaeoBob (143 comments)
More aggressive proselytizing
My wife told me today of an experience she had this last week, where she was proselytized by a McDonald's employee while in the store. ......
ArchaeoBob (142 comments)
See if you recognize names on this list
This comes from the local newspaper, which was conservative before and took a hard right turn after it was sold. Hint: Sarah Palin's name is on it!  (It's also connected to Trump.) ......
ArchaeoBob (151 comments)
Unions: A Labor Day Discussion
This is a revision of an article which I posted on my personal board and also on Dailykos. I had an interesting discussion on a discussion board concerning Unions. I tried to piece it......
Xulon (146 comments)
Extremely obnoxious protesters at WitchsFest NYC: connected to NAR?
In July of this year, some extremely loud, obnoxious Christian-identified protesters showed up at WitchsFest, an annual Pagan street fair here in NYC.  Here's an account of the protest by Pagan writer Heather Greene......
Diane Vera (125 comments)
Capitalism and the Attack on the Imago Dei
I joined this site today, having been linked here by Crooksandliars' Blog Roundup. I thought I'd put up something I put up previously on my Wordpress blog and also at the DailyKos. As will......
Xulon (190 comments)
History of attitudes towards poverty and the churches.
Jesus is said to have stated that "The Poor will always be with you" and some Christians have used that to refuse to try to help the poor, because "they will always be with......
ArchaeoBob (144 comments)
Alternate economy medical treatment
Dogemperor wrote several times about the alternate economy structure that dominionists have built.  Well, it's actually made the news.  Pretty good article, although it doesn't get into how bad people could be (have been)......
ArchaeoBob (84 comments)
Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (189 comments)
Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
ArchaeoBob (79 comments)
Demon Mammon?
An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
daerie (108 comments)
Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
JSanford (106 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.