|“||The idea that religion and politics don't mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country. If there is any place in the world we need Christianity, it's in Washington. And that's why preachers long since need to get over that intimidation forced upon us by liberals, that if we mention anything about politics, we are degrading our ministry.||„|
|~ Falwell in a sermon in 1976.|
Jerry Lamon Falwell Sr. (August 11, 1933 – May 15, 2007) was an American Southern Baptist pastor, televangelist, and conservative activist. 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 and Liberty University in 1971 and co-founded the Moral Majority in 1979.
Falwell was a highly controversial figure. Know for his conservative politics, he advocated for the right-wing for most of his career, and strongly believed that politics and religion should be kept together.
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 Christian fundamentalist 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 that 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 he relaxed this stricture as he was increasingly invited to major events through the contacts which he developed in conservative politics and religion.
- Falwell was strongly opposed to the Civil Rights Movement, so much so that he was considered a white supremacist. He was close friends with noted segregationist politicians George Wallace and Lester Maddox and was opposed to Brown v. Board of Education.
- 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." This implied that the Civil Rights Movement was actually a form of communism.
- In the 1980s Falwell said that sanctions against the apartheid regime of South Africa would result in what, he felt, would be a worse situation, such as a Soviet-backed revolution. He also urged his followers to buy up gold Krugerrands and push U.S. "reinvestment" in South Africa. In 1985 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."
- Falwell was virulently homophobic. He condemned homosexuality as forbidden by the Bible. Gay rights groups called Falwell an "agent of intolerance" and "the founder of the anti-gay industry" for statements he had made and for campaigning against LGBT social movements.
- In 1984, Falwell was ordered to pay gay rights activist and former Baptist Bible College classmate Jerry Sloan $5,000 after Sloan sued him for 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".
- 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.
- After comedian and actress Ellen DeGeneres came out as a lesbian, Falwell referred to her in a sermon as "Ellen DeGenerate"
- When the September 11 attacks occurred, he blamed the LGBT community for "angering God" and "allowing God to let this happen."
- Falwell was also an Islamophobe, once describing Islam as a "satanic" religion. 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."
- He also showed traits of Anti-Semitism, once saying that the anti-Christ was a male Jew and that "Jews can make more money accidentally than you can on purpose."
- 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 Vince Foster, James McDougall, Ron Brown, and a cocaine-smuggling operation. The theory was discredited, but the recording sold more than 150,000 copies.
- He had been involved in a number of embezzlement and tax fraud schemes.
Views on Falwell's legacy are mixed. Supporters praise his advancement of his socially conservative message. They also tout his evangelist ministries, and his stress on church planting and growth. Conversely, many of his detractors have accused him of hate speech and identified him as an "agent of intolerance".
Social commentator and antitheist Christopher Hitchens described his work as "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 judgment 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". 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'."
At one point, prank callers, especially gay activists, constituted an estimated 25% of Falwell's total calls, until the ministry disconnected the toll-free number in 1986. Edward Johnson 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, including Johnson's own mother. Southern Bell forced Johnson to stop after he had run up Falwell's telephone bill an estimated $500,000.
His son, Jerry Falwell Jr., is an American lawyer and university administrator, serving as the president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia since his father's death. He is an ardent supporter of Donald Trump, both before and since his election as President of the United States.