News

US Conservative Religious Leader Jerry Falwell Dies

Multimedia

Audio

The Reverend Jerry Falwell died Tuesday. Falwell, perhaps more than anyone else, played a pivotal role in mobilizing religious conservative voters into a political force in the United States beginning in the 1980s. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more on the life and legacy of Jerry Falwell from Washington.

Falwell died not long after he was found unconscious in his office at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Falwell had a history of heart problems and was hospitalized twice in 2005 with a viral infection and respiratory problems.

Falwell was the founder of the Moral Majority, a voting bloc of millions of conservative religious voters that helped elect Republican Ronald Reagan president in 1980 and gave Republicans control of the Senate

"Abortion, family values, the moral underpinnings on which the nation was built, we call the Judeo-Christian ethic, is important to us," said Falwell.

Word of Falwell's death came just as presidential spokesman Tony Snow was wrapping up his daily briefing at the White House.

"This is the kind of thing that is going to be a shock to those who love him and were around him," said Snow. "And I think the proper attitude at this juncture is to pass on our condolences and prayers and we will try to do the 'fixing place in history' thing a little later."

There was also praise from Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who spoke to reporters at the Capitol.

"We regret his passing," he said. "He has certainly been a prominent figure in American religion and politics for the last 20 years and I know he will be greatly, greatly missed."

Falwell got his start as head of a small church in Virginia in 1956 and later became a well-known televangelist, preaching on a television program called The Old Time Gospel Hour.

Falwell talked about his TV preaching with CBS reporter Morley Safer.

SAFER: "Reverend Falwell, do you think Jesus would have gone on television?"

FALWELL: "I think he would have. He said preach the Gospel to every creature. Those were his words and today, with a population of plus-four billion-plus people, there is no way of getting the Gospel to the world by any other means than the use of the media."

Although hailed by Christian conservatives, Falwell had plenty of detractors as well.

Shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S., Falwell blamed feminists, gays, lesbians and liberal groups for bringing on the attacks. He later apologized for the comment.

During the 2000 presidential primaries, Arizona Senator John McCain singled out Falwell and others as divisive political figures.

"Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left, or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right," he said.

In recent years, Falwell focused on what he regarded as the exaggerated threat of global warming.

"The promoters of alarmism are as expected, the United Nations, no friend of the U.S. Liberal politicians, radical environmentalists and, of course, liberal clergymen, Hollywood and pseudo-scientists," said Falwell.

Falwell quit the Moral Majority in 1987, saying he was tired of a being a lightning rod. In his later years, Falwell spent much of his time at Liberty University in Lynchburg, the school he founded in 1971.

Many of Falwell's allies in the religious right believe the political mobilization he began will be his greatest legacy.

Louis Sheldon is founder of the Traditional Values Coalition. He spoke on MSNBC television.

"There was just never any doubt in his mind that this was the right thing to do, that Christian people needed to be registered to vote, they needed to make sure they voted for the person that stood for those values and belief systems," said Sheldon.

Jerry Falwell was 73.

 

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs