"The Moral Majority, after all, was actually the creation of radical right operators Richard Viguerie , Paul Weyrich, and Howard Phillips, two ultraright Catholics and an ultraright Jew who needed a Protestant fundamentalist televangelist as a front man to organize a bloc of fundamentalist voters."
"Falwell's friends have taken over the machinery of the largest Protestant denomination in America and have made common cause on abortion and the financing of education with the leaders of the largest [Roman Catholic] religious denomination in the country."
From ......... THE HUMANIST
by: Edd Doerr
[VP of the American Humanist Association &
director of American's for Religious Liberty ]
CHURCH AND STATE
The Reverend Jerry Falwell announced on November 3, 1987, that he was resigning from the titular leadership of Moral Majority and of his newer Liberty Foundation, ostensibly to devote full time to his religious operations.
The well-known televangelist and political guru may well need to mend the fences on his home ranch. His March-through-October involvement with Jim and Tammy Bakker's scandal-rocked PTL (Pass the Loot? Pay the Lady?) television "ministry" and theme park apparently cost Falwell some of his traditional support. His "Old Time Gospel Hour" revenues fell $5.3 million below normal, and he had to drop broadcasts from fifty television stations.
Though he would probably be the last to admit it, Falwell may well have perceived that he had run out of whatever credibiiity he might ever have had. He failed in his campaigns to get constitutional amendments to authorize government-regimented prayer in public schools, though Congress in 1984 did pass the "equal access" legislation he favored to allow public school students to set up religious clubs and bring adult missionaries into schools. He failed to get abortion outlawed or to get increased tax support for sectarian private schools.
A Falwell endorsement became a liability rather than an asset in Virginia politics, while his claims to have significantly helped elect Ronald Reagan and a Republican Senate in 1980 are generally regarded as exaggerations. Jimmy Carter's bad luck with the second OPEC oil price rise and the prolonged lran hostage mess were the biggest factors in Reagan's victory, which, in turn, "coattailed" Republicans to control of the Senate.
In recent years, Falwell became a lightning rod for reactions against the propaganda, policies, and practices of the religious and secular radical right and, thus, a liability to his sponsors.
The Moral Majority, after all, was actually the creation of radical right operators Richard Viguerie , Paul Weyrich, and Howard Phillips, two ultra right Catholics and an ultra right Jew who needed a Protestant fundamentalist televangelist as a front man to organize a bloc of fundamentalist voters.
Columnist Cal Thomas, who served as a vice-president of Moral Majority from 1980 to 1985, admitted in early November 1987:
"Many ofthe organization's [Moral Majority's] state chapters were little more than a name and a telephone number, the national office having decided to keep the money..... The Moral Majority is now little more than a fund raising machine and probably will be forced to close its doors, for all practical purposes, after the 1988 election."
According to an August 23, 1987, report in the Lynchburg, Virginia, News, during a recent three-year period, Falwell shifted more than $6.7 million in Moral Majority and Liberty Foundation funds over to his religious operations. The Lynchburg paper also reported that, of the $24 million collected by Falwell's political operations from1984 to 1986, "Financial records.... show no substantial [political] organizing or lobbying." Falwell biographer and White House domestic policy analyst Dinesh D'Souza says that Falwell provided "rhetorical leadership." Twentyfour-million-dollars worth?
Jerry Falwell may or may not be through with politics. This past November 3, he said that he would continue to "cry out against what I believe to be the moral cancers of our society," by which he presumably means freedom of conscience for women, religious neutrality in public education, church-state separation, opposition to apartheid in South Africa, the teaching of evolution in public schools, and so forth.
But whatever Falwell does in the future and however clownish he may have appeared in the past, the ideas and people he represented have become an important and enduring force in America. Falwell's views have been imbedded in the Republican party platform, to the distress of many Republicans, and are being espoused by Republican party presidential aspirants.
The forces represented by Jerry Falwell have pushed the political center somewhat to the right. The nation came uncomfortably close to having Robert Bork become the swing vote on the Suprerne Court. Bork's views were very largely those of Jerry Falwell wrapped in judicial robes. And the drive for "moral majoritarian" control of the Supreme Court is still not over.
Falwell and other fundamentalist authoritarians, including one who is campaigning hard for the Republican presidential nomination, have catalyzed formation of institutions and coalitions with extraordinary financial and personnel resources bent on remaking America in an image pleasing to Falwell, on politicizing religion, on perpetuating male dominance, and on wrecking our constitutional arrangement of church-state separation.
Falwell's friends have taken over the machinery of the largest Protestant denomination in America and have made common cause on abortion and the financing of education with the leaders of the largest religious denomination in the country.
Falwell's departure from the political scene may even lull liberals, moderates, and ordinary conservatives into a false sense of security and relief. But I hope not. Falwellism has taken on a life of its own and will need to be fought for many years to come.
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