Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Comments on Rev. Jerry Falwell's Death.

It has to be a difficult time for Rev. Jerry Falwell's family right now. They are going to have to deal with an intense storm of media coverage, with bloviating from the left and the right, and much of it will not be pretty or complimentary. To have to grieve so publicly is not something to wish on anyone, particularly when the departed is a political lightning rod.

He was a towering icon of the religious right movement, and he has left quite a legacy -- one I cannot agree with in any form or fashion, nevertheless one cannot ignore his success at mobilizing a large portion of the electorate in ways that many organizations on the left have yet to do.

It's sad to hear, as of last week (in an interview with CNN), he stood by his 2001 comments that gays, lesbians, pro-choice advocates and feminists were to blame for 9/11.

Falwell was a controversial figure for his theological, political and social beliefs. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, Falwell said on the 700 Club, "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.'" Fellow evangelist Pat Robertson concurred with his sentiment.

After heavy criticism, Falwell apologized. As for homosexuality, Falwell remarked, "AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals." Falwell's ghostwriter, Mel White, said Falwell remarked about gay protesters, "Thank God for these gay demonstrators. If I didn't have them, I'd have to invent them. They give me all the publicity I need."

During the Civil Rights Movement, Falwell was a supporter of racial segregation. He said this about Martin Luther King: "I do question the sincerity and non-violent 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."

Falwell has also said, "Labor unions should study and read the Bible instead of asking for more money. When people get right with God, they are better workers."

In February 1999, an article in Falwell's National Liberty Journal suggested that a Teletubbies character, Tinky Winky, could be a hidden homosexual symbol, because the character was purple (which the article claimed was a color symbolic of homosexuality), had an inverted triangle on his head, and carried a handbag.

"The death of a family member or friend is always a sad occasion and we express our condolences to all those who were close to the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Unfortunately, we will always remember him as a founder and leader of America's anti-gay industry, someone who exacerbated the nation's appalling response to the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic, someone who demonized and vilified us for political gain and someone who used religion to divide rather than unite our nation." -- Matt Forman, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

"We extend to Reverend Falwell the simple dignity and deference that our own families seek as part of the American family. Reverend Falwell may have attempted to make himself our adversary with his own personal attacks and political campaigns, but we remember that he remained our neighbor. As we understand that each American should be treated equally under the law, we recognize that each neighbor should receive our respect. Our thoughts and our prayers are with his widow Macel, the Falwell family and the membership of Thomas Road Baptist Church."-- Jo Wyrick, Executive Director, National Stonewall Democrats


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