IFAS | Freedom Writer | January/February 1999 | falwell.html

Falwell: the 'smiling face of religious bigotry'

Lynchburg, Virginia The Rev. Jerry Falwell recently made waves when he said the Antichrist is alive today and is Jewish. The Antichrist is a mythical figure who fundamentalists believe will briefly rule the world in the near future. His power will come, they believe, by pretending to be Christ. Since Jesus was Jewish, it is only logical that such a character would also be Jewish. Falwell's statement is certain to cause fundamentalists to view with great suspicion any current or future world-renowned Jewish leaders.

In partisan politics, Falwell is betting on George W. Bush as the next Republican presidential nominee. "Whether it's George W. Bush, John Ashcroft, or Steve Forbes, the Baptists will be a force in getting them elected," according to Falwell. He added that he believes Texas Governor George W. Bush is presently the leading prospect for the Republican presidential nominee in 2000.

"It's too early to predict, but I think it's George W. Bush's nomination to lose," Falwell said. "He has a kind and gentle quality, and maybe even more charisma than his father."

Falwell, a life-long independent Baptist, recently joined the Southern Baptist Convention. He said, "Southern Baptists, with 15 million members strong, are a force to be reckoned with."

Also of late, the Rev. Falwell has been trying to convert the Republican's latest nemesis, Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler magazine. Flynt, an admitted "smut peddler," has been wreaking havoc on the Republican Party by outing congressional Republicans who have had previously undisclosed adulterous relationships. Flynt assured the Freedom Writer that he would never give in to Falwell's conversion attempts.

Meanwhile, attorney Alan M. Dershowitz says Falwell should resign from leadership of his 22,000-member church because he lied about his criticism of actress Ellen DeGeneres. Dershowitz, in his Penthouse column, said that Falwell said he would resign his pastorate if he ever compromised his integrity by "not telling the truth."

Dershowitz said he confronted Falwell about hate speech on Geraldo Rivera's show, in light of Matthew Shepard's brutal murder. He said Falwell referred to the lesbian actress as "Elllen Degenerate." Falwell denied making the statement, but Dershowitz presented a tape of his speech at the annual legislative conference of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, in Albany, New York, last spring.

"Falwell can still redeem himself," Dershowitz wrote. "By resigning from his church he can show that he was telling the truth when he said he would resign if he were ever caught not telling the truth. If he refuses to resign, he will have lied again. Why do I doubt that Falwell will keep his word this time?

"Whatever Jerry Falwell decides to do, the rest of us must recognize him for what he really is: the smiling face of religious bigotry. This smug and self-righteous hater who incites violence against a vulnerable minority must not be 'admired.' He must be condemned."

© 1999 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.