Falwell, politics and religion

TV preacher ready to battle on church's tax-exempt status

Decatur Daily/August 5, 2004
By Eric Fleischauer and Melanie Smith

If the "complaining, left-wing liberals who work for the Democratic National Committee" want a court battle with the Rev. Jerry Falwell over his church's tax-exempt status, the Baptist preacher has two words:

"Let's go."

Falwell, who preached to about 1,000 people at a revival service at Decatur Baptist Church on Wednesday, said in an interview before the event that he believes members of organizations like Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union are hypocrites.

He used Democratic running mates John Kerry and John Edwards in his example.

"Every Sunday, Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards are in African-American churches where they are being introduced as the next president and the next vice president of the United States," Falwell said. "I think those churches have every right to bring (them) to their pulpit. I also believe that churches like this one, conservative, evangelic churches, have the same right to voice their convictions and speak out."

Tax-exempt status

Falwell and several nonprofit corporations with which he is affiliated are the target of lawsuits challenging their tax-exempt status. The lawsuits were filed because Falwell endorsed President Bush from the pulpit and in newsletters.

At 70, Falwell said he is too old to let lawsuits intimidate him.

"Not one church, not one ever in history," Falwell said, "has ever lost its tax-exempt status. I don't think one ever will."

Falwell said he has been "cussing" the ACLU for years. He said he is starting a law school at his Liberty University to train students to take on judges who "throw the Ten Commandments out of the courthouse. ... I want to train radicals on the right to fight those radicals on the left."

Falwell said, "The church is really the only hope for the country. ... Unless the church takes a bold stand, this country is in serious, serious trouble."

Family values

Among the sources of that trouble, Falwell said, is the breakdown of the family and "reckless federal judges ... who ignore the law and the Constitution, who overrule the will of the people and the will of legislatures."

Falwell said he supports Bush for re-election "primarily because he is pro-life and pro-family. ... I'm not a Republican or a Democrat. I vote Christian. I wouldn't vote for my mother if she were pro-choice, and likewise anyone who's not in favor of a federal marriage amendment to protect the family, as Mr. Kerry is not."

Falwell did not address whether he believes Kerry, a Roman Catholic, is a Christian.

Falwell said he would not endorse Bush while in Decatur, "but somewhere I might say vote for the Bush of your choice."


While Falwell said churches should not ordain homosexuals, he said church members should love them.

"While we do not approve of homosexuality, we very much care for and love homosexuals," Falwell said, "in the same way we would love adulterers and anybody who lives in sin."

"A practicing homosexual," Falwell continued, "is one who not only has a problem, but who is practicing that problem."

Speaking of the recent ordination of a homosexual by the Episcopal church, Falwell complained that "there are liberal persons who found themselves in the hierarchy of many denominations. That doesn't make (homosexuality) right. It does not change the rules. We must do the right thing."

The revival was the first of four that Decatur Baptist will have each Wednesday night in August. The event was free to the public, although the church encouraged donations to offset the cost of bringing Falwell.

Compromising morals

Falwell said he fears churches are too careful to avoid moral stands.

"I think the church makes a mistake in compromising biblical truth to avoid controversy. We need to lovingly stand for what is right and against what is wrong. At the same time, we need to compassionately help those who are ensnared. ... We need to walk that fine line - not hostile to anyone, but clearly opposed to sin," Falwell said.

Falwell said his condemnation of homosexuality is not the same as a condemnation of homosexuals.

"I'm one pastor among hundreds of thousands in America," Falwell said. "Every one of us is a sinner saved by grace, or should be."

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