The Rev. Jonathan Falwell appears to be picking up from
where his father, the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, left off.
In his first contribution as a regular weekend columnist for
the conservative online publication, WorldNetDaily, Falwell issued a
dad-like attack on the liberal media while making a spirited defense of best
selling author/provocateur Ann Coulter. Falwell accused the traditional media
of consistently distorting her remarks. Volunteering his support for the
embattled Coulter, Falwell wrote: "As long as you continue to contradict
the policies of the mainstream . . . you will carry a target on your back. This
is a truth my dad, Jerry Falwell, experienced almost daily throughout his 51
years in ministry."
"It is apparent that when you stand up for conservative
values, you will be ridiculed. But as my dad often said, we are not called to
be popular, we are called to be faithful.
"Ann, rest assured, there are millions of people in
this nation who appreciate your willingness to step into hostile fire to point
out the inconsistencies of the mainstream media. May you be bolstered by our
prayers and well wishes."
Attacking the media is nothing new for Jonathan Falwell. He
learned to spin defending his father's now infamous post-9/11 remarks --
comments that were resuscitated in most Falwell obituaries. In an appearance on
Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network's 700 Club shortly
after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Jerry
Falwell told Robertson's audience: "The abortionists have got to bear some
burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million
little innocent babies, we make God mad. 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.'"
Criticized by nearly all quarters of society, Falwell issued
a series of half-hearted apologies. Soon after, however, Jonathan Falwell
penned a letter to his father's supporters, which claimed that it was the
liberal media that "seized on this opportunity to trash Dad's deeply held
Christian [values] and to literally attack him day and night . . . It seems
that Satan launched a hail of fiery darts at Dad recently." Jonathan asked
that "Vote of Confidence" donations be sent in support of his
In early July of this year, Jonathan Falwell, along with
several other conservative Christian evangelical leaders, held a historic
meeting with ambassadors from several Middle Eastern countries at the Egyptian
embassy in Washington, D.C. The meet-up centered on two issues: The Americans
focused on the issue of religious freedom in Muslim countries, and the
ambassadors wanted to know whether Christians could become more
"balanced" in their support of Israel.
Among the conservative evangelicals in attendance at the
meeting -- organized by the flamboyant Pentecostal evangelist Benny Hinn,
founder of Benny Hinn Ministries -- was Gordon Robertson, son of televangelist
Pat Robertson and vice president of Internet Media for the Christian
Broadcasting Network and co-host of the 700 Club; Paul Crouch Jr., son
of Trinity Broadcasting Network founder Paul Crouch, Sr., and vice president of
administration for the network; Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental
affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).
Also in attendance was Ron Godwin, executive vice president
of Liberty University; German evangelist Reinhard Bonnke, Founder of Christ for
All Nations; former NAE President Don Argue; Vernon Brewer, president of the
Forest, Va., relief organization World Help; Joshua Youssef, son of
Egyptian-born evangelist Michael Youssef, pastor of Church of the Apostles in
Atlanta; and Ralph Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition
who is currently chairman and chief executive officer of Century Strategies.
Reed, a longtime political consultant to the Republican Party, is perhaps the
most prominent figure on the Christian right who has been closely associated
with the now imprisoned GOP uberlobbyist Jack Abramoff.
In addition to the
meeting's host, Nabil Fahmy, ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the
United States, others representing Middle eastern countries were Farid Abboud
(Ambassador of Lebanon), Hussein Hassouna (Ambassador of the League of Arab
States), Nasser Al Belooshi (Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain), Amine
Kherbi (Ambassador of Algeria), Ali Aujali (Ambassador of Libya), Samir
Sumaid'ie (Ambassador of Iraq), Nabil El- Dakheel (Deputy Chief of Mission,
Embassy of the State of Kuwait), Abdel Hakim Al-Eryani (Deputy Chief of
Mission, Embassy of Yemen), Mahmoour Al- Hinaei (Deputy Chief of Mission,
Embassy of the Sultan of Oman), Ms. Laila Alaoui (PR Counselor, Embassy of the
King of Morocco), and Ashraf Salama (Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of the
Arab Republic of Egypt).
In a column posted at The Moral Majority Coalition's
website, Falwell pointed out that this was the first small step in what he saw
as a long process: "We all agreed that this would not be the last meeting.
We promised that this dialogue would continue, that we were willing to visit
their countries, meet their people, and attempt to continue the conversation to
build a more peaceful future for our children and theirs. . . . This truly was
a historic meeting."
Jonathan Falwell is the executive vice president of
spiritual affairs at Liberty University -- the school his father founded -- and
was recently named senior pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg,
Va., where his father held forth for more than 50 years. In addition to his new
column at WorldNetDaily, Falwell has been contributing to NewsMax.com,
another right wing online news service.
In mid-June Falwell participated in "The Jamestown
Quadricentennial" -- an alternative commemoration of the founding of the
Jamestown colony 400 years ago -- an event described by the Americans United
for Separation of Church and State blog as "a Christian Reconstructionist
gathering." The six-day celebration "provided platforms for a slew of
Christian Reconstructionists," including American Vision founder Gary
DeMar and Doug Philips, the son of Conservative Caucus and Constitution Party
founder Howard Philips and who is the head of Vision Forum.
Americans United pointed out that when Jonathan Falwell
quoted a speech written by his father Jerry, he "regurgitated the
Religious Right's seriously flawed talking pints on American history."
Falwell maintained that it was necessary to fight efforts by "those who
want to ignore, or rewrite, our nation's Christian heritage."
In an interview with Newsweek's Alexandra Gekas
published in May, Jonathan commented on his father's legacy, his own future
involvement in politics, and President Bush's record. His father was "an
irreplaceable man," Falwell said. "God used him in incredible ways
and I don't think that I can fill his shoes. God gave me certain skills, so I
am going to stand up and do what God has equipped me to do, but filling his
shoes is not something that I, or I believe anyone else, could do."
Gekas asked him whether he "plan[ed] to be a political
leader [like his father] as well as a religious one. Falwell said that his
father 'was the forefather of the religious right,' and that 'there are many
people speaking for the church,'" these days. He intended "to speak
out on issues like he [his father] did from the pulpit, but with regard to
politics I think his level of involvement is not as much needed today as 20 to
30 years ago when he started."
He then proceeded to reject the idea of the separation of
church and state saying that "the word separation is not in the
constitution," and that it is "important for the church, but the
separation clause that everyone claims is there doesn't exist."
The interview closed with Falwell praising the job that
President Bush has done in keeping his "promises" to the American
people. According to Falwell, Bush has kept his promises to "defend our
freedoms, to protect us and to lead us . . ." Falwell added that Bush has
done an "amazing" job "protecting our country against terrorism,"
and he said that "he is against abortion and partial-birth abortion and he
did that and it [the partial-birth abortion ban] went through the courts and
the Supreme Court."
Americans United's blog post on Jonathan Falwell was
headlined "Reconstructing History: Is Jonathan Falwell More Rad Than
Dad?" The post concluded by asking whether Falwell's appearance at the
Christian Reconstructionist-organized Jamestown event was revelatory "of
his religious political agenda."
"Christian Reconstructionists occupy the farthest
fringes of the already radical Religious Right," Americans United's blog
pointed out. "They call for fundamentalist Christianity to govern all
facets of life in America. They see a society where women are subservient to
men and where gays and others considered heretics are suppressed. In a
nutshell, Reconstructionists want to replace democracy with a harsh theocracy.
Is it possible that Jonathan's viewpoint is even more radical than his
Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement and a frequent
writer for Media Transparency.
He documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of
the American Right.