Jonathan Falwell on the march
By Bill Berkowitz
Online Journal Guest Writer

Aug 7, 2007, 00:25

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 father's work.

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, 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 father's?"

Bill 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.

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