The Rev. Jerry Fal­well

The Washington Times Weekly - - EDITORIALS -

In 1979, the Rev. Jerry Fal­well, the pas­tor of a con­gre­ga­tion he or­ga­nized in Lynch­burg, Va., founded a po­lit­i­cal ad­vo­cacy group called the Moral Ma­jor­ity. It would have a last­ing ef­fect on Amer­i­can pol­i­tics. Mr. Fal­well mo­bi­lized so­cially con­ser­va­tive Chris­tian vot­ers and turned them into an ef­fec­tive vot­ing bloc, help­ing to elect Ron­ald Rea­gan in 1980 and 1984. The Moral Ma­jor­ity dis­solved in 1989, but the mo­bi­lized re­li­gious con­ser­va­tives, the so-called val­ues vot­ers, helped carry Pres­i­dent Bush to vic­tory in 2000 and 2004. Mr. Fal­well died May 15 af­ter col­laps­ing in his of­fice at Lib­erty Univer­sity, but for years to come his legacy of po­lit­i­cally in­vig­o­rat­ing re­li­gious vot­ers will con­tinue to shape the ter­rain of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics for the bet­ter.

Mr. Fal­well was vi­tal to bring­ing evan­gel­i­cals who had pre­vi­ously held them­selves above pol­i­tics into the sec­u­lar po­lit­i­cal arena. Said Ralph Reed of Mr. Fal­well: “He gave a voice to con­ser­va­tive peo­ple of faith who had pre­vi­ously been marginal­ized in our pol­i­tics.” He did it largely by talk­ing about the is­sues, trans­lat­ing wide­spread op­po­si­tion to Roe v. Wade, for in­stance, into votes for those who op­pose — or would ap­point judges who op­pose — the egre­gious Supreme Court rul­ing.

Rep. Bar­ney Frank once quipped that anti-abor­tion ac­tivists and leg­is­la­tors seemed to be­lieve that life be­gins at con- cep­tion and ends at birth. That could not be said of Mr. Fal­well, who worked to pro­vide a home for un­wed moth­ers to en­cour­age young women to con­sider adop­tion, not abor­tion. “For 18 years, we have owned and op­er­ated the Lib­erty God­par­ent Foun­da­tion here in Lynch­burg, Vir­ginia — a home for un­wed moth­ers, mostly teenaged girls, and about 1,200 homes around the na­tion that in­ter­face with us,” he said on the Fox News Chan­nel show “Han­nity and Colmes” in 1999. “We have there­fore talked to thou­sands of young ladies. We’ve placed for adop­tion hun­dreds of ba­bies.”

Mr. Fal­well’s teach­ing legacy will be pre­served through Lib­erty Univer­sity. The school he founded in Lynch­burg in 1971 un­der a dif­fer­ent name grew to be one of the largest fully ac­cred­ited Chris­tian univer­si­ties, with 9,600 stu­dents on cam­pus and more than 17,000 en­rolled in its dis­tance learn­ing pro­gram. Mr. Fal­well’s con­gre­ga­tion, Thomas Road Bap­tist Church, which he founded in 1956, has en­rolled 22,000 mem­bers.

Mr. Fal­well’s in­flu­ence on Amer­i­can pol­i­tics will be last­ing, but his most en­dur­ing legacy will be how he taught and lived his faith. His church and the univer­sity that grew from it will project that legacy for the years and decades to come. This is the legacy that a min­is­ter of the Gospel lives to leave be­hind. We will miss him.

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