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Weyrich hoped to produce a well-funded evangelical lobbying outfit that could lend grassroots muscle to the top-heavy Republican Party and effectively mobilize the vanquished forces of massive resistance into a new political bloc.In discussions with Falwell, Weyrich cited various social ills that necessitated evangelical involvement in politics, particularly abortion, school prayer and the rise of feminism. “I was trying to get those people interested in those issues and I utterly failed,” Weyrich recalled in an interview in the early 1990s.
No pastors invoked the Dred Scott decision to undermine the legal justification for abortion.As with his positions on abortion and homosexuality, the basso profondo preacher’s own words on race stand as vivid documents of his legacy.Falwell launched on the warpath against civil rights four years after the Supreme Court’s Brown v.Only after Sloan sued did Falwell cough up the money.Falwell uttered countless epithets over his long life–in 1999 he warned that Tinky Winky, a character on the children’s show Teletubbies, might be gay–but his most infamous remark arrived on the morning of 9/11, after the terrorist attacks, when he proclaimed, “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.James Kennedy, Pat Robertson and Tim La Haye, Falwell’s organization hoisted the banner of the “pro-family” movement, declaring war on abortion and homosexuality.
But were it not for the federal government’s attempts to enable little black boys and black girls to go to school with little white boys and white girls, the Christian right’s culture war would likely never have come into being.
As Perkins wrote of Falwell in a newsletter after his death, “He was a pioneer whose legacy, marked by courage and candor, blazed the trail for all men and women of conviction to engage–boldly–on the great questions of our day.” But for Falwell, the “questions of the day” did not always relate to abortion and homosexuality–nor did they begin there.
Decades before the forces that now make up the Christian right declared their culture war, Falwell was a rabid segregationist who railed against the civil rights movement from the pulpit of the abandoned backwater bottling plant he converted into Thomas Road Baptist Church.
This opening episode of Falwell’s life, studiously overlooked by his friends, naïvely unacknowledged by many of his chroniclers, and puzzlingly and glaringly omitted in the obituaries of the Washington Post and New York Times, is essential to understanding his historical significance in galvanizing the Christian right.
Indeed, it was race–not abortion or the attendant suite of so-called “values” issues–that propelled Falwell and his evangelical allies into political activism.
“What changed their mind was Jimmy Carter’s intervention against the Christian schools, trying to deny them tax-exempt status on the basis of so-called de facto segregation.” In 1979, at Weyrich’s behest, Falwell founded a group that he called the Moral Majority.