The Rev. Jerry Falwell has opened a fundamentalist Christian law school with high hopes training a crop of attorneys who will someday remake the nation in the Religious Right’s image.
The school, which will be unaccredited for at least three years, enrolled its first class of 61 in August. Most of the students were given scholarships to attend. There are six faculty members.
During a speech at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, Falwell boasted that the school will produce lawyers and judges who will reshape law in America.
“We are unabashedly proactive,” Falwell told the Dallas Morning News prior to the speech. “We are on a mission to return America to her religious heritage. We’re hoping we are training the lawyers who can turn the legal profession back to the right.”
In an interview with the Associated Press, Falwell added, “We want to infiltrate the culture with men and women of God who are skilled in the legal profession. We’ll be as far to the right as Harvard is to the left.”
Law School Dean Bruce Green told the AP that classroom lectures will merge the teachings of the Bible with the U.S. Constitution.
At Southwestern, Falwell said he decided to create a law school in part to respond to groups like Americans United.
“We curse the darkness; we’re against what the ACLU and Americans United are and what the crazy runaway liberal judges are doing,” he said. “We’re going to train a few thousand Christian attorneys who are just as radical as the preachers.”
Critics warned that the school may be colored by Falwell’s interpretation of the law, which often does not match reality. Last month, Falwell held a conference for ministers to encourage them to engage in politics. Falwell insists that electioneering activities are legal, even though the Internal Revenue Code bars tax-exempt groups from endorsing candidates.
Americans United pointed out that in 1993, the IRS revoked the tax-exempt status of Falwell’s Old Time Gospel Hour retroactively for the years 1986-87 after the ministry was found guilty of illegal politicking. Falwell had to pay $50,000 in back taxes and make changes to the structure of the group.
In other news about the Religious Right:
A far-right Catholic who was advising the Bush campaign stepped down in August after his involvement in sexual misconduct came to light. Deal W. Hudson, editor of Crisis magazine, resigned just before the National Catholic Reporter ran a story about his activities while a professor at Fordham University in 1994.
Cara Poppas, then an 18-year-old freshman, said she met with Hudson, then 45, to discuss some questions she had about the philosophy class he was teaching. Poppas said Hudson pressured her to go to a bar with him and other students that evening. She spent the night drinking there, then left with him around midnight, intoxicated. He took her to his office for sexual activity.
The next day, Poppas said, Hudson met with her at a McDonald’s and pressured her not to tell anyone. Later that year, Poppas, feeling harassed in the classroom by Hudson, went to university officials. Hudson left the school and later paid Poppas $30,000 to settle a lawsuit she had filed against him.
Hudson, who frequently attacks progressive Catholics in Crisis, refused to comment to the National Catholic Reporter. In a statement posted on National Review Online, Hudson said the story was brought up for political reasons.
“No one regrets my past mistakes more than I do,” he said. “At the time, I dealt with this in an upright manner, and the matter was satisfactorily resolved long ago.”
More revelations have come to light about former Christian Coalition Executive Director Ralph Reed’s acceptance of money to work on behalf of gambling interests.
The Nation reported July 12 that Reed worked on behalf of a Native American tribe in Louisiana that owns a casino and wanted to block another tribe from opening a competing gambling establishment. Members of the Coushatta Tribe, who operate a huge casino near Lake Charles, La., were worried that the other tribe’s casino would cut into the Coushatta’s action.
According to The Nation, lobbyists working for the Coushatta hired Reed to mobilize conservative Christians against the new casino, although Reed never made it known that another gambling establishment would benefit. It remains unclear how much Reed, who is currently working for the Bush re-election effort, was paid for his efforts. The Washington Post put the figure at more than $1 million, but a report in Roll Call had a considerably higher figure $3.8 million.
Reed now acknowledges that his Atlanta-based firm, Century Strategies, took the funds to mobilize ministers to oppose the proposed new casino, but he continues to fudge the issue. In a statement released to The Post, he insisted that Century Strategies has never accepted money from a casino company. Critics say that’s not the issue, since the money came from a lobbying firm fronting for the casino and that it’s unlikely Reed would not have known this.
“Ten Commandments” Judge Roy Moore of Alabama has a new gig: author. Moore, who lost his job as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court after he refused to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the courthouse, will chronicle his struggles in a book to be titled So Help Me God!
The tome is slated for publication by Broadman & Holman, an arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. Kenneth H. Stephens, president of Broadman & Holman called Moore “a brilliant jurist” whose book “will inform both those who agree and those who do not share his views.”
Americans United, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama and the Southern Poverty Law Center sued Moore to have the monument removed. Moore lost in federal court but defied a court order to remove the two-and-half-ton sculpture. That action led to his removal from the state high court.
It’s somewhat ironic that an SBC publishing firm is lionizing Moore. In August of 2003, Richard Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said he disagreed with the jurist’s decision to defy the federal court ruling.
“However much sympathy I may have for Judge Moore’s beliefs and convictions about the Ten Commandments and the role they have played in Western civilization and American jurisprudence, I am dismayed at the prospect of a judge defying a court order,” Land told Baptist Press. “One of the foundational principles of American law is that we believe in the rule of law.”