A new “vote Christian” fund-raising campaign by the Rev. Jerry Falwell has sparked controversy.
Falwell announced the campaign in a fund-raising letter that has been circulating nationwide since the spring. The four-page letter, which traces the history of Falwell’s involvement with the Religious Right, comes accompanied by two “I Vote Christian” bumper stickers advertising a new Falwell Web site, www.faithandvalues.us. The material is being sent under the auspices of a new Falwell front group, the Moral Majority Coalition.
In the letter, Falwell wrote, “Yes, it is time to finish the job I started more than 25 years ago. It’s time to rewrite the vision to return America to moral sanity. Our goal is to utilize the momentum of the sweeping conservative mandate of the November 2, 2004 elections to maintain a faith and values ‘revolution’ of voters who will continue to go to the polls to ‘vote Christian’ and call America back to God. I need your help to make this happen!”
Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, took issue with Falwell’s approach.
“Reverend Falwell’s recent statements are directly at odds with the American ideal and should be rejected,” Foxman said in a press release. “Understanding the danger of combining religion and politics, our Founding Fathers wisely created a political system based on individual merit and religious inclusiveness.”
Foxman called on Falwell to “retract his divisive and un-American call to action. Appeals to voters should not be on the basis of religion, nor should a candidate’s religious beliefs be a litmus test for public office.”
Falwell is apparently backing down. He told the Lynchburg News & Advance that the appeal had been misunderstood but that he plans to discontinue it anyway.
“What I was saying was for conservative Christians to vote their values, which are pro-life and pro-family,” Falwell said. “I had no intention of being anti-Jewish at all.”
In other news about Falwell:
• The Lynchburg TV preacher has accused Americans United of filing an Internal Revenue Service complaint against him that AU never filed. Recently, Falwell was informed that he has been cleared of accusations of partisan politicking levied against him after a speech he gave at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth in August of 2004.
Americans United did not believe that speech was partisan enough to warrant an IRS complaint. One month before the speech, however, AU did alert the IRS to an e-mail Falwell sent out through his ministry endorsing Bush. That complaint remains active.
Falwell remains convinced AU was behind the Fort Worth report and has accused the organization of lying about it.