The Rev. Jerry Falwell is considered the godfather of the Religious Right and for many years was the leader of the Moral Majority, the most prominent Religious Right group of the modern era.
Falwell died in May of 2007, leaving his fundamentalist Christian empire in the hands of his two sons, Jerry Jr. and Jonathan. Jerry Jr. serves as chancellor of Liberty University, while Jonathan pastors Thomas Road Baptist Church, a congregation that claims over 24,000 members and a television ministry.
The death of the elder Falwell has not slowed the growth of his ministries. Thomas Road remains a mega-church, and Liberty University (LU) has topped 11,000 in enrollment, with an additional 27,000 students taking courses online. Its chancellor, Jerry Jr., is currently attempting to forge LU students into a voting bloc that controls local elections in the community.
Liberty Law School Dean Mat Staver operates Liberty Counsel, a Religious Right legal advocacy group, from Lynchburg. The creation of this university, and the fundamentalist activists it unleashes on society every year, is likely to be Falwell’s most lasting legacy.
Politically, the Falwell boys are on the same page as their father. Jonathan Falwell told Baptist Press in June 2008 that his father would have supported John McCain, in the belief that the Supreme Court might overturn legal abortion if another justice or two are replaced.
“We are so close…we are one vote away from a court that would be a strict constructionist court [and] not one that tries to legislate from the bench,” he said.
Jonathan Falwell Quote: “As our nation has turned away from (and even become hostile toward) the Ten Commandments and other biblical principles, we have seen our citizenry become progressively more dishonest and deceptive. Crime has risen, our schools have failed and our culture has become vulgar and crude. I believe it’s all related to the ouster of God from our schools, our media and our society….” (Newsmax.com, April 18, 2008)