Falwell aimed to change judiciary
LYNCHBURG, Va. (BP)—Jerry Falwell’s funeral was May 22 at Thomas Road Baptist Church, the congregation he founded in Lynchburg, Va. Burial was private.
Falwell, 73, was a founder of the modern conservative Christian movement. He died of possible heart failure May 15, just four days before he was to preside over the Liberty University graduation ceremonies, including the first graduating class of the Liberty University School of Law. Graduation went on as planned May 19 with Newt Gingrich, a potential Republican candidate for president, as the keynote speaker.
“His life is a testimony not only to the power of faith to move hearts, but to the strength of the American ethos that stresses the importance of citizenship,” Gingrich said in a statement.
In a 2004 interview with The Pathway, Falwell talked about how excited he was back then that the new Liberty University law school would be opening in August. He said it would include 100 students and would hopefully expand to 450 in three years, with a goal of training students to attack judicial activism.
“We are appealing to young men and young ladies who are committed to both the Bible and the American Constitution,” said Falwell to a staff writer for The Pathway as they sat together in the pastor’s office at First Baptist Church, Arnold. “We want to train lawyers for the legislatures, for the judges’ benches—hopefully a Supreme Court justice one day.
“We’re training pastors, missionaries, evangelists, businessmen and women, educators, journalists and now lawyers. We need all of that—preachers to declare the truth, lawyers to make good laws.”
Instead of flowers, the Falwell family requested that memorials be made to the Founders Scholarship Fund at Liberty University “to further Dr. Falwell’s vision of spreading the Gospel around the world.”
Among the Americans paying tribute to Falwell was President Bush, who released a statement May 15 saying he and his wife Laura were “deeply saddened by the death of Jerry Falwell, a man who cherished faith, family and freedom.” Bush said Falwell “lived a life of faith and called upon men and women of all backgrounds to believe in God and serve their communities,” and at Liberty University Falwell “taught young people to remain true to their convictions and rely upon God’s word throughout each stage of their lives.”
Falwell started Thomas Road Baptist Church in 1956 with 35 members. Today the church has 24,000 members and the total annual revenues of all the Falwell ministries total over $200 million.
Within weeks of founding his new church in 1956, Falwell began the Old-Time Gospel Hour, a daily local radio ministry and a weekly local television ministry. Nearly five decades later, the Old-Time Gospel Hour is now seen and heard in every American home and on every continent except Antarctica. Through the years, over three million persons have communicated to the Falwell ministries that they received Christ as Lord and Savior as a result of this radio and television ministry.
In 1967, Falwell implemented his vision to build a Christian educational system for evangelical youth. He began with the creation of Lynchburg Christian Academy, a Christ-centered, academically excellent, fully accredited Christian day school providing kindergarten, elementary and high school. In 1971, Liberty University was founded. Today, over 21,500 students from 50 states and 80 nations attend this accredited, liberal arts Christian university. A pre-school child can now enter the school system at age 3, and 20 or more years later, leave the same campus with a Ph.D., without ever sitting in a classroom where the teacher was not a committed follower of Jesus Christ.
He also published the National Liberty Journal, a monthly newspaper which is read by over 200,000 pastors and Christian workers, and the Falwell Confidential, a weekly e-mail newsletter to over 500,000 pastors and Christian activists.
In June 1979, Falwell organized the Moral Majority, a conservative political lobbying movement which the press soon dubbed the “Religious Right.” During the first two years of its existence, the Moral Majority attracted over 100,000 pastors, priests, and rabbis and nearly seven million religious conservatives who mobilized as a pro-life, pro-family, pro-Israel, and pro-strong national defense lobbying organization. The Moral Majority chose California Governor Ronald Reagan as “their candidate” for president in 1980, registered millions of new voters, and set about to inform and activate a sleeping giant—80 million Americans committed to faith, family, and Judeo-Christian values.
Millions of people of faith voted for the first time in 1980 and helped elect Reagan and many conservative congressmen and senators. Since 1979, about 30 percent of the American electorate has been identified by media polls as the “Religious Right.”