Born and raised in America's segregated South, Jerry Falwell (1933-2007) preached that racial segregation was the Lord's will, but dropped such overt racism from his perspective when it became unpopular to say such things aloud. Still, from his pulpit Falwell supported South African apartheid, and opposed Nelson Mandela's release from prison. In one of his earliest appearances in the national media, Falwell made headlines by criticizing Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. for his political activism. "Preachers are not called to be politicians but to be soul winners," said the young Falwell. In 1971, Falwell founded Lynchburg Baptist College, later called Liberty University.
Rev. Jerry Lamon Falwell was notorious for making ignorant and offensive pronouncements which were often followed by retractions and half-hearted apologies. A shining example of this was the statement Falwell made two days after the September 11, 2001 WTC terror attacks, while the wreckage at Ground Zero was still smoking: "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, I point the finger in their face and say: you helped this happen." After withstanding a couple of days of tremendous public denunciations (even from conservative ally Rush Limbaugh), Falwell was ultimately forced to issue a non-apology. Falwell tried his best to defuse the situation without actually backing down: "I would never blame any human being except the terrorists, and if I left that impression with gays or lesbians or anyone else, I apologize."
In 1979, Falwell was a founder of the Moral Majority, a political action umbrella group that sought to enact Falwell's version of Bible-based values as American law. The group, like Falwell, was opposed to women's rights, legalized abortion, homosexuals, and pornography (which Falwell defined very broadly), and in favor of thinly-veiled censorship of artwork or organizations that expressed different opinions. The Moral Majority campaigned for public school reform, by which they meant the inclusion of Young Earth Creationism in science curricula and state-mandated prayer in the classroom. They also opposed the SALT treaties and nuclear disarmament in general. The Moral Majority disbanded in 1989. Falwell ignored: The United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion (The Treaty of Tripoli, 1797 – Signed unanimously by Congress).
Falwell sued Larry Flynt's Hustler magazine in 1984 for libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress, for a satirical page in the magazine wherein a caricature of Falwell remembered his first sexual encounter - with his mother, in an outhouse. Three courts heard the case, and while the lawsuit worked its way toward the U.S. Supreme Court, Flynt stubbornly had Hustler re-publish the same article. America's highest court ruled in 1988 that Falwell was a public figure and thus fair game for satire. In the early 2000s Falwell twice sued an internet site for mocking him, alleging trademark violations and libel, but both complaints were thrown out of court.
In 1987, when fellow televangelist Jim Bakker was convicted of fraud and imprisoned, Falwell maneuvered behind the scenes (and around Jimmy Swaggart) to take control of Bakker's Praise The Lord (PTL) TV ministry. While Bakker was in prison, Falwell led PTL into bankruptcy. Falwell criticized the children's TV show Teletubbies because he believed Tinky Winky was a homosexual. In 1997, when Ellen DeGeneres came out as gay, Falwell called her "Ellen Degenerate" and demanded that sponsors yank their advertising from her sitcom. "AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals," preached Falwell
In 1994 Falwell quietly accepted $3.5 million from Korean cult messiah Sun Myung Moon as part of a larger deal to bail Liberty University out from under its horrendous debt load. That might be the reason why Falwell publicly urged his Alzheimer's-afflicted buddy Ronald Reagan to pardon Moon's tax evasion conviction. Falwell was criticized in the Christian community for lending legitimacy to Moon's organization. Moon had always claimed that he was Jesus Christ's successor and moral superior. It was inconceivable that a fundamentalist Christian like Falwell would regard Moon as anything other than a blasphemer. In a 2004 party held in the U.S. Senate offices in Washington DC, several Congressmen and Senators of both parties were present to toast him as Moon was coronated "humanity's savior, messiah, returning lord and true parent". Capitalist sacrilegious pigs!