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Evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr. has been criticized for behavior many call hypocritical to the faith teachings he espouses. 

Jerry Falwell Jr., son of legendary evangelist Jerry Falwell, is out at the evangelical Liberty University he’s presided over for 13 years. His ouster comes quick on the heels of a shocking sex scandal accusation.

Salacious details of the alleged scandal aside, the incident – and the public's reaction to it – underscores the outsized influence the Falwell family has had on American society over the past 50 years. 

The family is a polarizing force, simultaneously loved and hated; the Falwells' biggest fans were shocked by the news, while their critics relished in it. 

Bringing Faith to Politics

The Falwell family became some of the first faith figures to trade in the politics of morality, and their imprint on politics and culture is genuinely immeasurable. Jerry Falwell Sr. founded Liberty University, one of the world’s largest evangelical Christian universities, and was one of the most famous evangelists on the planet for decades.

The Falwells also espouse a judgmental and outspoken brand of Christianity, one that takes every culture war issue and turns the dial up to 11. That strategy ultimately proved popular with many American Christians, as Falwell can be almost single-handedly credited for increasing Christian influence in politics and bringing the evangelicals to the Republican Party, gift-wrapping a massive voting bloc to his party of choice for a generation. 

The Moral Majority

Jerry Falwell Sr.’s religious career began in 1956, when at the age of 22 he founded Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. He led that church from a small membership of 35 into a megachurch, and later founded Liberty Christian Academy and Liberty University, cementing his status as one of the nation’s most prominent evangelicals.

Unlike many evangelists of his day, Falwell was politically active in the 50s and 60s, fighting against Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights campaign, opposing desegregation, and regularly featuring segregationists like George Wallace on his radio and television program, The Old Time Gospel Hour.

His own school, Liberty Christian Academy, was itself a segregation academy, a private school for white parents to send their children to avoid desegregated public schools.

But following a 1978 IRS decision to remove tax-exempt status from private, all-white universities - like Liberty Christian Academy - he doubled down on politics, feeling the government was overreaching, and that he had every right to keep African-Americans out of his schools. "In some states it's easier to open a massage parlor than to open a Christian school,” he once lamented.

Utterly incensed by the IRS ruling, he founded the “Moral Majority”, a group which mobilized conservative Christians to vote in presidential elections. They were wildly successful in their goal - at their height they were one of the largest lobbying groups in Washington, and scholars credit their mobilization efforts for conservative wins throughout the 1980s, including a heavy influence in the election of Ronald Reagan.

What Makes Morality?

For all their trumpeting of moral righteousness, the Falwell family has their share of stains. There was the time Falwell Sr. was caught on tape calling gay-friendly churches "brute beasts" and "a vile and Satanic system." He also predicted they will "one day be utterly annihilated and there will be a celebration in heaven."

Falwell then lied about the tape and was taken to court by gay rights activist Jerry Sloan, where he was forced to pay damages. Falwell appealed, arguing that he didn't get a fair ruling because the judge was Jewish. He lost again. 

Perhaps due to this type of behavior, the Falwells became the target of many secular critics who thought them hypocritical and unsavory.

And they found ways to jab back.

A Falwell parody ad in Hustler Magazine
A parody interview in Hustler Magazine, 1983 (Source: Wikipedia)

In 1983, Hustler magazine published a parody interview with Falwell Sr. in which he admits that his "first time" was an incestuous act with his mother in an outhouse. Furious, Falwell filed a libel lawsuit for $45 million. The suit was thrown out. 

Falwell’s later legacy includes some of the late 20th and early 21st century’s most memorable political hits, including “AIDS is God’s punishment for homosexuals,” “feminists did 9/11,” and “the purple Teletubby is gay.” 

A Legacy Tarnished?

In that sense, this recent drama with Falwell Jr. represents only the latest chapter in a complicated family history. Falwell Jr.’s current situation – embroiled in a lewd sex scandal, credible accused of comitting acts that Liberty University’s honor code prohibits students from doing on risk of expulsion – is emblematic of one sticking point many hold against the Falwell brand of evangelicals: their sometimes blatant hypocrisy.

So perhaps the question now becomes: how much respect do those who can't practice what they preach deserve? By applying the rules of morality "to thee but not to me", does Falwell Jr. risk turning people away from the church entirely? 

44 comments

  1. Tom Thackrey's Avatar Tom Thackrey

    Perhaps if Falwell had more belief in God and less belief he was God his fall wouldn't have been so far. There is a reason for humility.

  1. Paul J. Fumero's Avatar Paul J. Fumero

    Perfect case of using religion, God and Jesus as a marketing product to make money of fools... Mega Churches Religious Universities. Better off believing in gnomes and fairies. What right does his idiot who professes Jesus all the time and behind close doors does the devil's work have in telling ANYONE how to conduct their lives? American Evangelism is the Devil's secret weapon. When politicized is a force of destruction. Christianity in America in its present path will disappear within 100 years BECAUSE is based on false teachings. The real Jesus never taught such crap. Besides most of what he learned was from Buddhism in India LOL I can hear some fainting and church women getting the vapors... It is not about any religion but in how one relates to the Source of All. There is no religion there because it simply IS.

    1. Theresa C. Powell's Avatar Theresa C. Powell

      Paul........well stated.......I so agree!

  1. Brenten Stevens's Avatar Brenten Stevens

    And how many times have we seen this play out in the past of high on the hill pastors ? I’m 58 I’ve seen my share ... Money =power=corruption ....each of us have our own sins or perceived by others as sins . Put a man up on a pedestal they will fall depends on how high that pedestal is . This is the #1 reason I ended my practice of faith in any organized Christian religion . It also steps into politics all of it is corrupt and hypocritical . I’ll let you decide whom you worship but for myself Yeshua ( Jesus ) did not require any organized group of hypocrites pretending to love one another .

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      I guess this means you didn't vote for Pat Robertson, did you Brenten? I'll admit that very many years ago I was once gullable enough to lay my hands on the TV, and pray with Pat to quit smoking. Hang on while I take another drag. And no, I didn't vote for him,.iether!

  1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

    Isn't this very similar to what Jim Backer did? Remember Hermitage USA? And the women Jim Backer and his co-worker drugged and rapped a 10 year employee.
    Spectacular Failures podcast will refresh your memory if you forgot what the Baker did. https://www.spectacularfailures.org/episode/2019/06/17/a-christian-theme-park-plunges-into-scandal

    Can anyone tell me why these ministers, men of God, commit these crimes? Anyone remember the Louisiana minister who admitted to his congratulation he rapped a 15 year girl when he was 25 and received a standing ovation? What's wrong with "Christian" people?

    Jim Baker, Ted Haggard, Jimmy Swaggart, Marcus Lamb, Bill Gothard, Tony Alamo Bob, Coy, Dave Reynolds, Michael Hintz , and the list goes on. Are all of these people who minister to millions doing the work of the devil? Or are they just criminals who should all committed sex crimes.

    1. Keith Alan Stockton's Avatar Keith Alan Stockton

      Preacher man talking on TV, puttin' down the rock and roll Wants me to send a donation, 'cause he's worried about my soul He said, "Jesus walked on the water.", and I know that it's true But sometimes I think that preacher man, would like to do a little walkin' too -- Charlie Daniels

  1. Clay Serenbetz's Avatar Clay Serenbetz

    This is what happens when self-righteous right-wing leaders have their true beliefs exposed (e.g. Jim Bakker). They're exposed as con men. The real travesty is when they purportedly repent their sins and claim that they've cleaned up their act. They use piety as a con. They don't follow the message in the Bible to love one another, to welcome strangers, to truly accept others as God made them. Instead, like the Donald, the use religion as a prop, they use division as a tool, the engender hate of the needy and those seeking shelter from persecution. They engender hate, while preying on your fears.

  1. James Grainger's Avatar James Grainger

    There is a reason the founding fathers chose to separate church and state. A religious man can't survive in politics.

    1. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

      Must disagree - look at the current US president - a religious politician that holds the bible in one hand and protected by riot police as he does so. 🤣🤣🤣

      1. The Rev. William C, Millhouse's Avatar The Rev. William C, Millhouse

        He only worships himself and the Almighty Dollar--That is his religion.

      2. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

        That's right, Mike. A politician can fake being religious. Anything to win votes.

  1. Elder Eugene E Andy Jr.'s Avatar Elder Eugene E Andy Jr.

    So it be!

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    I never liked Jerry Falwell, even during the years when I was a Christian, but didn't despise him anymore (or less) than Billy Graham. However, I always got a kick out of the Jim and Tammy Fae Baker Comedy Hour. I can't even recall hearing of Falwell Jr., But I'm glad he was ousted, hope it brings dishonor to him and his worthless father, and hope it makes him turn in his grave!

  1. Matthew Arzano's Avatar Matthew Arzano

    It's not the "sin" that offends me. It's the sloppiness. If you're going to commit acts contrary to what you have the nerve to condemn in public, PLAY THE GAME LIKE A PRO and don't get caught! High profile amateurs deserve their shame.

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    Most of us are usually a bunch of irreverent smart-asses, who don't even play by Robert's Rules Of Order.

  1. Christine Marie Callahan's Avatar Christine Marie Callahan

    I read the comments below & your correct. No Preacher, Priest, Pastor or Religious Leader, needs millions & millions of dollars to actually minister, to those in need. But yet, here they are , on tv stating “ I need your donations to do what God, tells me to “. Or the one who stated, God told me I need a bigger, faster plane, to get around faster. So all of my followers will have to follow God’s instructions.... Do you really think God told him this ??? They will all be exposed by their own greed, lies, evil ways, one by one. There’s Gods answer.... Jesus walked mile by mile, small canoe, donkey etc.... Did he ask for money, trinkets, etc, no. All he wanted was to have your ear, to listen, to show you Gods way, pure goodness.... All that each of us can do, is the same, in modern times. Not preach or over talk another, just simple conversation, listening to them, try to help give suggestions. You may find, they will seek you out, maybe not right away, but they will remember, you took the time to listen to their problems, and tried to help them.... and return.... maybe a little hesitant at first, so meet them and welcome them... You have just brought a lost lamb back to Jesus....

  1. Teresia Pederson's Avatar Teresia Pederson

    PERSONALLY, I cant stand Jerry Falwell Sr and never could. He makes me sick with all of of his hateful and aggressive remarks about people. He just spews out prejudice & hate, he loves to instill fear about hell, fire and damnation in the minds of our believers. Their followers are so paranoid, and confused about what they should be doing and thinking to please God, they cannot relax and follow Gods word and be relaxed, totally scared to death that if they don't make severe sacrifices they will go to Hell. ITS DISTORTED! He gets so much money and lives a great life on our sacrifices. These people have to make sure that they are donating all of their earnings to support the Churches and its teachings, even though it may be detrimental to their families needs.Ex: Billy Graham: Net Worth $25 Million. William Franklin Graham is a well-respected Southern Baptist minister and best-selling author who was one of the first pastors to reach celebrity status in the 20th century. Graham is known for hosting the Billy Graham Crusades from 1947-2005. It has been estimated that 3.2 million people have accepted his invitation to "accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior,” and that 2.2 billion people have tuned into his radio broadcasts. It is believed that more people have heard him preach than any other person in the history of Christianity. Joel Osteen: Net Worth $40 Million Joel Osteen is a best-selling author and the senior pastor of Lakewood Church, the largest Protestant church in America, based in Houston, TX. Osteen spent much of his career behind the scenes. He founded Lakewood's television program and produced his father's televised sermons for 17 years until his father died suddenly from a heart attack. 2 weeks later he started at Lakewood. The attendance has grown to 43,000.Osteen says that he aims to focus more on the goodness of God and on living an obedient life rather than on sin. He says that he tries to teach biblical principles in a simple way, emphasizing the power of love and a positive attitude. He lives with his family in a $10.5 million home. Pat Robertson: Net Worth $100 Million. Marion Gordon "Pat" Robertson, son of U.S. Senator A. Willis Robertson, served as a Southern Baptist minister for many years.Robertson is host of "The 700 Club," the flagship program of the Christian Broadcasting Network, which Robertson launched in 1960 in Virginia Beach, VA. Robertson is the founder, CEO, and chancellor of what we know today as Regent University. Kenneth Copeland: Net Worth $760 Million. Kenneth Copeland, who leads the "Believer’s Voice of Victory," TV show and network, is a giant within the Word of Faith branch of Pentecostalism. Kenneth Copeland Ministries operates on a 1,500-acre campus near Fort Worth, TX, equipped with a church, a private airstrip, and a hangar for the ministry’s $17.5 million jet and other aircraft. Copeland resides with his wife Gloria in a $6 million church-owned lakefront mansion. Copeland, who is of partial Native American descent, converted to Christianity in the 1960s. His first dream was to be a recording artist. His "Pledge of Love” made No. 12 in the Top 40 in 1957. Oral Roberts net worth is $1.2 Million. Oral Roberts salary is$161,872 from Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association.These pastors inspire millions—and make millions. And look at all the problems we suffer each day! Homeless, hunger, illness's......I have seen many elderly widowed ladies, who give them all of their possessions, their properties and their bank accounts. That's wrong!!! And I don't believe anyone can make this an OK 'd practice to do. I WOULD LIKE TO BELIEVE MY GOD IS A LOVING AND CARING GOD who doesn't pass judgements on anyone, and will not puss you into fire if you sin. I'm more of a counselor and help people in their lives, someone they can come to that are lost, bewildered, and lost. without ever charging 1 penny. Never in my world is it ok with me to see these "MEN OF GOD" live like kings, drive around like kings and not lift a finger to try to help needy people. I would never be able to sleep at all if that was my life style.a 300,000.00 would be clearly enough place to live nicely , have as nice PU truck and my Suv daily. No aircraft, no vessels, no secret army to protect me. I am not looking into anyone's bedrooms for secrets.

  1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

    If he did this then yes he SHOULD be thrown out and disgraced.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      How 'bout even tarred and featheredIn front of his whole, white school, while they're wearing their white hoods and robes, and chanting, like they did in Oh Brother Where Art Thou?

      1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

        If that is what his punishment is to be and its legal, then so be it. If he did this then he brought it on himself just like Tammy Fay and Baker and Swaggert. I have no problem with public disgrace.

  1. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

    I am shocked! The "sex scandal" link shows no sex or scandalous scenes! Can the Monastery no longer be trusted to be honest? How sad.😟

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      I heard it was too gory and gruesome to be shown. And parts of it contained beastiality an d necrophilia. But hang on Mike, they'll be advertising it as a cheap porn flick in Hustler, soon.

      1. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

        Post your address here, Carl. I'd like to come visit you. Seriously.

        1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

          Sorry, brother Mike, but I'm not seeking home Invaders in my chamber of solitude, at this time. We've got some good relationships on this blog. Let's not take a chance on ruining a good thing. However, when I open my church... I'll keep you informed.

          1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

            YouTube.com/watch?v=IMado9ukLt0

            Was There A Real Jesus Christ? – Pagan Christ- Timeline

  1. Master Wolf KSC's Avatar Master Wolf KSC

    So the moral of the story is allow the story and protest not overmuch for thy special status with the deity.

  1. Mya-Lia Sharizyn's Avatar Mya-Lia Sharizyn

    It's too much for me to read! I will say that there's a balance in everything. It will be attained. The attaining of it goes beyond any human power and all other powers.

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    I wonder if Uncle Henry approved of it.

  1. Richard Arriaga's Avatar Richard Arriaga

    “Woe to them, because they have strayed from me! Destruction to them, because they have rebelled against me! I long to redeem them but they speak about me falsely.” ‭‭Hosea‬ ‭7:13‬ ‭NIV‬‬ https://www.bible.com/111/hos.7.13.niv

  1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

    Women and Women need to create a #GodRappedMeToo movement so they can share all of the religious men and women who rapped and molested them in the name of God and religion. I'm sure this number of victims would eclipse the #MeToo movement. With many of those religious leaders speaking out viciously about how same sex sexual relations are so evil it would be interesting to see how many in the name of God had same sex relations with their victims. And lets not forget many of these victims at the time were young innocent kids who still bare the scars of being rapped today.

  1. Robert A Stiff's Avatar Robert A Stiff

    And these christian hypocrites call others 'perverted sinners'! Can't be much worse than sitting in a dark corner watching your wife and a pool boy doing the 'nasty'. There's a country song in there somewhere.

  1. Richard Lee Cornell's Avatar Richard Lee Cornell

    He also stopped or try to stop research on the HIV/AIDS virus. It only delayed the research in the US. Which in itself because most of those that got HIV were good white decent Christians who were also by-sexual. He was one of those that looted the Bakers bank accounts when they went to jail. Only their God knows how much of phonies they were.

  1. Frederick Angelo Scacchitti's Avatar Frederick Angelo Scacchitti

    Well, I'm all for cutting him a little slack. As I understand it he was in a sexual relationship between consenting adults, when one of the adults decided to capitalize on the relationship via blackmail. Rather than get sucked into that whirlpool, Rev Jerry Falwell Jr. owned up to it. He may be guilty of hypocrisy and some bad character judgement, but so what, we're all sinners. And if Jesus can forgive him so can I. I think he showed a lot of character by ending it where he did. Rev. Fred

    1. Rev. Dr. G. Waldron's Avatar Rev. Dr. G. Waldron

      Comment removed by author.

    2. Rev. Dr. G. Waldron's Avatar Rev. Dr. G. Waldron

      Reverend, I agree a little with you but just a little. God can and does forgive. Jerry Falwell, Jr. and wife need to actually ask for forgiveness, do something that shows they are sorry, and completely step out of the ministry. There actions, not just this current one, but others are not compatible with the teachings of Jesus. What great harm he has done to his students, university, and particular branch of religion requires great contrition and not the typical Baker, Swaggart and other such characters that just go on using their influence for themselves. Falwell is rich, let him give his riches to the poor, wear sackcloth and pour ashes on his head. Then he should stay out of the public and follow Jesus as a humble servant.

      We are all sinners and need the grace and mercy of God, but there is a special kind of sinner that uses God to help his hypocritical life. Don't you think so?

      1. Ilmenheru Terikson's Avatar Ilmenheru Terikson

        You do understand that this is a non denominational ministry, and thus, your pushing the idea of original sin on all of us violates our right to our personal faith right? To truly live by the ideals of a free society, and nation of many faiths, you need to learn to phrase the concepts of your personal beliefs as only being applicable to those of your faith.

        In other words your idea of god is just yours and those who believe as you do, and those beliefs are not relevant to discussing a mans criminal acts, and the punishment and wrath he needs to face by us here and now in society.

        Simply put the man is filth, and the fact he was a major leader of a faith, only proves how corrupt that faith is and taints all who follow the same path.

        1. Rev. Dr. G. Waldron's Avatar Rev. Dr. G. Waldron

          I wonder if you have read all of the other comments on this issue? If so, you will probably be very busy replying to them as you did to mine.

  1. The Right Reverend D. Batch's Avatar The Right Reverend D. Batch

    I'm waiting for awhile to comment. The News Media is a terrible place to get your news from and always has an Axe to grind with Christians. How many times have you heard a sensational story like this, only to have it walked back later and the person's life ruined?

    1. Norma Battes's Avatar Norma Battes

      Yeah, who will ever forget KENYA!

    2. The Right Reverend D. Batch's Avatar The Right Reverend D. Batch

      This story sure fell off the Radar Screen quickly!

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    There's not a chance of anyone's life being ruined by anything said on this blog. Our opinions undoubtedly aren't considered to be all that credible. And it is extremely doubtful that anyone seeks our professional advice on how to live their lives. If they do, shame on them!

  1. Norma Battes's Avatar Norma Battes

    The pool kid wasn't the first. And it was her idea.

  1. Norma Battes's Avatar Norma Battes

    People, it's one p, raped.

  1. William Otto Fritz's Avatar William Otto Fritz

    In an interesting statement he says he is not a preacher but a business man doing what he does best, getting people to enroll, cash from supporters, recognition for the school. It is the job of the teaching staff to teach morality, ethics, and religion.

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