Statement by Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign:
“Reverend Falwell’s death today causes my thoughts to turn toward the members of our community who have at great personal sacrifice contended with the Reverend’s work and teachings. As I remember Reverend Falwell’s life, I also remember all of the families of people who have died of AIDS,” said Joe Solmonese, Human Rights Campaign. “Reverend Falwell’s legacy is not about the tenets of Jesus’ ministry such as healing the sick and standing with the disenfranchised but about shunning and ridiculing those who have suffered and died of AIDS and their families. Many faith leaders today are moving away from his divisive approach and toward the compassion and inclusiveness that Jesus modeled every day of his ministry.”
Statement by Matt Foreman, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:
“The death of a family member or friend is always a sad occasion and we express our condolences to all those who were close to the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Unfortunately, we will always remember him as a founder and leader of America’s anti-gay industry, someone who exacerbated the nation’s appalling response to the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic, someone who demonized and vilified us for political gain and someone who used religion to divide rather than unite our nation.”
From Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out:
"It is with great regret that Rev. Jerry Falwell never moderated his position on homosexuality." said Truth Wins Out's Executive Director Wayne Besen. "While our hearts go out to his family. we can't help but to reflect on his life and think about all of the families he's torn apart and teenagers that committed suicide because he made them feel inferior. He never missed an opportunity to kick our better angels to the curb and capitalize on our lesser demons to advance his career."
Falwell began as a segregationist preacher that opposed interracial marriage. As with his opposition to homosexuality. he used the Bible to justify his prejudice and discrimination. In 1958. Falwell gave a sermon on segregation. stating that. "The true Negro does not want integration...He realizes his potential is far better among his own race... It will destroy our race eventually... In one northern city. a pastor friend of mine tells me that a couple of opposite race live next door to his church as man and wife...It boils down to whether we are going to take God's Word as final."
In the late 1970's. Falwell founded the Moral Majority. an organization that laid the groundwork for the modern Religious Right. When AIDS hit the gay community. Falwell remarked. "AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals."
In 1998. Falwell embraced the ex-gay ministries and touted a cure for homosexuals. He teamed up with Michael Johnston. an HIV+ ex-gay leader. In 2003. Johnston was treated in a sex addiction facility in Kentucky after he allegedly had unprotected sex with men he met online.
After the September 11. 2001 attacks. Falwell said on the 700 Club. "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."
"Unfortunately. the anti-gay infrastructure built by Falwell survives him." stated Besen. "With the founding of Liberty University and his legal arm. the Liberty Counsel. his legacy of intolerance will continue for quite some time."