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Public Statements

The Reverend Jerry Fallwell

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

THE REVEREND JERRY FALWELL -- (House of Representatives - May 22, 2007)


Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight to honor the memory of my constituent and my friend, the late Rev. Jerry Falwell.

Last week, the city of Lynchburg, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the entire country lost one of our dearest sons in the passing of Rev. Falwell. Today Dr. Falwell was laid to rest. I am sad that business here in Washington kept many of us from being able to attend today's services, but since we were unable to attend, we have joined here tonight to pay homage to this great leader.

Dr. Falwell's legacy is one that will not soon be forgotten. He was a man whose strong faith and vision were unshakable. He lived his life trying to strengthen the moral fabric of our great Nation.

In his crusade to strengthen family values, he was a frequent visitor to Washington, DC, he led many people to the Nation's Capital to demand that leaders here strengthen our country's moral foundation.

Jerry lived his life guided by a strong set of values and an unshakable moral compass. He lived by example, embodying the Bible's greatest commandments. He followed the words of Matthew 22 in his daily life: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbors as yourself.

Anyone who ever met Jerry Falwell knew that he took this commandment seriously and chartered his life by it.

One thing is for sure. Whether one was viewed as a friend or foe of Jerry Falwell, he loved them all. This love for the neighbor extended to everyone, even those who wouldn't expect it. I had many times heard Rev. Falwell say, ``Love the sinner, hate the sin.'' This was more than just a catch phrase. It was a way of life.

Many people have heard of the infamous Supreme Court battle between Jerry Falwell and Larry Flynt. But what few people didn't realize is that Falwell and Flynt actually became friends. I know Jerry did not approve of Mr. Flynt's business, but he separated his thoughts about the man from Flynt's activities.

To most people, Jerry Falwell is a national figure. But I also know him as a local guy who was always giving back to his community. He was a local preacher who worked to serve his congregation and the community. He started his church over 50 years ago in an old bottling factory. That small congregation has grown from 35 to the over-22,000 current members of Thomas Road Baptist Church.

Dr. Falwell, through his church, set in place many ministries to aid the community. In 1959, he established the Elim Home to help men dealing with chemical addictions. This home has transformed the lives of hundreds of men and remains a place to free men of their addictions.

Additionally, Dr. Falwell helped found the Liberty Godparent Foundation. The foundation's mission is to improve the quality of life for unwed mothers and provide a hopeful future for unborn children. The foundation maintains Liberty Godparent Maternity Home, which offers a safe haven for unwed mothers, and Family Services Adoption Agency, which helps place unwanted children in safe and stable homes. The reach of the church has touched many thousands and extends past central Virginia and across the United States.

The list of Jerry Falwell's many ministries and accomplishments is nearly endless. However, many people asked him of what accomplishment he was most proud. Without hesitation he would say, Liberty University. This university, located in my congressional district in Lynchburg, started as a small Baptist college. Today it has grown exponentially and serves over 10,000 students. Washington, DC is filled with Liberty University alumni. I have been pleased to have many Liberty University alumni serve in my office as staff and interns. In fact, L.U. alumni are all over Capitol Hill. I have heard them talk fondly of the education they received at Liberty, and they refer to themselves warmly as ``Jerry's kids.''

I have frequently been on the campus of Liberty, and they are, in fact, Jerry's kids. He loved those kids as his own. Rev. Falwell was very involved and engaged in university life. He always had time for the students. He was also a fixture at school events. Jerry was especially proud of L.U. athletics and he would, with the students, cheer the Flames on to victory. I have even heard stories of Jerry crowd surfing at basketball games. Students would transport him from the bottom of the stands to the top.

There is no doubt that Liberty and the alumni that it produces will live on as Jerry Falwell's lasting legacy. These alumni carry with them the strong values and morals that were reinforced through their education at Liberty. The university and its alumni will remain a living testimony of the work and vision of Jerry Falwell.

You cannot talk about Rev. Falwell without also talking about the town that he loved, the city of Lynchburg. Jerry, though a national figure, never left his home in central Virginia. He led his spiritual network out of his offices in Lynchburg. The city of Lynchburg greatly benefited from Rev. Falwell's work. As Falwell's ministries, and especially Liberty University flourished, so did the city. The impact that Jerry had on Lynchburg's economy and culture is undeniable.

When word of Jerry's death came, the city of Lynchburg seemed to take a collective gasp and was filled with shock and sorrow. The loss of Rev. Falwell was a huge loss for Lynchburg. And today I tell the citizens of Lynchburg that the Nation mourns with you.

When I heard of the passing of my good friend, Jerry Falwell, I was deeply saddened. My wife, Mary Ellen, and I had the pleasure of knowing Dr. Falwell for many years. He was a good man and made an undeniable impression on many lives. Two hours after his death was confirmed, an impromptu memorial service brought a standing room only crowd to Thomas Road Baptist Church, a church that holds 6,000 people. Since then, thousands have shown up to pay their respects, and thousands showed up today for his funeral.

While many people mourn the death of Rev. Falwell, no one experiences this loss harder than Jerry's family. Jerry was a devoted family man. He was dedicated to his bride and partner of 49 years, Macel. Together they raised three children. Jerry, Jr., Jonathan and Jeannie, who I have no doubt will build on the great legacy that their father leaves behind. Nothing can compare to the deep personal loss that they are experiencing, and our thoughts and prayers and hearts are with them.

After hearing the sad news of Jerry's death, I was able to call and offer my condolences to Macel. She shared with me how Jerry spent his last day. I don't think she would mind me sharing with you what happened, as I feel it fully embodies the man that Jerry was.

The night before he passed away, Macel and Jerry went out to dinner. As they talked to their waitress, Jerry found out that she attended the local community college. When he asked the young lady why she didn't go to Liberty University, she told him that she had applied and been accepted, but as a private school, it was too expensive. Jerry told her that he would find a way for her to attend Liberty. The next morning, the morning he passed away, Rev. Falwell lived up to his word and found scholarship money for the young waitress. It was perhaps one of the last things he did before collapsing in his office.

This last act of charity and giving is a perfect example of the man that Jerry Falwell was. Right up till the end of his life, he was working to change lives.

There are many other stories like this one out there of how this extraordinary man touched and changed ordinary lives. Rev. Jerry Falwell was a loving and caring man. He led his life guided by strong convictions. He left an unquestionable impression on our country.

I will greatly miss my friend. I pray for his family and his congregation, and I join the Nation in mourning this great spiritual leader.


Mr. GOODLATTE. I thank the gentleman for his very kind and thoughtful words.

And now I'd like to turn to the gentleman from Virginia, Congressman Goode. VIRGIL GOODE and I have the honor of representing central Virginia and share many of the members of Thomas Road Baptist Church. I have the City of Lynchburg and part of Bedford County and Amherst County in my district, and VIRGIL has Appomattox County and Campbell County and the remainder of Bedford. And we've both had the opportunity to work with Reverend Falwell on many, many occasions. And it's my pleasure to yield now to the gentleman for his words.


Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for his words.

We will be joined shortly by another speaker, but before we are, let me tell a little bit more about Dr. Falwell.

At the age of 22, having just graduated from college in June of 1956, Jerry Falwell returned to his hometown of Lynchburg, Virginia, and started Thomas Road Baptist Church with just 35 members. The offering that first Sunday totaled $135. Falwell often said about that first collection, ``We thought we had conquered the world.'' Today Thomas Road has over 22,000 members, and the total annual revenues of all of the Jerry 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, this Old-Time Gospel Hour is now seen and heard in every American home and on every continent except Antarctica. Through the years, over 3 million persons have communicated to the Falwell ministries that they have 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. Falwell's dream has become a reality. A preschool 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 Christian.

Falwell is also publisher of 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 of 1979, Falwell organized the Moral Majority, a conservative political lobbying movement, which the press soon dubbed the ``Religious Right.'' During the first 2 years of its existence, the Moral Majority attracted over 100,000 pastors, priests, and rabbis and nearly 7 million religious conservatives who mobilized as a pro-life, pro-family, pro-Israel, and pro-strong-national-defense organization. The Moral Majority supported 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 moral values.

With the impetus of the newly organized Moral Majority, millions of people of faith voted for the first time in 1980 and helped Ronald Reagan be elected President, 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.'' Most recent major media surveys have acknowledged that these ``faith and values'' voters reelected George W. Bush in November 2004.

Though perhaps better known outside Lynchburg for political activism, Jerry Falwell's personal schedule confirms his passion for being a pastor and a Christian educator. He often states that his heartbeat is for training young people for every walk of life.

Falwell and his wife of 49 years Macel have three grown children and eight grandchildren.

While we continue to await for our next speaker, let me read from a report in the Lynchburg News & Advance from last Tuesday:

``Jerry Falwell was born in 1933 in Lynchburg and lived here all his life. He married Macel Pate of Lynchburg in 1958. They had three children: Jerry Falwell, Jr., an attorney who represents the Falwell ministries and is vice chancellor of Liberty University; Jeannie Falwell Savas, a Richmond surgeon; and Jonathan Falwell, the executive pastor at Thomas Road Baptist Church.

``Falwell founded Thomas Road in 1956 in an old soft drink bottling plant after graduating from Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. That same year he started his weekly television broadcast, the Old-Time Gospel Hour.

``The church moved into a 3,200-seat sanctuary on Thomas Road in the Fort Hill area in 1970, with services broadcast around the world. Falwell founded Liberty University, then known as Lynchburg Baptist College, in 1971. He always hoped the school would be one of his lasting legacies.

``He started the Moral Majority, Incorporated, in 1979, conducting `I love America' rallies at 44 State capitals.

``The rise of the Moral Majority coincided with the Reagan Presidency, and Falwell rose to national prominence as well.''

Falwell and his ministries faced many challenges through the years.

``In the late 1990s, Falwell reemerged on the national stage in a flurry of television appearances,'' a series of changes to his ministries, ``but Falwell gave up campaigning for politicians as he did for President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. `I don't plan ever to get back into the Moral Majority-type work,' he said in a 1998 interview. `What I did I did because I felt led to do it then, and I'm glad I did it ..... My thing now is a nonpartisan Biblical approach to moral and social issues.' ''


Mr. GOODLATTE. Well, I thank the whip for joining us in this special tribute to Reverend Jerry Falwell.

I must tell you that the mountain you refer to, which is Chandler Mountain in Lynchburg, was acquired by Liberty University. You can see the university growing up the sides of that mountain now. In fact, they now have a big ``LU'' planted in trees near the top of the mountain.

Jerry Falwell climbed many mountains, and he leaves behind a legacy not only of building an outstanding educational organization and an outstanding church, but more importantly, he leaves behind the people who make that church and that university strong and growing, led by his children, who will carry on his legacy and reach out to many, many more throughout our country and throughout the world.

I close this special order with a moment of silence, acknowledging the life and work of my constituent and my friend, the late Rev. Jerry Falwell.


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