The death Tuesday of conservative minister Jerry Falwell, who led the rise of Christian politics, but sparked controversy with his anti-gay and anti-liberal comments, drew mixed reactions on editorial pages today as some papers sought to point out his successes, while others called him a divider and an exploiter.
While The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times or USA Today did not offer editorials on his death, a string of other dailies weighed in, from Maryland to California.
The News & Advance of Lynchberg, Va., where Falwell's Liberty University is located, praised the late leader, calling him "a minister who loved the Lord and took seriously Christ's admonition to carry the Gospel to the four corners of the globe." The paper also devoted its entire front page to Falwell's death, with more than four pages of inside coverage.
"Falwell was determined to counter what he saw as a coarsening of American culture with a message calling the country back to its faith, the faith of a simpler time from his days growing up in the Brookville section of Campbell County," the editorial stated."
By contrast, the more liberal San Francisco Chronicle, while noting Falwell's impact and political power, stressed his use of faith to counter progressive beliefs.
"Falwell ... knew how to exploit the growing power of television to expand his ministry by reaching out to new audiences. His rise as a political force in the 1980s, however, came through his adeptness at identifying and exploiting cultural and religious divisions," a Chronicle editorial stated. "Over time, Falwell marginalized himself with his over-the-top statements, such as his contention that purple-clad TV character Tinky Winky was a gay role model and morally damaging for kids. Two days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists attacks, Falwell suggested that abortionists, feminists, gays and lesbians, the ACLU, liberals and others who tried to 'secularize America" had made God angry and had "helped this happen.' He later apologized."
Some quotes from other newspaper editorials on Falwell are below:
The Dallas Morning News
"This editorial page often disagreed with the Southern Baptist minister, such as when he said that 9/11 might be God's judgment on America because of gays, feminists, pagans and liberals. Those remarks were embarrassing and silly, and a long line of ministers and lay leaders rightly denounced them for their venom. In fact, that reaction demonstrated how Mr. Falwell's brand of political Christianity was beginning to lose its luster within evangelicalism. New leaders were rising, pushing issues like care for the environment and compassion for Africans suffering from AIDS. …