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Falwell stung by protestors' claims of porn at LU bookstore.

Is the Rev. Jerry Falwell, leader of the former Moral Majority and longtime Religious Right stalwart, involved with pornographers?

It seems unlikely. Yet that is exactly the charge a fanatical anti-abortion group has levied against the Lynchburg, Va., television preacher.

The bizarre saga got its start last March after members of Operation Rescue visited the bookstore at Falwell's Liberty University, which is managed by the national Barnes & Noble chain. They placed an order for a volume called The Age of Innocence by photographer David Hamilton, which contains photos of nude children.

Store personnel placed the order but cancelled it once they learned the nature of the book. Although Barnes & Noble manages the store, Liberty University retains control over what material is sold there.

Some fundamentalist critics have charged that The Age of Innocence is pornographic, and grand juries in Alabama and Tennessee have handed down indictments against Barnes & Noble stores for selling the volume.

The Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Washington-based Christian Defense Coalition, led a protest at the LU bookstore March 19. He told the Associated Press that it doesn't matter if the Liberty University store cancelled the order and attacked the school for having a financial relationship with Barnes & Noble.

"Even if Liberty asked them not to sell it, an indicted child pornographer is still running the bookstore," said Mahoney. "We're here to challenge Dr. Falwell on his lack of integrity and hypocrisy."

Falwell was livid. "I don't know who they are, but I wish they'd stop calling themselves Christian leaders," he said of the protestors. "It's total deceit. I'm a Baptist, not a Quaker, so it makes me mad as the devil. It's a bald-faced lie."

Mahoney and Operation Rescue leaders are trying to embarrass Falwell because they are angry with him over an incident that occurred in Lynchburg last November when Operation Rescue Director Flip Benham and several Liberty University students led an evangelistic protest at E.C. Glass High School.

Benham and some of the protestors, who were accused of harassing students and invading the school, were later indicted by a grand jury and found guilty of trespassing. Falwell criticized the event at the school, has refused to back Benham and has not joined in calls for his release from jail, infuriating Operation Rescue supporters.

Falwell issued a statement saying he supported Operation Rescue until Benham took over and started using more extreme tactics, such as demonstrating at public schools. Benham is currently serving a six-month sentence in the Lynchburg City Jail.

In other news about Falwell:

* The Lynchburg evangelist has again attacked the separation of church and state. In his April 10 "Falwell Fax" bulletin, Falwell remarked on a case from Beaverton, Mich., involving a public school student who wanted to distribute religious material. School officials expressed concern, citing the separation of church and state.

"Separation of Church and State has long been the battle cry of civil libertarians wishing to purge our glorious Christian heritage from our nation's history," wrote Falwell. "Of course, the term never once appears in our Constitution and is a modem fabrication of discrimination."

* The on-line magazine Salon has reported that Falwell engaged in blatant deception to promote an anti-Bill Clinton video he hawked on his "Old-Time Gospel Hour" in 1994 and `95.

During an infomercial for the video "The Clinton Chronicles," Falwell interviewed a silhouetted figure identified an "investigative reporter" who claimed that his life was in danger for investigating Clinton. The "reporter" turned out to be Pat Matrisciana, a California Religious Right operative whose group, Citizens for Honest Government, produced "The Clinton Chronicles."

Matrisciana admitted to Salon that the entire scene was a sham. "Obviously, I'm not an investigative reporter," he said. "And I doubt our lives were actually in any real danger. That was Jerry's idea to do that .... He thought that would be dramatic."

Salon also charges that Falwell funneled more than $200,000 to Citizens for Honest Government to use as payments to individuals willing to make charges against Clinton on tape. Falwell has long insisted that he merely distributed "The Clinton Chronicles," an unsubstantiated film that accuses Clinton of cocaine use, drug dealing and involvement with murder.

But Salon says Falwell in fact helped subsidize its production costs and notes that in August of 1994 Falwell sent a direct-mail solicitation to supporters asking them to help him pay for a "national television documentary which will expose shocking new facts about Bill Clinton."

The entire story can be read online at: www.salonmagazine.com.
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Title Annotation:fanatical anti-abortion group retaliates against Rev. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University
Publication:Church & State
Date:May 1, 1998
Words:751
Previous Article:Religious Right forces form new group to consummate marriage with the GOP.
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