Rev. Jerry Falwell (Baptiststandard.com).
A column by a rabbi published in the Los Angeles Times falsely asserted Rev. Jerry Falwell claimed lesbian actress Ellen DeGeneres played a role in the 9-11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina because she was the host of the Emmy Awards before both events.
The Times ran a correction explaining the Baptist minister “made no such claim.”
In the Dec. 18 column, Rabbi Stephen Julius Stein wrote:
We’ve all heard about the rise of the evangelical movement and about some of the excesses of its leaders. For instance, the Rev. Jerry Falwell claimed that Ellen DeGeneres played a role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina because she was the host of the Emmy Awards ceremony preceding both events. I only wish the situation was just comical. But when we realize how this movement has saturated the fabric of American culture, we cannot – we must not – remain indifferent to its effect on us, to our neighbors of other faiths and to the essence of what still makes this country a beacon of democracy to the world.
Stein is a rabbi at Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles and vice president of the Wilshire Center Interfaith Council.
The Times’ correction Sunday said the column was “defending the separation of church and state.”
Falwell frequently has been criticized for frank comments on cultural and religious issues.
In 2002, a leading Islamic group in Canada prepared legal action under the country’s hate-crimes laws against the broadcast by CBS of Falwell’s assertion Islam’s prophet Muhammad was a “terrorist.”
On “60 Minutes,” Falwell told interviewer Bob Simon: “I think Muhammad was a terrorist. I read enough, by both Muslims and non-Muslims, [to decide] that he was a violent man, a man of war.”
Falwell told WND he did not intended to antagonize Muslims but was responding to Simon in a broader discussion about Israel.
The interviewer, Falwell said, was “pressing me on the issue of Muhammad’s behavior, his involvement in war, and I simply said what I do believe, that Muhammad is not a good example for most Muslim people.”
Falwell added, “I do not believe for a moment that the vast majority of Muslims are terrorists.”
In July, two federal agencies dismissed separate complaints related to messages by Falwell that were regarded by some as illegal political endorsements.
The Internal Revenue Service closed its books on a complaint about a seminary chapel speech in which Falwell personally endorsed President Bush’s re-election. Separately, the Federal Election Commission dismissed a complaint related to statements he made in a “Falwell Confidential” e-mail sent during the 2004 presidential election season.