On a day in which the nation was being urged to pray for the victims and families of the World Trade Center attack, comments reportedly made by the Revs. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson on Robertson's The 700 Club Thursday were igniting debate among the nation's laymen and clergy. Falwell blamed "the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists and the gays and lesbians ... the ACLU, People for the American Way" and groups "who have tried to secularize America" for contributing to what occurred in New York. "I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen'," Falwell reportedly declared on the program, which is carried by the Fox Family Channel, recently purchased by the Walt Disney Co. Robertson responded: "Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted their agenda at the highest levels of our government." Asked about the ministers' remarks on ABC's Good Morning America Friday morning, the Rev. Forrest Church, pastor of the All Souls Unitarian Church in Manhattan, commented, "If we respond with this kind of hatred and this kind of bigotry, we really become abettors to the very sin that we are trying to extirpate."
Television evangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, two of the most prominent voices of the religious right, said liberal civil liberties groups, feminists, homosexuals and abortion rights supporters bear partial responsibility for Tuesday's terrorist attacks because their actions have turned God's anger against America.
"God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve," said Falwell, appearing yesterday on the Christian Broadcasting Network's 700 Club, hosted by Robertson.
"Jerry, that's my feeling," Robertson responded. "I think we've just seen the antechamber to terror. We haven't even begun to see what they can do to the major population."
Falwell said the American Civil Liberties Union has "got to take a lot of blame for this," again winning Robertson's agreement: "Well, yes."
Then Falwell broadened his blast to include the federal courts and others who he said were "throwing God out of the public square." He added: "The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. 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.' "
People for the American Way transcribed the broadcast and denounced the comments as running directly counter to President Bush's call for national unity. Ralph G. Neas, the liberal group's president, called the remarks "absolutely inappropriate and irresponsible."
Robertson and others on the religious right gave critical backing to Bush last year when he was battling for the GOP presidential nomination. A White House official called the remarks "inappropriate" and added, "The president does not share those views."
Falwell was unrepentant, saying in an interview that he was "making a theological statement, not a legal statement."
"I put all the blame legally and morally on the actions of the terrorist," he said. But he said America's "secular and anti- Christian environment left us open to our Lord's [decision] not to protect. When a nation deserts God and expels God from the culture . . . the result is not good."
Robertson was not available for comment, a spokeswoman said. But she released a statement echoing the remarks he made on his show. An ACLU spokeswoman said the group "will not dignify the Falwell-Robertson remarks with a comment."
Falwell's "apology" (if you really want to call it that...)
Falwell and Robertson medieval views are much more in touch with bin Laden than with most Americans. Most Americans seem to understand that tolerance and openness are much more important than hate mongering. Views like those of Falwell and Robertson encourage acts of scapegoating and bigotry. What is it about the mindset of the "right" that demands scapegoats?
Comments like these make me very happy to be an agnostic!
I notice that Falwell and Robertson fail to mention the fact that the one plane that did not hit a populated target was the one in which some plane passengers, led by at least one gay man, prevented the plane from becoming a flying bomb. But let's not let any facts get in the way with their foolish remarks
Later comment (5/16/2007): As I re-examine all this after four years of war in Iraq and after the death of Jerry Fallwell, if you attempt to take Fallwell and Robertson's post-911 comments to their logical extreme, it almost sounds like their "God" is more like the "God" of the fanatic Moslems who would randomly murder civilians. So when I call people like Fallwell and Robertson mullahs, that's why.
911 may have made many people more religious, but it's made a number of us less so. I may have called myself an agnostic in 2001, and I'm definitely an atheist now.