Soulforce, a taskforce of lesbian and gay people, has demonstrated its commitment to non-violence and love of enemies by sending condolences to the family, colleague and friends of Jerry Falwell, who died yesterday. As a beacon of the religious right, Falwell was implacably opposed to homosexuality.
The leading US conservative, whose name is inextricably linked with the Moral Majority, died in hospital in Virginia after being found unconscious in his office. He was given emergency treatment at Lynchburg General Hospital but did not recover.
President George W. Bush, who has received lavish financial and political backing from the US religious right, paid tribute to Mr Falwell, aged 73. He said he lived a life of "faith, family, and freedom".
The Moral Majority movement, whose opponents quip “is neither moral nor a majority”, has declined in recent years. But it has been replaced by other powerful conservative lobbies.
Falwell maintained a constant rhetoric against homosexuality. But today, the staff and board of directors of Soulforce, which is committed to ending the political and religious oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, sent “sincere condolences to his family, the members of Thomas Road Baptist Church, and the students at Liberty University.”
“While Soulforce has a long history of non-violent direct action at Jerry Falwell Ministries, our adversary was never Jerry Falwell, but rather the misinformation about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people espoused by Falwell and so many others," explained Soulforce executive director Jeff Lutes.
Soulforce was founded in October, 1999, when the Rev Dr Mel White and his partner, Gary Nixon, took 200 delegates to meet with Falwell and his representatives. The purpose of the meeting was to help end hate speech and violence against sexual minorities.
Prior to coming out as a gay man, White, who was formerly a fundamentalist Christian, ghost wrote two books for Falwell (If I Should Die Before I Wake and Strength for the Journey).
Upon hearing the news of Mr Falwell's death, White said: “It breaks my heart to think that Jerry died without ever discovering the truth about God's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender children. I sincerely hope that one day his school and his church will have a change of heart.”
The goal of Soulforce is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of non-violent resistance and challenging love.
Mr Falwell had a history of heart problems. He rose to prominence after founding Liberty University, a conservative educational establishment in his home town of Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1971.
Regarded as a pioneer of politically active, right-wing evangelicalism, Falwell was also one of the first television preachers (or ‘televangelists’). He reached millions on his programme The Old Time Gospel Hour.