From Rob Boston of Americans United:
Falwell's faulty logic: Lynchburg preacher says we're all a bunch of crooks
The late Jerry Falwell’s son, Jonathan, is distraught over the state of our national ethics. In a recent column, he cited a report by the General Accounting Office (GAO) that found that some federal workers had illegally used tax funds to buy things like “Internet dating, tailor-made suits, lingerie [and] lavish dinners.”
No one in his or her right mind would defend such actions. The individuals who squandered these funds should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Interestingly, Falwell never actually endorses that idea. Rather, he uses the GAO report to launch into a tired screed asserting that America is dishonest, our country is terrible and on and on. He manages to blame all of this on court rulings upholding the separation of church and state and even manages to drag legal abortion into the discussion.
Why is Jonathan Falwell so down on America? Let him explain it: “First, I see the GAO report as being reflective of our nation’s continued departure from its Judeo-Christian heritage,” he moans. “This nation was founded on biblical principles, and those principles largely sustained us until about a half-century ago.”
He continues, “As our nation has turned away from (and even become hostile toward) the Ten Commandments and other biblical principles, we have seen our citizenry become progressively more dishonest and deceptive. Crime has risen, our schools have failed and our culture has become vulgar and crude. I believe it’s all related to the ouster of God from our schools, our media and our society.”
It’s nice that you believe that, Jonathan. How about some actual proof? Religious Right activists have for years blamed the school prayer decisions for everything from juvenile delinquency and divorce rates to alcoholism and the Kennedy assassination. They just assert it, never bothering to offer any evidence of the connection.
Anyone can play that game because correlation is not causation. I could point out, for example, that some the worst scandals to ever affect the federal government occurred during the latter half of the 19th and early 20th centuries, periods where conservative Christianity held sway over society. At that time, many public schools had government-imposed prayer, Sunday-closing laws were the norm and religious groups had the power to censor books, magazines and other materials they deemed offensive. Yet we still had the Whiskey Ring and Teapot Dome scandals.
In the modern era, religious groups have in no way been immune from scandal. Several TV evangelists have been caught up in sex or money scandals, all while claiming to speak for God. And it isn’t just TV preachers. Jack Abramoff worked with Ralph Reed and “Lucky Louie” Sheldon, after all. (Ironically, Jonathan can hardly look to his own father for a moral example. During the 1990s, no lie was too outrageous for Jerry Falwell to spread if he thought it would help bring down Bill Clinton.)
Look at the Bush administration, the most “faith-based” in history. Claude Allen, assistant to the president for domestic policy, was caught cheating department stories in a glorified shoplifting scam. Tim Goeglein, deputy director of the White House’s Office of Public Liaison, resigned after it was revealed that he had plagiarized several newspaper columns. Regent University graduate Monica Goodling, deputy director of public affairs for the Department of Justice, was implicated in the scandal surrounding the firing of several U.S. attorneys.
All of these individuals were known for their self-professed piety. That did not stop them from suffering legal and ethical lapses.
The sad truth is that at any given point in history, there is a certain segment of the population so blinded by greed that they will engage in illegal activity. Some of these people are religious, others are not. Most Americans are decent and honest. The tiny portion who are not is the reason we have prisons.