WASHINGTON (Oct. 5)
Republican Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan rejected the statement by one of his leading supporters, fundamentalist Baptist minister Jerry Falwell, that only the prayer of Christians crew answered by God. But the GOP standard-bearer first denied that Falwell had made the statement.
The incident took place in Lynchburg, Vo. over the weekend where Reagan delivered a political speech at Falwell’s Liberty Baptist Church. He told reporters later that he did not agree with Falwell’s view “since both the Christian and Judaic religions are based on the same God — the God of Moses. ” He added, “I’m quite sure those (Jewish) prayers are heard. But then I guess everyone can make his own interpretation of the Bible and many individuals have been making differing interpretations for a long time.”
Reagan had insisted a short time before that Falwell, founder of the church-based political movement called “Moral Majority, ” had not questioned the efficacy of non-Christian prayers. “He never said that. It was someone else who said that,” Reagan was quoted as saying. But Falwell, who stars on a widely syndicated religious television program, confirmed afterwards that he had said that only those redeemed by Jesus Christ could have their prayers answered. He denied anti-Semitic intent.
The “someone else” referred to by Reagan may have been the Rev. Bailey Smith, president of the Southern Baptist Conference, who declared at a fundamentalist Christian gathering in Dallas last Aug. 22 that “God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew. Smith was widely denounced by leading Baptist ministers and scholars for that remark. Reagan was also a speaker at the Dallas meeting.