NEW YORK (Oct. 13)
Rev. Jerry Falwell, the fundamentalist radio and television preacher, has disavowed his statement that only those redeemed by Jesus Christ could have their prayers answered. He also rejected the assertion by fellow evangelist Rev. Bailey Smith that “God Almighty does not hear the prayers of a Jew.”
Falwell, who heads the rightwing political-religious Moral Majority, expressed his views in a written statement issued after an hour-long meeting here last week with Rabbi Marc Tannenbaum, director of interreligious affairs of the American Jewish Committee. The AJ Committee released it on Friday.
“It grieves me, ” Farwell declared, “that I have been quoted as saying that God does not hear the prayer of a Jew. My position is that God is a respecter of all persons. He loves everyone alike. He hears the cry of any sincere person who calls on him.”
According to Farwell, “This is a time for Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Mormons to rise above efforts to polarize or isolate us in our efforts to a commitment to the moral principles on which America was built. America is a pluralistic republic. We may have differing theological positions but we must never allow this to separate us as Americans who love and respect each other as “united people.”
Falwell said that “A very healthy relationship has been developing between Bible-believing Christians in America and the Jewish community …. The Jewish people in America and Israel and all over the world have no dearer friend than Jerry Falwell.”
His remarks to the effect that God hears only Christian prayers were made at Falwell’s Liberty Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Vo. a week ago during a Sunday service where Republican Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan was also a speaker. Falwell said at that time that his views coincided with those of Smith, president of the Southern Baptist Conference, whose remark that Jewish prayers are unheard were mode in Dallas last Aug. 22. Falwell’s church is not a member of the Southern Baptist Conference.
DOES NOT FAVOR A CHRISTIAN REPUBLIC
Appearing on NBC-TV’s “Meet the Press” yesterday, Falwell again stressed that he believes that God answers the prayers of all people. He also said that he believes in the separation of church and state and is opposed to a religious test for political candidates.
Falwell denied that he and other rightwing Christians were trying to create a Christian republic. He said he could support for political office a Jew, Catholic, Mormon or anyone else who supports his views. He also said he hoped that media reports will not destroy the good relations that have existed between fundamentalist Christians and Jews for the past 20 years, chiefly over the issue of Israel. He said the best friend Jews and Israel have in the United States are Bible-believing Christians.