Old foes Falwell, Hagee defuse fireworks at ‘old-fashioned fourth’

Old foes Falwell, Hagee defuse fireworks at ‘old-fashioned fourth’

Eight years ago, the Rev. Jerry Falwell had some harsh things to say about fellow television preacher John Hagee.

Hagee, according to Falwell, was a heretic who promoted a false view of salvation that maintained that Jews can go to Heaven without accepting Christ. An unsigned article in a now-defunct Falwell paper, The Liberty Flame, blasted Hagee’s “Two Covenant” belief, quoting Southern Baptist theologians who called Hagee’s view “unfaithful to the New Testament and, therefore, heretical.”

The article, titled “John Hagee: Heretic?” also attacked Hagee personally, charging that he left his wife in 1975 and took up with a younger woman in his congregation. The article charged that Hagee did not tell his wife he was leaving her for another woman until after he had resigned his pastorate before the church board. The article also pointed out that Hagee’s second wife was a teenager when he first met her. In his resignation statement, Hagee reportedly admitted that “my marriage had collapsed and I became immoral in my personal conduct.”

In an editorial in the paper, Falwell wrote, “Every pastor and Sunday School teacher should take this information to the podium next Sunday…. At this time, Hagee has not yet reached the national status enjoyed by Swaggart and Bakker before they fell. However, his outreach is growing rapidly.”

Given these strong words and the personal nature of Falwell’s attack, it came as a surprise to some when Hagee, now pastor of San Antonio’s Cornerstone Church, was invited to be the evening keynote speaker at an “Old Fashioned Fourth of July” celebration at Falwell’s Liberty University.

Falwell refused to return a call from the conservative Washington Times seeking comment on the matter, but Joanne Coffey, a Hagee spokeswoman, told the newspaper that Hagee and Falwell “have known each other for many years. The beauty of being a Christian is you learn how to forgive and forget and carry forward.”

Coffey noted that Falwell first approached Hagee in April and asked him to speak at a meeting of the Horizon Foundation, a Missouri-based organization founded by Jerry Lipps, a wealthy trucking magnate. Lipps, who sponsored a “Hope for America Crusade” in Cape Girdeau, Mo., in April, asked Falwell to help him line up speakers for the event and gave him a list that apparently included Hagee.

Hagee has bounced back from his messy divorce and today operates Global Evangelism Television, a $16-million-ayear TV ministry that takes a firm line on “family values.” On his website (www.jhm.org), he advises, “God’s Word makes it very clear that marriage is a commitment for life to the one individual out of the entire world that we have chosen to be our mate. This commitment means saying ‘Yes’ to our wife or husband and ‘No’ to all others in the matter of intimate friendship.” Hagee also urges persons in troubled marriages to “consult with a gospel-preaching pastor.”

In other news about Falwell:

* People who yearn to spend their entire lives in Falwell’s shadow may soon have their dreams come true. The controversial evangelist is building a sprawling “Christian community” outside Lynchburg, Va., that will contain Christian schools, a home for unwed mothers and a retirement community.

“You’ll never have to leave this place,” Falwell told the Associated Press recently. “You can come in at age 2 in our early learning center..age 5 into our kindergarten, age 6 through 18 in our elementary and high school. Then on to Liberty University for four more years.”

Falwell also plans to build a series of condominiums for retirees, golf courses, apartments and a home for drug- and alcohol-addicted men and women on 4,300 acres of land that he owns around his Thomas Road Baptist Church.

“We have no intention of building a compound – no wall is going to go up,” Falwell said. “If a non-Christian family applied, they would be accepted.”

Asked about gay couples, Falwell chuckled and replied, “That wouldn’t work. They wouldn’t be comfortable here – all these Christians would be witnessing to them.”

The AP reported that the first residents of “Liberty Village” were expected to move in last month, with the entire facility completed within a few years.

* Falwell continues his legal battle against a parody website called www.jerryfalwell.com. In a federal lawsuit filed in June, Falwell asserts that Gary Cohn, owner of the site, is infringing on the TV preacher’s trademark and fame. The lawsuit comes on the heels of a June 3 decision by the World Intellectual Property Organization Arbitration and Mediation Center, which ruled that Cohn could keep the site name.

Cohn said he created the site to mock Falwell after the televangelist blamed his fellow Americans for the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. It contains a disclaimer stating, “This website is not affiliated with Jerry Falwell (Duh!).”

* Falwell associate Rick Scarborough has resigned from the First Baptist Church of Pearland, Texas, to devote more time to his Religious Right group, Vision America. Scarborough said he plans to work full time mobilizing pastors and running get-out-the-vote campaigns for conservative Christians. Scarborough was heavily involved in Pearland politics and several years ago succeeded in electing members of his church to seats on the local school board and city council. Voters later removed Scarborough-backed candidates from those positions.

In July, the Lubbock (Texas) Avalanche-Journal reported that Falwell spoke at a Vision America conference during which he lauded Scarborough as the new leader of the Religious Right in America. Church-state separation, Falwell said, is a myth.

Copyright Americans United for Separation of Church and State Sep 2002

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