Naked City

Jerry and Perry Agree

Religious right-winger Jerry Falwell sent a special message to his listserv supporters last week in defense of Gov. Rick Perry, who supports organized school prayer and promises to make it a campaign issue in next year's gubernatorial bid. (Perry's rival, Democrat Tony Sanchez, has joined the call for a school "moment of silence.") Acknowledging that he is "probably seen as one of the most conservative religious leaders in the nation -- a dangerous religious fanatic in the eyes of some," Falwell said he supports Perry's post-Sept. 11 decision to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court ban on organized prayer "at this very crisis moment in our history." Prior to the attacks, "this might have been an unwise campaign approach. But not now."

You may remember that Falwell's boldest post-Sept. 11 attempt to promote national unity and spiritual healing was to suggest -- in unison with fellow fundamentalist televagabond Pat Robertson -- that God allowed the attacks because gays, lesbians, and liberals enjoy too much influence in America. Falwell's e-mail communique basically reworks the same argument, only in calmer, vaguer verbiage. Secularism (i.e., tolerance) hasn't worked, he concludes. "It is high time our nation once again favors its people of faith by allowing our public school students to be exposed to prayer and the pursuit of faith." Ah, but which "faith" ...?

Falwell also uses his holy Internet skills to include an e-jeer against Samantha Smoot of the Texas Freedom Network, an Austin-based nonprofit that monitors the activities of religious groups in education. In his message, Falwell says Smoot recently told the Associated Press that school prayer was "a tempting issue for a politician," adding, "It isn't until later that voters start thinking, 'What if it isn't my God they're worshipping, or my prayer?'

Rubbish, said Falwell. "Prayer in school is not designed to alienate students because of their differences. It is designed to unite students and focus their attention -- even if just for a moment each day -- on the fact that this nation was founded by men who honored and revered God and that we continue in their tradition." But Jerry, what about the women?

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