October 2005 Church & State | People & Events

The Rev. Jerry Falwell has lost a bid to shut down an internet-based critic.

In late August a federal appeals court unanimously ruled that Web site creator Christopher Lamparello could continue to operate an anti-Falwell site called www.fallwell.com, which takes the Lynchburg evangelist to task for his views on gay rights.

Falwell maintained that Web surfers might confuse Lamparello’s site with the official Falwell site, www.falwell.com. The three-judge panel did not find that argument persuasive.

“After even a quick glance at the content of the Web site at www.fallwell.com, no one seeking Reverend Falwell’s guidance would be misled by the domain name…into believing Reverend Falwell authorized the content of that Web site,” wrote Judge Diana Gribbon Motz of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “No one would believe that Reverend Falwell sponsored a site criticizing himself, his positions and his interpretation of the Bible.”

On his site, Lamparello takes pains to make it clear that he is a Falwell critic. The main page and other pages contain a disclaimer reading, “This website is NOT affiliated with Rev. Dr. Jerry Falwell or his ministry” and include a link to the real Falwell site.

The opinion overturned a lower court ruling in Falwell’s favor, and despite the fact that the 4th Circuit has a reputation for being very conservative, Falwell was convinced the judges were out to get him.

Ron Godwin, a Falwell spokesman, said the TV preacher feels he was the victim of “an activist judge that did not rule on the merit.” Godwin said Falwell is considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lamparello said he was moved to start the site to challenge Falwell’s views on homosexuality. His site reads in part, “Rev. Falwell, we challenge you to take another look at the way you use the Bible against people who are gay. There are countless ministers and other religious leaders who do not believe that the Bible should be abused to condemn people who are gay or lesbian. They believe that only through accepting, welcoming and affirming gays and lesbians do they express the full, glorious love of God.”

Falwell has a long history of using the legal system to harass internet critics. In 2003, he successfully sued Gary Cohn, an Illinois man who ran a Falwell parody Web site under the domain name www.jerryfalwell.com. As a result of that litigation, Falwell now has control of that domain name.

In other news about Falwell:

• A professor at Falwell’s Liberty University says the United States must embrace its role as an imperialistic world power.

Imperialism, asserted Michael A. Babcock, associate humanities professor at Liberty University, gets a bad rap.

“It’s time for us to accept and defend our imperialism,” Babcock wrote in The Washington Times Aug. 22. “Imperialism has received bad press for most of the last 100 years. The word prompts thoughts of pith helmets, and tiger hunts and pathetic little bands in remote Indian provinces playing ‘God Save the King.’”

Babcock said a better model for imperialism is ancient Rome. The Roman Empire, he asserted, showed that empires “can stand for things that make the world better: political stability, rule of law, virtues of political enfranchisement, preservation of learning and arts and respect for other cultures and religions.”

Despite the rigidly fundamentalist outlook of Liberty University, Babcock apparently had no problem endorsing an empire whose officials oversaw the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.