By Tim Redmond
Back in the early 1980s, after Sister Boom Boom ran for supervisor on the "nun of the above" ticket, Jerry Falwell sent out a mass mailing to raise money for the Moral Majority featuring the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. The letter included a Gay Pride photo and a description of my favorite nuns as a deep threat to the moral fiber of America.
I did a story about it, and Sister Sadie Sadie the Rabbi Lady called me to get a copy of the letter and the photo, which the sisters took to Melvin Belli, the famous tort lawyer, who then sued Falwell for misappropriation of their images. I don't know where the suit went in the end, but the whole thing made for a lot of fun stories -- because back then, frankly, Falwell was the Devil Incarnate.
You don't hear as much about him anymore, but now that he's dead, it's worth remembering that this guy was a key player in the birth of the religious right, the election of Ronald Reagan, and the beginnings of a movement of intolerance and hatred that still plagues us today.
I saw him debate Larry Flynt on Nightline once, shortly after Falwell sued Flynt for a parody ad in Hustler suggesting that the televangelist had sex with his mother in an outhouse. Falwell was sputtering about how horrible it was to even suggest such a thing; Flynt laughed and said:
"You forgot to tell em, Jerry, that you had to kick the goat out of the outhouse first."
Falwell's suit went all the way to the US Supreme Court, and wound up in a stunning victory for the First Amendment; the court ruled that obvious parodies of public figures can't be grounds for libel or defamation suits. That decision was key to the Guardian's victory in a libel suit brought by a local landlord, Adam Sparks, who we had accused in a parody issue of using electroshock treatment on his tenants.
So we've had some history with the prick. And with all due respect to the dear departed, I can't say I'm sorry he's finally out of the way.
NOTE: There will be quite a rally at 5 pm on 18th and Castro to speak out against Falwell's legacy.