Tags: Falwell | Blasts | McCain-Feingold | Threat | Free | Speech

Falwell Blasts McCain-Feingold Threat to Free Speech

Wednesday, 02 May 2001 12:00 AM

LYNCHBURG, Va. - Moral Majority's founder is rallying America's religious right to kill the McCain-Feingold bill in Congress rather than risk relying on a questionable presidential veto.

The Rev. Jerry Falwell devoted his recent hourlong "Listen, America" telecast, beamed by satellite into all 50 states, to warning his millions of followers that the campaign-finance legislation "threatens to strangle political debate."

Sponsored by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russ Feingold, D-Wis., it has already passed the Senate by 59-41. Action in the House of Representatives is expected in the next few weeks.

The McCain-Feingold bill is "threatening to destroy our First Amendment right to political free speech," the conservative Christian leader charged, speaking from the television studios at Liberty University, of which he is founder and chancellor.

Conservatives opposing McCain-Feingold have been troubled that the domestic-policy staff of the White House still has on its agenda some form of campaign-finance reform.

It worries them further that President Bush, while saying he favors a version that is not unconstitutional, has also told Congress he will sign whatever campaign-finance legislation it might send to his desk.

Falwell's outspoken denunciation of the McCain-Feingold bill carries particular sensitivity for the new Bush-Cheney administration.

The religious leader's timely support for Bush in the 2000 presidential primary in South Carolina is often credited with knocking McCain out of the race for the Republican nomination.

Addressing his extensive television audience recently, Falwell said:

"I have strong feelings about the president. I like him a lot. I believe he is a man of courage."

He then went on to let Bush know what he might expect from the religious right, a major pillar of the president's political base, if McCain-Feingold were to be approved by the House, as it has been by the Senate.

"Of course we'll lobby [Bush] on this if it gets that far," Falwell stated bluntly.

Turning the other cheek, Falwell added, "I just have a feeling, looking at his first 100 days, that he would veto this."

Falwell is in effect trying to spare Bush from this political hot seat by calling upon his television audience to join him on his Web site at www.falwell.com in signing a petition to House members, urging them to defeat McCain-Feingold.

Should it become law, Falwell alerted his supporters, he could be prohibited from accepting their contributions to fund his several mass-communication voices of advocacy for such issues as opposition to abortion.

In addition to his weekly telecast, Falwell has a radio ministry and a variety of e-mail and print publications.

During and after the television program on McCain-Feingold, the telephones at the "Listen, America" studio lit up.

Falwell was advised by his producer that an especially strong call had been received from a viewer in Arizona – McCain's home state – saying she had no idea her senator was sponsoring such a bill, and intended to let him know of her outrage.

"That'll get his attention," Falwell smiled. "An awful lot of people in Arizona feel that way."

He is hoping that enough in all 50 states will send that message to the House of Representatives so that a presidential veto will not be necessary.

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LYNCHBURG, Va. - Moral Majority's founder is rallying America's religious right to kill the McCain-Feingold bill in Congress rather than risk relying on a questionable presidential veto. The Rev. Jerry Falwell devoted his recent hourlong Listen, America telecast,...
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2001-00-02
Wednesday, 02 May 2001 12:00 AM
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