WASHINGTON — Seventeen moderate and liberal congressional Republicans joined Thursday in denouncing the Rev. Jerry Falwell for his defense of the South African government.
"To cloak apartheid in the robe of Christianity," the congressmen said in a statement, "is an abomination--one good people cannot ignore and will not accept. No element of the Judeo-Christian philosophy can be employed as a justification for apartheid. To attempt to do so is to violate our country's moral fiber."
The statement was issued in response to the position enunciated Tuesday by Falwell on his return to this country from South Africa. He said that Christian Americans should continue to invest in firms that do business with South Africa, and he denounced Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu, a key figure in opposition to the government's racial policies, as a "phony."
Falwell has said he does not support apartheid, the South African government's official policy of racial separation, but believes that U.S. economic sanctions being considered against South Africa would be counterproductive.
'Overstepped His Bounds'
Rep. Stewart B. McKinney (R-Conn.), who read the statement by 17 congressmen at a Capitol news conference, said of Falwell: "I think he has overstepped his bounds enormously and, the more that is recognized, I think he loses credibility."
McKinney charged that Falwell, a Baptist minister who has emerged as a prominent conservative voice, "stood there as a recognized religious leader and said that apartheid is all right."
McKinney said he believes that he could easily have obtained the signatures of 90 GOP senators and congressmen on the statement but that most are out of town because Congress is in recess.
Other signers of the statement were Sens. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. of Connecticut and John H. Chafee of Rhode Island, and Reps. Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, James M. Jeffords of Vermont, Sherwood Boehlert, Hamilton Fish Jr., Benjamin A. Gilman and Bill Green of New York, Thomas J. Tauke and Jim Leach of Iowa, Claudine Schneider of Rhode Island, Steve Gunderson of Wisconsin, John G. Rowland and Nancy L. Johnson of Connecticut, Paul B. Henry of Michigan and John R. Miller of Washington.