Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell has cut back his political activities in order to devote more time to his ministries in Lynchburg, Va., but he says his decision has nothing to do with a possible bid for the Republican presidential nomination by fellow clergyman Pat Robertson.
"I have decided to make a change of emphasis in my ministry," primarily to raise more funds for his 7,500-student Liberty University, Falwell advised readers of his Fundamentalist Journal in the November issue. But if anyone says he is getting out of politics, "don't believe him," he wrote.
Falwell, when contacted by telephone this week, denied a Newsweek report that he had assured Robertson he would tone down his backing of Vice President George Bush so Robertson might have a better chance for the 1988 GOP nomination.
Still Supports Bush
"I have used many platforms to express my support of Bush and I will continue to do so," Falwell said. He said he still thinks Bush is the most qualified Republican candidate, but that he would support Robertson if Robertson were to win the nomination.
The change for Falwell is in how he spends the time, he said. "I will not be going out specifically to stump for anyone in the foreseeable future, regardless of the candidate; I've done a lot of that in the past. That is one of the casualties of my new schedule."
He made speaking appearances in Southern California last week, but it was primarily for talks to a gathering of Christian educators in Anaheim and to students at The Master's College in Newhall.
Falwell, 53, gained national recognition as a television evangelist through his televised services from Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, syndicated as the "Old-Time Gospel Hour." After founding the Moral Majority organization in 1979 to address moral and social issues on the conservative agenda, Falwell was regarded by many as the leading spokesman for the religious right in the first half of the 1980s.
'Young Champions for Christ'
But his remaining, oft-stated dream is to turn the 15-year-old Liberty University into a "world-class university" that trains "young champions for Christ." To do that will require more time in fund-raising efforts, he said.
"I have a dream of a 50,000-student university by early next century. That will never become a reality unless I give it my best shot," he said.
"(Liberty University) must be to the Bible-believing fundamentalist and evangelical students of America what Notre Dame is to the Roman Catholic students and Brigham Young is to the Mormon students."
Last January, Falwell announced that he was forming the Liberty Federation in order to expand the scope of the Moral Majority beyond moral issues to include economic and international concerns. He also indicated that the "Moral Majority" name had been hampered by a negative image.