Falwell had a lot of critics and enemies both within the church and outside the church. I certainly questioned things I heard him say and do over the years, but there is no denying that he was an influential figure in American cultural life in the last fifty years. And if he put his faith in Christ, that makes him my brother, whether I agree with him or not….and whether I like him or not. It might be better to call him my “crazy uncle,” but nevertheless we are together in this crazy family called the Church.
I did come across an interesting statement from Larry Flynt, the porn king behind Hustler magazine. If you will remember, Falwell and Flynt were engaged in a legal battle in the 1980s over an obscene and offensive parody of Falwell in Hustler. Flynt eventually won after the Supreme Court ruled that parodies of well-known figures were covered in the free speech clause of the First Amendment. In the 1990s, Falwell and Flynt debated the issue on college campuses and during a 1997 Larry King Live episode.
You would think that Flynt would use Falwell’s death to gloat, but I was surprised to read Flynt’s kind words about his former “arch enemy.” Here is the statement from Access Hollywood:
Upon hearing of his death, Flynt released the following statement to Access Hollywood:
“The Reverend Jerry Falwell and I were arch enemies for fifteen years. We became involved in a lawsuit concerning First Amendment rights and Hustler magazine. Without question, this was my most important battle – the l988 Hustler Magazine, Inc., v. Jerry Falwell case, where after millions of dollars and much deliberation, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in my favor.
My mother always told me that no matter how much you dislike a person, when you meet them face to face you will find characteristics about them that you like. Jerry Falwell was a perfect example of that. I hated everything he stood for, but after meeting him in person, years after the trial, Jerry Falwell and I became good friends. He would visit me in California and we would debate together on college campuses. I always appreciated his sincerity even though I knew what he was selling and he knew what I was selling.
The most important result of our relationship was the landmark decision from the Supreme Court that made parody protected speech, and the fact that much of what we see on television and hear on the radio today is a direct result of my having won that now famous case which Falwell played such an important role in.”
There is something to be said about a man who is respected by his enemy.