On faith-based initiatives:
I have deep concerns about the faith-based initiatives--but I am in support. Mr. Bush has thought this out. What they have in mind is totally valid and acceptable. My problem is not with the intentions of the Bush presidency. My problem is where it might go under his successors.
I have pastored the same church 45 years, and I’ve served as chancellor of Liberty University and was the founder for the past 30 years and...we have never accepted any government grants or funding, whether federal, state, or local. We have done that by design so we could never be challenged regarding our philosophy and our practices. It is doubtful that we will ever apply for any assistance under the faith-based initiatives, as Mr. Bush has proposed them. I may change that once I have seen enough years of safety and consistency with no strings attached, but at the present moment I would not want to put any of the Jerry Falwell Ministries in a position where we might be subservient to a future Bill Clinton, God forbid.
It also concerns me that once the pork barrel is filled, suddenly the Church of Scientology, the Jehovah Witnesses, the various and many denominations and religious groups--and I don’t say those words in a pejorative way--begin applying for money--and I don’t see how any can be turned down because of their radical and unpopular views. I don’t know where that would take us.
And third, I maintain faith-based [grants] should be restricted to those organizations that have already been doing a measurable, qualitative work among the poor, in the prisons, and in the inner cities. I don’t think religious groups should be allowed to apply for federal funds to start new ministries they have not been doing before the funding was available.
I think the Moslem faith teaches hate. I think there’s clear evidence that the Islam religion, wherever it has majority control--and I can name a dozen countries--doesn’t even allow people of other faiths to express themselves or evangelize or to exist in their presence.... I think that when persons are clearly bigoted towards other persons in the human family, they should be disqualified from funds. For that reason, Islam should be out the door before they knock. If you’re not going to minister to blacks, whites, all colors and religions, and you're not going to allow freedom of expression in every circumstance...you should not be allowed to dip into the pork barrel.
Islam is growing among African American young people. It’s growing in the prisons. And whenever Islam, God forbid, ever gets a majority in the United States--like Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Libya, all the Moslem countries--free expression will disappear.
I applaud Mr. Bush for including everyone, including Islam [in his presidency]. We should not respond to the Moslems the way they respond to us. If I were president of the United States, I would include Moslems in my presidency. And I would do my best to change them. I’m simply saying their track record worldwide, outside the U.S., is not good. If anybody questions what I’m saying, I would challenge them to send a Christian minister into any predominantly Moslem country and apply for a permit to build a church.
Criteria should be established which make only seasoned veterans in the ministry to the poor and imprisoned even eligible to apply. Among the criteria should also be a requirement that no religious teaching, preaching, or ministry is funded at all. That doesn’t mean they cannot do it their way, but they cannot add something of a religious nature just because the money is there. Whatever they have been doing before federal money was available is all they should be permitted to do after money is available. I think that there has to be some group, some body in the federal government who, not because of their philosophy, their convictions, their beliefs, but because of their behavior, determines that these people don’t qualify. For example, the Aryan Nation movement could consider themselves a religion. That’s why they burn crosses. They’re religious people. But I don’t think we should have any problem at all determining they’re not qualified, because they hate black people and Jews. I just think...if we’re going to give money away, we have to be willing to be objective and controversial in saying, “You don’t qualify.”
Scientology has a terrible track record of bigotry. Anyone who denies that they’re cultic doesn’t know how they operate. Go to Clearwater, Florida, and ask the people of Clearwater, where they have a headquarters operation, how those people operate. I know pastors in Clearwater who tell me that there’s a great deal of fear and concern about those people. I have no personal knowledge of them. I don’t think I know a Scientologist except when I see one or two of their actors on the Hollywood screen. Some of the Hollywood people are caught up in it. But I do know the Scientology Church, like the Moslems, has a pretty hard, strong grip on their constituents.
Here’s what I’m saying to pastors in conferences where I speak regularly: If you or one of your ministries decides to apply for faith-based initiative support, be absolutely convinced before entering the alliance that there are no strings attached, that you will never be called into question for what you believe, what you teach and preach and the way you administer your faith.... I tell these pastors, if you're going to do it, be very careful, very cautious. It’s tempting to suddenly have money available to you that you did not have to raise. I have to raise $3 million a week to operate all the ministries for which I’m responsible--$150 million a year. And through the past years of my ministry, I’ve had to raise $2.5 billion. And I’ve raised none of it through the federal government.
I’m saying to the younger group "be careful."... That’s how it works in most of the socialist countries. Be very careful that you don’t surrender any of your freedoms, any of your liberties.
On President Bush:
I am such a strong admirer and supporter of George W. Bush that if he suggested eliminating the income tax or doubling it, I would vote yes on first blush. I have such strong confidence in him as a leader, a man of integrity, and a Christian brother that I want to be a help, never a hindrance, to what he’s doing.
I’m willing to trust Mr. Bush and assist him, up to a certain line, in getting the program implemented.