Mel White’s Letter to Ron Godwin

Return to LynchburgRead Mel White’s letter to Ron Godwin, Jerry Falwell’s spokesperson, which describes our disappointment in Jerry’s broken promise and our plans to return to Lynchburg to hold Jerry to his promise:

March 19, 2002

Dr. Ron Godwin, Executive Assistant to the Chancellor
Liberty University
1971 University Blvd.
Lynchburg, VA 24502

Dear Ron,
Early in October 2002, three years will have passed since our Anti-Violence Forum in Lynchburg. Since then, we’ve monitored Jerry’s print, audio, and video statements. We’ve waited and hoped and prayed for three years that Jerry might realize the tragic consequences of his antigay rhetoric and live up to his promises. Now it’s time to meet again. The false and inflammatory charges he’s made against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans cause us grief and anger. We are committed to bringing truth in love to Jerry relentlessly.

Our anniversary visit to Lynchburg will take place on the weekend of October 25-27, 2002. We will invite the original 200 Soulforce delegates as our basic visitation team. Depending on your response, we will decide if we want to open it up to the 5,000 original volunteers who signed on and were trained on line for the first visit. Our local and national teams are working on the exhibits we will bring to demonstrate Jerry’s ongoing untruths about sexual and gender minorities.

First, we will open a Museum of Intolerance in Lynchburg featuring a short history of intolerance in America (and how propaganda is used to caricature and condemn outcasts). Most important, though, the Museum will feature a rather extensive display of Jerry’s antigay rhetoric from his sermons, interviews, newsletter articles and fund-raising letters. We’ll display those quotations side-by-side with current research from leading scientific and biblical scholars. We will invite the media and the general public (including your students and congregants) to the opening of our Museum of Intolerance and to a Saturday evening discussion of the display by community leaders.

Second, we will premiere (as an exhibit in our Museum) a new video (with the working title, "The Rhetoric of Intolerance: An Open Letter Video to Jerry Falwell.") The video, like the Museum of Intolerance, will display twelve of Jerry’s most egregious anti-homosexual remarks with a truthful response to each one.

Third, we will distribute a print collection of Jerry’s untruths to the media and door-to-door across Lynchburg. The booklet will also be available at our Museum of Intolerance and introduced at our Saturday night citywide discussion of Jerry’s untruths.

Ron, our friend Jerry not only reneged on his promise to "tone down his antigay rhetoric" but he lied about the gay community generally and about our Soulforce delegation specifically when he broadcast Michael Johnson’s Sunday School lesson as though it were the sermon preached the Sunday of our visit and claimed that seven of our delegation "came forward, gave up their lifestyle, and enrolled at Liberty University." Most recently he admitted to the Washington Post that he had never intended to hear our side of the story, but had invited us to Lynchburg only to convert us.

Jerry has turned half-truth, hyperbole, and lies into an art form. To bare false witness about your neighbor is serious business. Jerry’s false and inflammatory rhetoric leads to suffering and death. He smiles and denies. But we have the evidence, and unless you have a better idea (one that will truly lead to understanding and even reconciliation), we will come to Lynchburg in October, use our weekend to tell the truth, stand vigil at your Sunday services, and let the Spirit guide and empower us to take the appropriate nonviolent direct action to change the mind and heart of Jerry, the members of Thomas Road, the staff and students of Liberty, the people of Lynchburg and the nation.

Our goal is reconciliation, Ron. We don’t want to embarrass Jerry, but we do intend to hold him publicly accountable for the promise he made to us nearly three years ago. If Jerry is willing to confess his untruths (about the gay community generally and about our Soulforce delegation specifically); if he is willing to meet with us and discuss our concerns honestly, openly and in good faith; if he is willing to hear the stories of those who have suffered because of his irresponsible antigay rhetoric, we are willing to meet with him on our anniversary visit, October 25-27, 2002. But we cannot allow ourselves to be tricked again by broken promises and untrue allegations.


Executive Director, Soulforce