Correction to This Article
In a report yesterday about the Moral Majority, James Dobson was identified incorrectly as a minister. He has a PhD in clinical psychology.

Falwell Says Moral Majority to Be Dissolved

By Laura Sessions Stepp
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 12, 1989

LAS VEGAS, JUNE 11 -- Moral Majority Inc., the political organization that spawned the religious right movement 10 years ago this month but has had little political impact in recent years, will be dissolved in August, the Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder and chairman, announced today.

Falwell said the organization will close its Washington office, lay off 12 staff members and stop raising money and publishing its newsletter.

"The purpose of the Moral Majority was to activate the religious right," he told a national conference of religious writers here. "Our mission has been accomplished . . . . Other groups have been born to take our place. We no longer need to be the quarterback."

Political analyst Kevin Phillips said the formal disbanding of the Moral Majority "is just ratification of a political tide that's come and gone." The group's influence peaked several years ago, he said,

"I can't think of any political difference it will make," he said, noting that the Moral Majority played an insignificant role in the 1988 presidential campaign.

"The religious right is wounded and this is a way for Falwell to cover his tracks," said the Rev. Robert L. Maddox, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

"It doesn't really surprise me very much," said James L. Guth, a political science professor at Furman College in Greenville, S.C., who has studied the influence of religious conservatives in the Republican Party. ". . . The organization in some ways was part of the vanguard for the Christian right but a lot of the action has moved into other organizations and other movements now," he said. As an example, he cited the followers of the Rev. Pat Robertson.

Falwell said he felt the Moral Majority had many accomplishments over the last decade, including a federal law allowing religious clubs to meet on public school property before or after school hours.

But he did not deny that the organization has been struggling lately for support and money. The group has raised $69 million over the last 10 years for political purposes, he said, but the last three years' fundraising has been the least successful. In 1986 the Moral Majority became the lobbying arm of the Liberty Federation.

Approximately 50,000 pastors are on the Moral Majority's mailing list, Falwell said, or 22,000 fewer than in June 1982. He declined to say how many households are on the list, a figure he put at 600,000 about two years ago.

The Moral Majority, begun a year before a gathering of conservatives in Dallas cemented the religious right movement, may be a victim of its own partial success, some observers said.

Its most visible cause, opposition to abortion, has been embraced by Americans who do not identify with the religious right movement. Also, for the third straight term there is a Republican president -- Falwell endorsed President Bush -- and and conservative jurists are steadily being appointed to state and federal courts.

"It's hard to run against the power structure when you're part of the power structure," said Joseph L. Conn, spokesman for Americans United. The Moral Majority has failed to achieve some of its goals, including mandatory teaching of creationism as an alternative to evolution, and prayer in public schools.

Alternately feisty and reflective, Falwell told the religion writers how he and other leaders of the right have undergone "a terrific maturing process" in the last decade.

He noted that since the organization began, several other groups and individuals have taken up similar work. He mentioned the American Coalition for Traditional Values, the Rutherford Institute and the Rev. James Dobson, a radio evangelist and family counselor.

Falwell singled out Dobson several times, calling him "the rising star" for the religious right's cause. He said Dobson is opening lobbying efforts in 50 states and in Washington.

Staff writer Ruth Marcus in Washington contributed to this report.


© 1989 The Washington Post Company