It was news to some Virginians late last month when the Rev. Jerry Falwell-- Lynchburg's right leaning, Baptist broadcasting preacher-- announced that Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) intended to vote against ratification of the SALT II treaty.
"I'm not questioning the loyalty or sincerity of those persons who have negotiated SALT II," Falwell said from his pulpit at his Thomas Road Baptist Church. "It's not a matter of calling names or accusing people of disloyalty or insincerity. I'm simply-- based upon the facts available to me-- saying it's my convinction every Christian should work as aggressively as possible between now and when the United States Senate should be called upon to ratify or refuse to ratify SALT II to stop its ratification."
Falwell, 45, counts 16,000 members of his church in Lynchburg and 317 television station outlets for his "Old Time Gospel Hour." He considers SALT II a Communist coup at the negotiating table and is working hard to defeat its ratification.
"There are 80 senators out there as of this date, July 22, 1979, who have not yet said, 'I will refuse to ratify SALT II,'" Falwell said. "Eighty out of 100. Thank God, Sen. Byrd and Sen. Warner from Virginia have said, 'We will not ratify.'"
Well, not quite. Sen. Harry Byrd said he won't vote for ratification for the treaty in its present form. But Sen. John Warner, according to his press secretary, "is keeping an open mind . . . until he can assess all the testimony." An aide to Falwell says, "One of the doctor's contacts in Washington" led him to believe Warner had come out against ratification; after a flurry of telephone calls between Warner's staff and Lynchburg, Falwell apologized for putting the senator "in a difficult position," and he explained his error to his congregation.