Organizers of the Neptune Festival in Virginia Beach dropped Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell yesterday as a speaker at a prayer breakfast next month because of his recent remarks about South Africa.
The decision was made by the board of directors of the annual civic event who "consulted with a number of people in the community," Douglas Talbot, festival chairman, said.
Falwell's "recent pronouncements" on racially troubled South Africa were factors in the board's decision, Talbot said. "The points that he had taken politically had been of some concern."
Falwell, who could not be reached for comment, recently made national headlines when he returned from a five-day tour of South Africa and launched a lobbying campaign to block proposed U.S. economic sanctions against the white-minority government. The Lynchburg minister also labeled Bishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a leader of black South Africans, "a phony."
Since it became known that Falwell would speak at the Sept. 27 prayer breakfast, Talbot said he had received calls from preachers, citizens and civic leaders complaining about the scheduled appearance. Among those who objected was Mayor Harold Heischober.
Heischober said the controversy generated by the pastor's statements could create security problems for Virginia Beach and added it could dampen interest in the festival and put Virginia Beach in an unfavorable light.