The Rev. Jerry Falwell, television evangelist and head of Moral Majority, yesterday denied that his group is trying to dictate national morality.
"We're not trying to jam our moral philosophy down the throats of others," he said in an interview on "Meet the Press" (NBC, WRC). "We're simply trying to keep others from jamming their amoral philosophies down our throats." t
The minister said the press has misled the nation on Moral Majority's purpose and makeup.
"Moral Majority is not an organization of fundamentalists or evangelical people in America," he said, although he added that he prefers to be called a fundamentalist. He said the group is a "political organization" that believes in pluralistic America operating on a set of moral principles.
"The one thing we are very much opposed to is the formation . . . of a Christian Republic. We have been very much misunderstood along that area," Falwell said.
But the fundamentalist minister, whose group has done much to raise a new national controversy over the relationship between church and state, said that he believes "an amoral minority has gained control of some of the very key parts of government and leadership in this country."
Falwell denied that he was accusing President Carter and Vice President Mondale of being a part of that "amoral minority." But he added: "Mr. Mondale . . . himself acknowledges being a universalist, and his family roots are humanism. Humanism, in my opinion, is glossed-over atheism."
Later, he said: "God doesn't hear the prayer of an atheist, obviously."
Falwell recently stirred the anger of American Jews by saying for publication: "I believe God does not hear the prayers of unredeemed gentiles or Jews."
He reversed that comment in a statement released Friday by the American Jewish Committee. He said yesterday that he did not intend to offend anyone with the comment, and that he personally believes that God hears and even answers the prayers of Jews.
Falwell also said he will not join other conservatives in calling for the resignation of Rep. Robert E. Bauman (R-Md.), a champion of conservative causes who has been accused of soliciting sex from a 16-year-old boy. The Maryland chapter of Moral Majority last Friday disavowed support of Bauman. Falwell said he has offered Bauman "forgiveness and prayer."
Falwell said his treatment of Bauman is dictated by his treatment of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) in the 1969 Chappaquiddick incident, in which a car driven by Kennedy went off a bridge and plunged into water, killing a woman passenger.
"I think it would be inconsistent for me" to call for Bauman's resignation "because I didn't call for Mr. Kennedy's resignation after Chappaquiddick," Falwell said.
Over the weekend, according to the Associated Press, Bauman won the overwhelming endorsement of the Maryland Conservative Union's board of directors.