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Falwell integrates faith into his new law school

By CHRIS KAHN
August 17, 2004

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) The Rev. Jerry Falwell will open a law school this month in hopes of training a generation of attorneys who will fight for conservative causes.

"We want to infiltrate the culture with men and women of God who are skilled in the legal profession," Falwell said in a telephone interview Tuesday with The Associated Press. "We'll be as far to the right as Harvard is to the left."

Graduates of the law school part of Falwell's Liberty University in Lynchburg, which is affiliated with his Baptist ministry could tackle such issues as abortion rights and gay marriage, Falwell said. Classes begin Aug. 23 for the first-year class of 61 law students.

"I'd love to fight Roe v. Wade," said incoming law student Heidi Thompson, 33, a Liberty graduate who has spent the past few years working as a high school counselor in Orlando, Fla.

"I have a long way to go before I find myself in front of the Supreme Court," Thompson said with a laugh. "But I'm hoping through some medical advances and some legal intervention that people can recognize the great wrong that was done" with the decision to legalize abortion.

Falwell said his law school will be similar to its Christian-leaning counterparts like Regent University in Virginia Beach, which religious broadcaster Pat Robertson founded.

Classroom lectures and discussions will fuse the teachings of the Bible with the U.S. Constitution, stressing the connections between faith, law and morality, said law school Dean Bruce Green, who has experience in civil liberties litigation.

"There is a strong need for this," said Green, who believes many of his colleagues take sides on abortion and genetic engineering without first considering what is morally right.

"There are certain views that might carry the day in legal circles that are morally indefensible and at one time was legally indefensible," he said.

Joe Conn, a spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the law school is part of a crusade by Falwell to get the government to carry out his religious agenda.

"When Falwell talks about using the legal system to advance his personal religious beliefs, I get a whiff of the Taliban," Conn said. "This is a very diverse country with many different religious beliefs, and when you set up a law school to try to get the government and legal system to conform to only one of them, you're leaving everybody else out."