The Federal Election Commission has unanimously voted in favor of Jerry Falwell in a complaint that was filed against him by the Campaign Legal Center. The complaint said that he had violated election laws by endorsing President Bush because he is the head of a non-profit religious organization:
Falwell, founder of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., and the defunct Moral Majority, told religious conservatives in his July 1, 2004, “Falwell Confidential” Internet newsletter that “voting for principle this year means voting for the re-election of George W. Bush. The alternative, in my mind, is simply unthinkable.”
The Campaign Legal Center complained to the FEC that Falwell and two allied, tax-exempt nonprofit organizations broke election laws by explicitly advocating the election of a federal candidate.
However, Staver noted that Falwell founded Liberty Broadcasting Network, television station WTLU, the Liberty Channel cable network and two radio stations. He argued that Falwell did not relinquish editorial rights just because he is also a preacher.
Matt Staver, you may remember, is the attorney who came up with what I have called quite possibly the dumbest legal argument in American history when he went to the Supreme Court to get the Massachusetts gay marriage decision overturned because, he argued (presumably with a straight face), it denied Massachusetts a republican form of government as guaranteed in the Constitution. But on this one, I think he’s right and I think the decision is correct. He is right when he says that Falwell does not give up his right to free speech every election cycle merely because he is a preacher. Falwell is also the owner of several media outlets and a syndicated columnist, which means he is also by any reasonable standard a member of the press. I still say that all such restrictions should be done away with and that preachers should be allowed to say whatever they want about an election. Let their congregations decide the limits of their political involvement, not the government.