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Falwell Apologizes for Blaming American Groups

The Rev. Jerry Falwell has apologized for saying last week that feminists, liberals, gays and a host of secular groups were partly responsible for the terrorist attacks, though not everyone is buying his retraction.

"I made a statement that I should not have made and which I sincerely regret," Falwell said on his Web site Monday. "I apologize that, during a week when everyone appropriately dropped all labels and no one was seen as liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, religious or secular, I singled out for blame certain groups of Americans."

Falwell shocked many last week when he told the Rev. Pat Robertson on The 700 Club that "the pagans, the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way – all of them who have tried to secularize America – I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'"

Falwell concluded by suggesting these groups brought on the wrath of an angry God, and with it the terrorist attacks.

But Falwell insisted on Monday he had "no intention" of being divisive when he made those remarks, saying he was "sharing my burden for revival in America on a Christian TV program, intending to speak to a Christian audience from a theological perspective about the need for national repentance.

"My mistake on The 700 Club was doing this at the time I did it, on television, where a secular media and audience were also listening."

Falwell was sharply criticized by the groups he singled out for blame last week. But there were others who didn't accept his apology.

Nick Gillespie, editor in chief of Reason magazine, a monthly magazine on politics and culture, called Falwell's action "too little too late."

In fact, Gillespie said he finds the correlation between Falwell and Usama bin Laden’s beliefs startlingly similar.

"Not to equate what he said with the Taliban, but it’s fascinating to me that two religious people, Usama - who is an archly religious man and what he hates is the secularization of the world - and Falwell talks about modern America as a fallen place. They hate the form the contemporary world has taken.

"Religion has a real place in contemporary America. But there are certain elements that just become ludicrous over time ... This is one more nail in the coffin that is Falwell’s irrelevancy."

Dr. Robert W. Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, a national organization for Christian cooperation that includes 50 million people in 140,000 local congregations, said Falwell spoke irresponsibly.

"In the wake of the tragedy that occurred last week, Falwell’s comments were inappropriate," Edgar said. "This is not the time for pointing fingers at one another, or for using this tragedy for what amounts to political aims.

"His initial comments were thoughtless and callous and I appreciate the fact that he recognized that in his apology. I don’t want to judge him in any way except to say that this is the time for healing, not a time for harsh rhetoric."

Robertson, the host of The 700 Club, was also slammed for seemingly agreeing with Falwell's remarks. At the time, he said "Jerry, that’s my feeling," but has since recanted with a statement on his own Web site, calling Falwell’s remarks "totally inappropriate."