The Rev. Jerry Falwell, citing his belief that life begins at conception, said he opposed stem cell research even though it shows great medical promise.

Falwell, founder of Liberty University and the Moral Majority, said he sympathized with those whose conditions could possibly be helped by stem cell research.

However, he said Tuesday that any medical research must pass a three-part test: "Is it ethically correct? Is it biblically correct? Is it morally correct?"

Stem cell research, Falwell said, "does not pass the smell test."

The 73-year-old Falwell, founder and still pastor of the Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., was in Kansas City to give the keynote address at a convocation at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Afterward, he commented on a measure that will appear on the November ballot in Missouri. The initiative, a proposed amendment to the state constitution, would protect all stem cell research in the state if it is now allowed under federal law.

"I believe life begins at conception," Falwell said. "Therefore, for the same reason I oppose abortion, I oppose stem cell research."

Falwell, a graduate of Baptist Bible College in Springfield, was just 22 when he founded the Thomas Road Baptist Church in 1966. It has grown from 35 members, meeting in a soda bottling plant, to a congregation of 24,000 whose church is part of Liberty's campus.

He founded the Moral Majority in 1979 to support conservative political candidates and causes — including opposition to homosexuality and abortion.

The Moral Majority dissolved in the late 1970s but was revived in 2004 as The Moral Majority Coalition, a group that tries to get evangelical voters to support candidates who share their values.