Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority

by Wendy Thowdis

Essential Questions   

  • What impact did “the Moral Majority” have on American culture and politics in the 1980s?
  • What are the differences between primary and secondary sources?

Materials        

Procedure

Read both documents about Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority listed above. Use the National Archives Written Document Analysis Worksheet to analyze each document. Lead a discussion about the benefits and difficulties of using primary and secondary sources. Questions to ask include:

  • Which source provides the clearest description of the political and cultural beliefs of Falwell? Give at least five specific examples of his beliefs.
  • Which source provides the most background about Falwell?
  • Which source is the easiest to read? Why?
  • Which source is the most interesting to read?

Have students gather and analyze data showing the role or importance that religious groups have played in influencing national elections. Present your results on a bar graph.

Have students think about the ideas presented by Jerry Falwell in the excerpt from his book, Listen America. Instruct them to create a political cartoon or other visual representation of one or more of his beliefs about “the Moral Majority.”

Creative questions to stimulate student thinking about the role the Moral Majority has played in history since the 1980s:                                                                         

  • How is the Moral Majority like _____________________ ? (Have students create an analogy and then describe the similarity.)
  • Why do you suppose Jerry Falwell had so much influence on political thinking during the 1980s?
  • Would you rather have been Ronald Reagan or Jerry Falwell during the 1980s? Explain why.
  • Name at least three well-known people who spoke out against Falwell’s beliefs during the 1980s. Who would you have supported if you were an adult living during the 1980s? Who would you have supported if you were a teenager living during the 1980s? If your answer differs, why so?

Conduct a town meeting with three student moderators who engage the class in a discussion about the topic: The Moral Majority: Now and Then. Have students prepare by researching the current beliefs of the Tea Party Movement and comparing these beliefs to those of Falwell’s supporters.

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