Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly pointed me towards this Guardian piece on Falwell and the conservative movement:
The religious right's creation myth holds that Roe v Wade so outraged the faithful that they could no longer sit passively on their pews. As the Columbia University historian Randall Balmer has shown, this is nonsense. The Southern Baptist Convention, Falwell's denomination, was officially pro-choice throughout the 1970s; anti-abortion activism was seen as the province of Catholics, a group then widely despised by fundamentalist Protestants.
No, what really galvanized the religious right were Supreme Court rulings stripping whites-only Christian academies, like the one Falwell founded in 1966, of their tax-exempt status. Fervent opposition to abortion, which eventually cemented the alliance between conservative Protestant and Catholics, came later.
I wonder if there was a "we'll-talk-about-abortion-if-you-drop-the-death-penalty" agreement between movement conservative protestants and conservative Catholics.
The fact that the Catholic Church has been silenced over the last couple decades on the death penalty (which disproportionally impacts blacks to an alarming degree) - while the evangelical world has become radicalized on abortion (when there's significant doubt about when a "life" is formed, even in the text of the Bible) - will be seen as a low point in the history of otherwise honorable religious communities.
The tragedy is that Falwell's movement wound up as nothing more than an engine for converting the charity and goodwill of those following the Prince of Peace into an army waging all-out war against the world's poor, oppressed, outcast, and downtrodden, for nothing more principled than a buck.
Pretty sad that anyone would even consider putting wackos like this on TV as if they had some sort of credibility in their positions.