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The Rev. Jerry Falwell will open a law school this year in hopes of training a generation of attorneys who will fight abortion rights, gay marriage and other issues he believes the legal establishment has forced on the public. “We want to infiltrate the culture with men and women of God who are skilled in the legal profession,” Falwell said Tuesday in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “We’ll be as far to the right as Harvard is to the left.” The law school, part of Falwell’s Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., will begin classes on Aug. 23. Its first-year class of 61 students arrived for orientation this week. “I’d love to fight Roe v. Wade,” said incoming law student Heidi Thompson, 33, a Liberty graduate who has spent the past few years working as a high school counselor in Orlando, Fla. “I have a long way to go before I find myself in front of the Supreme Court,” Thompson said with a laugh. “But I’m hoping through some medical advances and some legal intervention that people can recognize the great wrong that was done in 1971 with Roe v. Wade.” Falwell said his law school will be similar to its Christian-leaning counterparts like Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va., which Pat Robertson founded. Classroom lectures and discussions will fuse the teachings of the Bible with the U.S. Constitution, stressing the connections between faith, law and morality, said law school Dean Bruce Green, who has experience in civil liberties litigation. “There is a strong need for this,” said Green, who believes many of his colleagues take sides on abortion and genetic engineering without first considering what is morally right. “There are certain views that might carry the day in legal circles that are morally indefensible and at one time was legally indefensible,” Green said. Joe Conn, a spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, called the law school part of an ongoing crusade by Falwell to get the government to carry out his religious agenda. “When Falwell talks about using the legal system to advance his personal religious beliefs, I get a whiff of the Taliban,” Conn said. “This is a very diverse country with many different religious beliefs, and when you set up a law school to try to get the government and legal system to conform to only one of them, you’re leaving everybody else out,” Conn said. Even before its doors open, Liberty officials say they’ve been overrun with applicants excited about learning law with the Bible in hand. Green said 195 lawyers applied for nine faculty positions, even though the school did not formally advertise any of the jobs. The school also allowed 21 more students than planned, selecting a student body from 22 states and India. Falwell credits the enthusiasm to “the tragedies that are happening in the federal courts and state courts across the land.” “Fifty years ago in America, there were few challenges to the moral and ethical values that are universal still among people of faith,” Falwell said. “It’s only been in the past generation that we’ve abandoned the values under which this nation was built,” leading to the ban on prayer in schools, legalization of abortion on demand and efforts to legalize same sex marriage, he said. Falwell expects the school eventually to have 450 students. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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