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  Falwell Kicks the BucketMay 15, 2007 23:11

The Rev Jerry Falwell, whose evangelical convictions and organisational abilities, including as a founder in 1979 of the Moral Majority movement, did much to place religious conservatives in a role of great influence in American politics, died on Tuesday in Lynchburg, Virginia, of apparent heart failure at the age of 73.

He was a figure of immense controversy over the last 40 years, outspoken to the point that his apologies appeared almost as regularly as his thundering denunciations. To him the three great scourges afflicting his country were "atheism, secularism and humanism," and nothing would deter him from defeating his evil trinity.

Most notoriously, he laid the blame for the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001, at the feet of his domestic opponents. "I really believe," he said at the time, "that the pagans, the abortionists and the lesbians … and all those who have tried to secularise America helped this happen." His subsequent recantation attracted less attention.

  White House threatens to veto hate-crimes billMay 03, 2007 21:59

The White House has threatened to veto a bill passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday that expands hate-crime laws to include attacks based on sexual orientation or gender.

Under current law, hate crimes are subject to federal prosecution only if the acts of violence are motivated by race, religion, color or national origin. Federal prosecutors get involved only if the victim is engaged in a federally protected activity, such as voting or participating in interstate commerce.

The White House says there is no need for the expanded bill because state and local laws already cover the crimes it addresses, and there is no need for federal enforcement.

In addition to allowing greater leeway for federal law enforcement authorities to investigate hate crimes, the House bill -- which was passed on a 237-180 vote --provides $10 million over the next two years to aid local prosecutions.

A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate, but no date has been set for a vote.