Paul Michael Weyrich

SOURCE:  Wikipedia, captured 2020-09-18
This page last modified: 2022-03-01 15:49:03 -0800 (PST)

  • Name: Paul Michael Weyrich
  • Born: 1942-10-07, Racine, Wisconsin, U.S.A.
  • Died 2008-12-18 (aged 66), Fairfax, Virginia
  • Alma mater: University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Occupation: Conservative political activist
  • Political party: Republican Party
  • Spouse: Joyce Smigun Weyrich

  • Paul Michael Weyrich (October 7, 1942 -- December 18, 2008) was an American religious  conservative political activist and commentator, most notable as a figurehead of the New Right.

    Paul Weyrich co-founded the conservative think tanks

    Paul Weyrich coined the term "moral majority," the name of the political action group Moral Majority that he co-founded in 1979 with Jerry Falwell.

    Early life and conservative activism

    Weyrich was born in Racine, Wisconsin, to Virginia M. (née Wickstrom) and Ignatius A. Weyrich. Paul Weyrich's father was a German immigrant. Weyrich attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison for two years. Paul Weyrich was active in the Racine County Young Republicans from 1961 to 1963 and in Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign. Paul Weyrich spent his early career in journalism as a political reporter for the Milwaukee Sentinel newspaper, as political reporter and weekend anchor for WISN-TV (Milwaukee), and in radio as a reporter for WAXO-FM (Kenosha), WLIP-AM, and as news director of KQXI (Denver).

    In 1966, Paul Weyrich became press secretary to Republican Party U.S. Senator Gordon L. Allott of Colorado. While serving in this capacity, Paul Weyrich met Jack Wilson, an aide of Joseph Coors, patriarch of the Coors brewing family. Frustrated with the state of public policy research, they founded Analysis and Research Inc. in 1971, but this organization failed to gain traction.

    Political activism (1973-2008)

    In 1973, persuading Joseph Coors to put the money in, Paul Weyrich and Edwin Feulner founded The Heritage Foundation as a think tank to counter liberal views on taxation and regulation, which they considered to be anti-business. While the organization was at first only minimally influential, it has grown into one of the world's largest public policy research institutes and has been hugely influential in advancing conservative policies.

    The following year [1974], again with support from Coors, Weyrich founded the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress (CSFC), an organization that trained and mobilized conservative activists, recruited conservative candidates, and raised funds for conservative causes.

    The CSFC, founded by Weyrich, "became active in eastern European politics after the Cold War. Figuring prominently in this effort was Weyrich's right-hand man, Laszlo Pasztor, a former leader of the pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party in Hungary, which had collaborated with Hitler's Reich. After serving two years in prison for his Arrow Cross activities, Pasztor found his way to the United States, where he was instrumental in establishing the ethnic-outreach arm of the Republican National Committee."

    Under Weyrich, the CSFC proved highly innovative. It was among the first grassroots organizations to raise funds extensively through direct mail campaigns.

    Over the next two decades, Paul Weyrich founded, co-founded, or held prominent roles in a number of other notable conservative organizations. Among them, Paul Weyrich was

    The Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress (CSFC), reorganized into the Free Congress Foundation, also remained active.

    Under the auspices of the Free Congress Foundation (FCF), Paul Weyrich founded the Washington, D.C.-based satellite television station National Empowerment Television (NET), later relaunched as the for-profit channel "America's Voice" in 1997. That same year, Weyrich was forced out of the network he had founded when the network's head persuaded its board to force out Weyrich in a hostile takeover. Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates says this was "apparently for Paul Weyrich's divisive behavior in attacking GOP pragmatists." From 1989 to 1996, Paul Weyrich was also President of the Krieble Institute, a unit of the FCF that trained activists to support democracy movements and establish small businesses in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

    By 1997, the Heritage Foundation and the Free Congress Foundation were two of the top five biggest and best funded conservative think tanks.

    Christian Influence, Activism

    After the Second Vatican Council, Paul Weyrich transferred from the Latin Church of the Roman Catholic Church to the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and was ordained as a deacon.

    The Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress (CSFC), founded by Paul Weyrich in 1974, was one of the first organizations to tap into evangelical Christian churches as places to recruit and cultivate activists and support for social conservative causes. In 1978 Paul Weyrich co-founded assisted the establishment of the Christian Voice, with Robert Grant. Two years later, with Jerry Falwell, Paul Weyrich co-founded the Moral Majority (founded 1979; dissolved 1989).

    Paul Weyrich: Association with Christian Voice

    Christian Voice, founded by Reverends Dr. Robert Grant and Richard Zone in 1978, was an American conservative political advocacy group known as part of the religious within U.S. politics. Christian Voice was headquartered at the Heritage Foundation in the 1970s and 1980s, and was then located in suburban Washington, D.C., in Alexandria, Virginia.

    Evangelical minister Pat Robertson, who later formed the Christian Coalition, furnished some early financial resources for the Christian Voice.

    Paul Michael Weyrich, the leader of the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation and the chief architect of the Christian right movement which the Christian Voice was a part of, met with Grant in 1976 and agreed to let Robert Grant set up headquarters for his future organization at the headquarters of the Heritage Foundation.

    Weyrich, a member of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, then recruited former Nixon administration official Howard Phillips, a Jew who converted to Evangelical Christianity,and was known for leading crusades to "defund the Left," and direct mail king Richard Viguerie, a Roman Catholic to help develop Grant's organization.

    Paul Weyrich abandoned the Christian Voice in 1978 after Robert Grant announced that the Christian Voice was "a sham" that was "controlled by three Catholics and a Jew" [Paul Weyrich, Terry Dolan, and Richard Viguerie (the Catholics) -- and Howard Phillips, the Jew (who converted to Evangelical Christianity)].

    Rail transit activism

    In contrast with many conservatives, Pal Weyrich had a long history of ardent support for rail mass transit. Paul Weyrich opposed "bus rapid transit" (a particular type of bus transit with higher capacity but also higher costs than ordinary bus transit), and instead supported rail transit as a more effective alternative. In 1988 Paul Weyrich co-founded a quarterly magazine on the subject of urban rail transit, called The New Electric Railway Journal (TNERJ), which until 1996 was published by Free Congress Foundation (FCF), and Paul Weyrich was its publisher. Paul Weyrich wrote an opinion column for most issues and contributed a few feature articles. FCF discontinued its affiliation with TNERJ in 1996, but the magazine continued being produced, under a different publishing company, until the end of 1998, with Weyrich listed as "Publisher Emeritus." In early 2000, about a year after the last magazine was published, Weyrich and William S. Lind (who had been the magazine's associate publisher until 1996) launched a website where they could continue to post their views and news about rail transit. They called the webpage "The New New Electric Railway Journal," and Weyrich wrote numerous op-ed columns in favor of proposed light rail and metro systems. Paul Weyrich also supported bringing back streetcars to U.S. cities.

    Weyrich also served on the national board of Amtrak (1987-1993) and the Amtrak Reform Council, as well as on local and regional rail transit advocacy organizations.


    As one of the key figures of the New Right -- Harper's Magazine wrote that Paul Weyrich was "often described by his admirers as 'the Lenin of social conservatism'" -- Weyrich positioned himself as a defender of traditionalist sociopolitical values of states' rights, marriage, anti-communism, and a staunch opponent of the New Left. Consequently, many of Paul Weyrich's views were controversial.

    In Thy Kingdom Come, Randall Balmer recounts comments that Weyrich, whom he describes as "one of the architects of the Religious Right in the late 1970s," made at a conference sponsored by a Religious Right organization, that they both attended in Washington in 1990:

    Bob Jones University had policies that refused black students enrollment until 1971, admitted only married blacks from 1971 to 1975, and prohibited interracial dating and marriage between 1975 and 2000.

    In its October 27, 1997 issue, The New Republic published an article "Robespierre of the Right -- What I Ate at the Revolution" by David Grann, which portrayed Weyrich as highly effective at creating a conservative establishment but also a volatile and tempestuous figure. Weyrich, supported by Larry Klayman of Judicial Watch, sued the magazine and others for libel; the case was dismissed, then remanded in January 2001, then dropped by Weyrich.

    Weyrich abhorred "Political Correctness, which we more accurately call 'Cultural Marxism,'" seeing it as a deliberate effort to undermine "our traditional, Western, Judeo-Christian culture" and the conservative agenda in American society. In 1999, writing that Paul Weyrich believed "we have lost the culture war," he suggested "a legitimate strategy for us to follow is to look at ways to separate ourselves from the institutions that have been captured by the ideology of Political Correctness, or by other enemies of our traditional culture.... we need to drop out of this alien and hostile culture, and find places, even if it is where we physically are right now, where we can live godly, righteous and sober lives."

    In response to a 1999 controversy covered by the press concerning a group of Wiccans in the United States military who were holding religious rituals and services on the grounds of the bases they were assigned to, Weyrich sought to exempt Wiccans from the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and bar them from serving in the military altogether. Weyrich, as President of the Free Congress Foundation, led a coalition of ten religious right organizations that attempted a Christian boycott on joining the military until all Wiccans were removed from the services, saying:


    According to TheocracyWatch and the Anti-Defamation League, both Weyrich and his Free Congress Foundation (FCF) were closely associated with dominionism -- a group of Christian political ideologies that seek to institute a nation governed by Christians based on their understandings of biblical law. TheocracyWatch listed both Weyrich and the FCF as leading examples of "dominionism in action," citing "a manifesto from Paul Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation," The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement which "illuminates the tactics of the dominionist movement." TheocracyWatch which calls it "Paul Weyrich's Training Manual," and others, consider this manifesto a virtual playbook for how the "theocratic right" in American politics can get and keep power.

    The Anti-Defamation League identified Weyrich and the Free Congress Foundation as part of an alliance of more than 50 of the most prominent conservative Christian leaders and organizations that threaten the separation of church and state. Weyrich continued to reject allegations that he advocated theocracy, saying, "This statement is breathtaking in its bigotry," and dismissed the claim that the Christian right wished to transform America into a theocracy. Katherine Yurica wrote that Weyrich guided Eric Heubeck in writing The Integration of Theory and Practice, the Free Congress Foundation's strategic plan published in 2001 by the Free Congress Foundation (FCF), which she says calls for the use of deception, misinformation, and divisiveness to allow conservative evangelical Christian Republicans to gain and keep control of seats of power in the government of the United States.

    Dominionism is a controversial term, with many conservatives and religious writers dismissing it as a left-wing term to tar people they disagree with.

    Weyrich publicly rejected accusations that he wanted America to become a theocracy:

    Criticism of conservatives and homosexuals

    Weyrich also often made an issue out of what he claimed were his fellow conservatives' behavior and abuse of power. Paul Weyrich encouraged a grassroots movement in conservatism he called "the next conservatism," which he said should work to "restore America" from the bottom up. Illustrating his point, Weyrich drew a comparison between "how the Christian church grew amidst a decaying Roman Empire" and "how the next conservatism can restore an American republic as a falling America Empire collapses around us."

    Paul Weyrich advocated a revival of the House Un-American Activities Committee and the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, with the aim of identifying and removing communists from the media, which he contended still harbors infiltrators from the former Soviet Union:

    In a 2006 interview with Michele Norris of National Public Radio about the 2006 Mark Foley scandal, Weyrich expressed his views regarding homosexuality:

    Culture war letter

    Frustrated with public indifference to the Lewinsky scandal, Weyrich wrote a letter in February 1999 stating that he believed conservatives had lost the culture war, urging a separatist strategy where conservatives ought to live apart from corrupted mainstream society and form their own parallel institutions:

    This was widely interpreted as Weyrich calling for a retreat from politics, but he almost immediately issued a clarification stating this was not his intent. In the evangelical magazine World he wrote:

    By 2004, Weyrich was reportedly more hopeful, given trends in public opinion and the reelection of President George W. Bush. In spite of his initial support for Bush, Paul Weyrich often disagreed with Bush administration policies. Examples of their disagreement included the Iraq War, immigration, Harriet Miers, and fiscal policy.

    After the fall of the Soviet Union, Weyrich made many trips to Russia and was a supporter of a close Russia-United States relationship.

    Spinal injury, disability, and death

    Weyrich was diagnosed with a spinal injury known as arachnoiditis, resulting from a 1996 fall on black ice. From 2001 until his death in 2008, Paul Weyrich's injury left him in a wheelchair and in chronic pain. Complications from that fall required a bilateral, below-the-knee amputation of Paul Weyrich's legs in July 2005.

    Weyrich died on December 18, 2008, aged 66, at Inova Fair Oaks Hospital in Fairfax, Virginia. Paul Weyrich was at the hospital for routine tests, and the cause of death was not released. In addition to his spinal injury and amputations, Weyrich suffered from type 2 diabetes. Paul Weyrich was interred in Fairfax Memorial Park in Fairfax, Virginia, on December 22, 2008.

    Weyrich and his wife, the former Joyce Smigun, who resided with him in Annandale, Virginia, had five children: Dawn Ceol of Haymarket, Virginia, Peter Weyrich of Alexandria, Virginia, Diana Pascoe of Honolulu, Hawaii, Stephen Weyrich of Fairfax Station, Virginia, and Andrew Weyrich of Fairfax County; and thirteen grandchildren.


    Return to