Paul Michael Weyrich
Personal details
Born(1942-10-07)October 7, 1942
Racine, Wisconsin, U.S.
DiedDecember 18, 2008(2008-12-18) (aged 66)
Fairfax, Virginia, U.S.
Resting placeFairfax Memorial Park
Political partyRepublican
SpouseJoyce Smigun
EducationUniversity of Wisconsin, Parkside

Paul Michael Weyrich (/ˈwrɪk/; October 7, 1942 – December 18, 2008)[1][2][3][4] was an American religious conservative political activist and commentator associated with the New Right. He co-founded The Heritage Foundation,[5] the Free Congress Foundation, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and 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 education

Weyrich was born in Racine, Wisconsin, to Virginia M. (née Wickstrom) and Ignatius A. Weyrich.[6] His father was a German immigrant.[7] Weyrich graduated from St. Catherine's High School in 1960[8] and attended the University of Wisconsin–Racine for two years.[9]



He was active in the Racine County Young Republicans from 1961 to 1963 and in Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign. He 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),[10] and in radio as a reporter for WAXO-FM (Kenosha), WLIP-AM, and as news director of KQXI (Denver).

After Second Vatican Council, Weyrich transferred from the Latin Church of the Roman Catholic Church to the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and was ordained as a deacon.[9]

Political activism (1973–2008)

Weyrich in 2007

In 1966,[5] he became press secretary to Republican U.S. Senator Gordon L. Allott of Colorado.[5][11] While serving in this capacity, he 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.[citation needed]

In 1973, persuading Joseph Coors to support it financially, Weyrich and Edwin Feulner founded The Heritage Foundation as a think tank[5] 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, again with support from Coors, Weyrich founded the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress (CSFC).[5]

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,[12] a former leader of the pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party in Hungary, which had collaborated with Hitler's Third 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."[13]

Under Weyrich, the CSFC proved highly innovative. It was among the first grassroots organizations to raise funds extensively through direct mail campaigns. It also 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.[14] In 1977, Weyrich co-founded Christian Voice with Robert Grant. Two years later, with Jerry Falwell, he founded the Moral Majority (1979–1989).[15]

Over the next two decades, Weyrich founded, co-founded, or held prominent roles in a number of other notable conservative organizations. Among them, he was founder of the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization of state legislators; a co-founder of the Council for National Policy, a strategy-formulating organization for social conservatives; co-publisher of the magazine Conservative Digest; and national chairman of Coalitions for America, an association of conservative activist organizations. The CSFC, reorganized into the Free Congress Foundation, also remained active.[citation needed]

Under the auspices of the FCF, he 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 his divisive behavior in attacking GOP pragmatists".[16] From 1989 to 1996, he 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.[citation needed]

By 1997, The Heritage Foundation and the Free Congress Foundation were two of the top five biggest and best funded conservative think tanks.[5]

Before he died, he argued that conservatives "should be fighting to return to family structures of the 1950s, a goal that has been picked up by leaders after him."[17]

Rail transit activism

In contrast with many conservatives, Weyrich had a long history of ardent support for rail mass transit.[18][19] He opposed "bus rapid transit"[20] (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, he co-founded a quarterly magazine on the subject of urban rail transit, called The New Electric Railway Journal, which, until 1996, was published by FCF, and he was its publisher.[21]

He 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,[21] until the end of 1998, with Weyrich listed as "Publisher Emeritus". In early 2000,[22] 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",[22] and Weyrich wrote numerous op-ed columns in favor of proposed light rail and metro systems. He also supported bringing back streetcars to U.S. cities.[23]

Weyrich also served on the national board of Amtrak (1987–1993)[24] 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 RightHarper's Magazine wrote that he was "often described by his admirers as 'the Lenin of social conservatism'"[25]—Weyrich positioned himself as a defender of traditionalist sociopolitical values of states' rights, marriage, anti-communism, and a staunch opponent of the New Left.

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:[26]

In the course of one of the sessions, Weyrich tried to make a point to his Religious Right brethren (no women attended the conference, as I recall). Let's remember, he said animatedly, that the Religious Right did not come together in response to the Roe decision. No, Weyrich insisted, what got us going as a political movement was the attempt on the part of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to rescind the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University because of its racially discriminatory policies.

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.[27] 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.[28]

Weyrich abhorred Political Correctness which he called Cultural Marxism, seeing it as a deliberate effort to undermine what he believed was "our traditional, Western, Judeo-Christian culture" and the conservative agenda in American society. In 1999, writing that he 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."[29]

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[30] 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:

Until the Army withdraws all official support and approval from witchcraft, no Christian should enlist or re-enlist in the Army, and Christian parents should not allow their children to join the Army. ...An Army that sponsors satanic rituals is unworthy of representing the United States of America. ...The official approval of satanism and witchcraft by the Army is a direct assault on the Christian faith that generations of American soldiers have fought and died for. ...If the Army wants witches and satanists in its ranks, then it can do it without Christians in those ranks. It's time for the Christians in this country to put a stop to this kind of nonsense. A Christian recruiting strike will compel the Army to think seriously about what it is doing.[30]


According to TheocracyWatch and the Anti-Defamation League, both Weyrich and his Free Congress Foundation were closely associated with dominionism.[31][32] TheocracyWatch listed both 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[33] which "illuminates the tactics of the dominionist movement".[31] TheocracyWatch which calls it "Paul Weyrich's Training Manual", and others[who?], consider this manifesto a virtual playbook for how the "theocratic right" in American politics can get and keep power.[34] 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.[32]

Weyrich continued to reject allegations that he advocated theocracy, saying, "[T]his statement is breathtaking in its bigotry",[35] and dismissed the claim that the Christian right wished to transform America into a theocracy.[36] 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 FCF,[37] 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[who?] 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:

Some political observers may see the presence of religious conservatives in the Republican Party as a threat. My former friend Kevin Phillips [author of American Theocracy], who in the early days of the New Right was so helpful, now acts as if a theocracy governs the nation. Phillips was the architect of President Richard M. Nixon's Southern strategy, which worked brilliantly until Nixon did himself in. Now that the South does have the upper hand in the Republican Party Phillips is bitter about it. I see no theocracy here. As someone who has helped the religious right transition to the political process, I would have nothing to do with something akin to Iran translated into Americanize.[36]

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, and he 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."[38]

He 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:

From what Igor Gaidar told me, we needed to have revived these committees with a focus not so much on Hollywood but on the media itself. We know that one New York Times reporter, who always portrayed Stalin as Good Old Uncle Joe, was in fact a Communist and operated for decades on the Times staff. Were there any more? How about the Washington Post? ... Why not reconstitute these two committees and let them work hand in glove with the FBI. That is what happened before 1965. J. Edgar Hoover would often suggest good targets to be investigated.[39]

In a 2006 interview[40] with Michele Norris of National Public Radio about the 2006 Mark Foley scandal, Weyrich expressed his views regarding homosexuality:

Weyrich: It has been known for many years that Congressman Foley was a homosexual. Homosexuals tend to be preoccupied with sex—the idea that he should be continued, or should have been continued as chairman on the Committee for Missing and Exploited Children, given their knowledge of that is just outrageous (Interview at 1:08).

Norris: Now, before we go on, I think I can say, Mr. Weyrich, that there're quite a few people who would take exception to the statement that homosexuals are preoccupied with sex.
Weyrich: Well, I don't care whether they take exception to it—it happens to be true.
Norris: That is your opinion.

Weyrich: Well, it's not my opinion, it's the opinion of many psychologists and psychiatrists who have to deal with them. (Interview at 1:40)

Culture war letter

Frustrated with public indifference to the Lewinsky scandal,[41] 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:

I believe that we probably have lost the culture war. That doesn't mean the war is not going to continue, and that it isn't going to be fought on other fronts. But in terms of society in general, we have lost. This is why, even when we win in politics, our victories fail to translate into the kind of policies we believe are important.

Therefore, what seems to me 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.

What I mean by separation is, for example, what the homeschoolers have done. Faced with public school systems that no longer educate but instead 'condition' students with the attitudes demanded by Political Correctness, they have seceded. They have separated themselves from public schools and have created new institutions, new schools, in their homes.

I think that we have to look at a whole series of possibilities for bypassing the institutions that are controlled by the enemy. If we expend our energies on fighting on the "turf" they already control, we will probably not accomplish what we hope, and we may spend ourselves to the point of exhaustion.[42]

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:

... [W]hen critics say in supposed response to me that 'before striking our colors in the culture wars, Christians should at least put up a fight,' I am puzzled. Of course they should. That is exactly what I am urging them to do. The question is not whether we should fight, but how. ...In essence, I said that we need to change our strategy. Instead of relying on politics to retake the culturally and morally decadent institutions of contemporary America, I said that we should separate from those institutions and build our own.[16]

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, he often disagreed with Bush administration policies. Examples of their disagreement included the Iraq War, immigration, Harriet Miers, and fiscal policy.[43]

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Weyrich made many trips to Russia and was a supporter of a close Russia-United States relationship.[44]

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, his injury left him in a wheelchair and in chronic pain. Complications from that fall required a bilateral, below-the-knee amputation of his legs in July 2005.[citation needed]

Weyrich died on December 18, 2008, aged 66, at Inova Fair Oaks Hospital in Fairfax, Virginia. He 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.[9] He was interred in Fairfax Memorial Park, Fairfax, Virginia, on December 22, 2008.[45]


Weyrich and his wife, Joyce Anne (née Smigun), who resided with him in Annandale, Virginia, had five children as well as thirteen grandchildren.[9]


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  1. ^ Weber, Bruce (December 18, 2008). "Paul Weyrich, 66, a Conservative Strategist, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved January 10, 2009.
  2. ^ Conservative Leader Paul Weyrich Dies; First to Lead Heritage The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved on December 18, 2008.
  3. ^ Stainer, Maria (December 18, 2008). "Paul M. Weyrich dead at age 66". The Washington Times. Retrieved 2008-12-18.
  4. ^ Williams, Ian (December 19, 2008). "Burying conservatism". London: The Guardian. Retrieved January 10, 2009. Paul Weyrich helped American conservatism rise to prominence. It's fitting that his death comes at the movement's nadir
  5. ^ a b c d e f Brown, Ruth Murray.For a 'Christian America': A History of the Religious Right, 2002. Prometheus Books, New York, pp. 131-35 (ISBN 1573929735)
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  12. ^ "Laszlo C. Pasztor Obituary (2015) Washington Times".
  13. ^ Lee, Martin (1997). The Beast Reawakens. Little Brown. p. 303.
  14. ^ Abdelfatah, Rund (June 22, 2022). "Evangelicals didn't always play such a big role in the fight to limit abortion access". Retrieved 2022-06-24.
  15. ^ A Reverence for Fundamentalism, Lernoux, Penny. The Nation, vol. 248, Issue #0015, April 17, 1989.
  16. ^ a b Clinton, Conspiracism, and the Continuing Culture War, Aftermath and Future Shock, Berlet, Chip. Political Research Associates September 30, 1999.
  17. ^ Sosin, Kate (May 17, 2022). "How did trans people become a GOP target? Experts say it's all about keeping evangelicals voting". The 19th. Retrieved November 9, 2022.
  18. ^ Lawrence, Jill (December 18, 2008). "Conservative strategist Weyrich dies at 66". USA Today. Retrieved May 27, 2011.
  19. ^ Weyrich, Paul M. (Autumn 1993). "Righting the Rails". The New Electric Railway Journal, p. 4. (The headline was a play on words, as the column explained why Weyrich felt it made sense for those on the political "right" [conservatives] to support rail transit.)
  20. ^ Weyrich: Federal Anti-Rail Promotion of "BRT" is "Dead Wrong", Light Rail Now, September 2003
  21. ^ a b Kunz, Richard R. (Spring 1996). "From the Editor: Cutting the Cord". The New Electric Railway Journal, p. 2.
  22. ^ a b "Introduction". "The New New Electric Railway Journal" website. 2000. Archived from the original on June 10, 2000. Retrieved May 26, 2011.
  23. ^ Weyrich, Paul M.; Lind, William S. (June 2002), Bring Back the Streetcars! (PDF), Free Congress Foundation/American Public Transportation Association, archived from the original (PDF) on February 25, 2012, retrieved July 27, 2013
  24. ^ "Biography of Paul M. Weyrich". Inventory of the Paul M. Weyrich papers, 1968–2002. Rocky Mountain Online Archive / University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center. 2008. Archived from the original on May 31, 2012. Retrieved May 27, 2011.
  25. ^ Lapham, Lewis (September 2004). "Tentacles of Rage: The Republican propaganda mill, a brief history" (PDF). Harper's Magazine. New York. p. 7. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  26. ^ Balmer, Randall. "Evangelical: Religious Right Has Distorted the Faith". NPR. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  27. ^ "Robespierre of the Right--What I Ate at the Revolution". Archived from the original on 1999-10-11.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link), David Grann. The New Republic, October 27, 1997.
  28. ^ "United States Court of Appeals No. 99-7221". Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  29. ^ "Letter to Conservatives by Paul M. Weyrich - February 16, 1999". 1999-02-16. Archived from the original on February 17, 2005. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  30. ^ a b "'Satanic' Army Unworthy of Representing United States". Free Congress Foundation. June 9, 1999. Archived from the original on August 26, 2004.
  31. ^ a b "The Rise of the Religious Right in the Republican Party" Archived 2008-09-12 at the Wayback Machine, TheocracyWatch, URL accessed May 2, 2006.
  32. ^ a b Religion in America's Public Square: Are We Crossing the Line? Archived 2006-05-25 at the Wayback Machine, Excerpts from an address by Abraham H. Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, Last updated: November 2005; URL accessed May 2, 2006.
  33. ^ "The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement". Archived from the original on 2017-02-04. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  34. ^ "Paul Weyrich's Training Manual", TheocracyWatch, URL accessed May 2, 2006.
  35. ^ Faith is a right, not a theocracy, Senator Schumer Paul Weyrich., July 24, 2006
  36. ^ a b The "Values Summit" series -- legislative opportunities, Paul Weyrich., July 6, 2006
  37. ^ "The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement". Archived from the original on July 13, 2001. Retrieved 2001-07-13.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link), Eric Heubeck. Originally published on the Free Congress Foundation website in 2001, available through the Internet Archive
  38. ^ "The next conservatism and power", Paul Weyrich., July 31, 2006.
  39. ^ a b A Congressional Challenge Paul Weyrich., September 7, 2006
  40. ^ NPR: Conservative Groups Call for Accountability on Foley, National Public Radio, October 4, 2006
  41. ^ Fukuyama, Francis (1999). "How to Re-Moralize America". The Wilson Quarterly. 23 (3): 32–44. JSTOR 40259923. See p. 33.
  42. ^ "Letter to Conservatives by Paul M. Weyrich - February 16, 1999". 1999-02-16. Archived from the original on 2000-04-11. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  43. ^ "Name the date -- fastest rise in federal spending since FDR". RenewAmerica. 2017-02-04. Archived from the original on 2016-01-10. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  44. ^ Stewart, Katherine (18 July 2018). "Opinion | What Was Maria Butina Doing at the National Prayer Breakfast?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-07-18.
  45. ^ "The Catholic Review Online | Catholic newspaper, Archdiocese of Baltimore, world and national Archdiocese news, CNS". Archived from the original on 2011-07-25. Retrieved 2008-12-24.
  46. ^ The Hidden Election: Politics and Economics in the 1980 Presidential Campaign. Edited By Thomas Ferguson and Joel Rogers. Pantheon Books, 1981.
  47. ^ "A 'Christ-Killer' Slur Stirs Rightist Tussle in D.C." Archived 2006-05-10 at the Wayback Machine, The Forward, April 27, 2001; URL accessed August 2, 2006.
  48. ^ "The next conservative economics", Paul Weyrich. WORLD, August 5, 2005
  49. ^ "The Next Conservatism #35: Good new taxes", Paul Weyrich. Renew, March 20, 2005.