Saturday, December 20, 2008

RIP Paul Weyrich (Founder of Heritage Foundation)

Following the 1925 Scopes Trial, Christians in America vowed to never foray into politics again. Fast forward to 1962, their political timidity deepened after the Supreme Court in Engel v. Vitale ruled school prayer unconstitutional. Only Paul Weyrich demurred. In fact, he set his life mission to create a political majority made up of "moral" Americans. The Moral Majority was coined by Weyrich, but given currency by Jerry Falwell. 

Weyrich today is probably best known as the co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, arguably the most influential conservative think-tank in the world. But perhaps more notable is his awakening of the Christian Right. He was confounded by the Christians' reticence to become active in politics - they made up such a huge potential voting block. His problem was that he was not a pastor, and he himself was a Roman Catholic. He didn't have the Christian credentials to be an effective spokesperson. 

Weyrich turned to Jerry Falwell, then a Virginia preacher who hosted a popular evangelical TV show and founded a Bible college. Together, Weyrich and Falwell raised enough money to conduct some national polling asking Christians whether they'd tolerate their pastors becoming political and whether they'd contribute to faith-based political action committees. The polling was overwhelmingly positive. 

And thus the Moral Majority was born. The Moral Majority overtly pressed the Christian evangelical agenda in the political sphere to great success. In 1977, four years after the infamous Roe v. Wade in 1973, Weyrich founded the Heritage Foundation. Many of the ideas, principles and policy positions disseminated by the Heritage Foundation served as the arsenal with which President Reagan won the Presidency in 1980. 

Weyrich, perhaps single-handedly, sparked the Christian Right's political ascendancy that won us Presidents Reagan the Bush I and II, not to mention Gingrich's 1994 Republican Revolution that pushed the nation paradigmatically to the right. 

Weyrich and his contributions are enduring. 

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