Talk2Action has an interesting expose` on Paul Weyrich, the most important religious right leader you’ve likely never heard of. Weyrich has had an astonishingly busy and effective career in politics. He’s probably the single most important figure in the religious right, though nowhere near as well known as Dobson, Falwell, Robertson and others. He’s the power behind the throne, the prime mover behind the scenes. Among other groups he has founded: the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority, the Council on National Policy, and the Free Congress Foundation. More than any other man, he is the one responsible for the growth in the power and influence of the religious right over the last 30 years in America.
Weyrich himself is a conservative Catholic and a member of Opus Dei, but he has been enormously influential at motivating evangelical protestants to get involved with politics. He was the man most responsible (along with Richard Vigurie perhaps) for getting Reagan elected in 1980 and he remains a powerful kingmaker today. Here is a story I have told before about Weyrich, and I bring it up again because I think it’s a fascinating glimpse into the mindset of Weyrich and those he has influenced. It demonstrates several things, including their basic intolerance toward other religions and the fact that their theocratic tendencies are ultimately far more important than their patriotism. It’s not about the Constitution for them; it’s about the Bible, interpreted in the most intolerant possible manner.
In 1999, a controversy hit the press concerning a group of Wiccans in the US military who were holding rituals and services on the grounds of the bases they were assigned to. Why this was ever a controversy in the first place is beyond me; they are serving in our military and, like all Americans, they have every right to practice their religion freely. The military was aware that this was going on and had no problem with it. Even the chaplain’s service, which is overwhelmingly Christian (as are the soldiers, of course) had no problem with it and supported the practice. No sane person would have batted an eye at this.
Enter Bob Barr, to whom the “no sane person” statement clearly does not apply. Barr was outraged that Wiccans had the same rights as Christians to practice their religion and he tried to insert language into a defense authorization bill that would ban all Wiccan rituals and practices from military bases. The amendment was voted down. But even that was not good enough for Weyrich, who not only wanted to exempt Wiccans from the first amendment’s free exercise clause, he wanted them out of the military completely. He led a coalition of some 10 religious right organizations that actually tried to start a Christian boycott on joining the military until they booted out all the Wiccans:
“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,” Paul Weyrich added. “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.”
It’s an absolutely astonishing statement, isn’t it? First of all, the notion that our soldiers fought and died not for their country but for the Christian faith is about as blatant an admission of theocratic views as you will ever see. And notice that he is so fanatical about destroying the rights of those who practice other religions that he is even willing to weaken our military in order to do it, another clear indication that it is the theocratic imposition of his intolerant views that matters, not the constitution that our military officers swear to protect. There is no one I regard as a more serious threat to our freedom than Paul Weyrich.