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Conservative leader Weyrich dies

WASHINGTON (BP)–Paul Weyrich, 66, a conservative leader who was instrumental in helping involve evangelical Christians and other religious conservatives in politics and public policy beginning in the late 1970s, died Dec. 18.

Weyrich has been credited with coining the term “moral majority,” which Jerry Falwell used as a name for the organization he founded in 1979. Falwell, Weyrich and others helped motivate and train religious conservatives to become involved in the public square on moral issues such as abortion. This new movement played a significant role in Republican Ronald Reagan’s resounding defeat of President Jimmy Carter in 1980.

“Paul Weyrich was a giant of grassroots conservatism, a man who had tremendous passion for conservative causes and who was widely known throughout the country as a man whose main concern was always the cause, not his own self-aggrandizement or his own self-promotion,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “His loss leaves a large void in American social conservatism. He will be sorely missed.”

In 1973, Weyrich became the first president of the Heritage Foundation, a leading conservative think tank. Later in the 1970s, he founded the Free Congress Foundation, where he was chairman and chief executive officer at his death. Unlike some other conservative think tanks, Free Congress gave much attention to cultural issues.

During the last 35 years, he remained active in founding conservative organizations, building coalitions to advance the conservative movement’s message and policies, training conservative leaders at all levels, and presiding over weekly meetings of conservative advocates and members of Congress.
Compiled by Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode.

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