The anticommunist John Birch Society was founded in 1958 by candy manufacturer Robert Welch. Mr. Welch named the society after John Birch, a missionary and United States Army captain who was killed by communist soldiers in China on Aug. 25, 1945.
Seeing Birch as an exemplar of the American spirit, Welch founded the society to promote limited constitutional government and "expose communists." More powerful than popular, Welch's network of regional chapters mobilized against communism, notably Cuba's Fidel Castro. While the group was isolationist, it supported the United States military in Vietnam. The John Birch Society was the antithesis of the antiwar hippies of the era.
In a post-cold-war world, the group has shifted its focus to what it sees as global conspiracies threatening US sovereignty and promoting global government.
Though the John Birch Society does not disclose membership numbers, JBS research associate Heather Brick indicated that membership had waned in the 1980s. The Appleton, Wisc.-based group now focuses on educating citizens at the grass-roots level, Ms. Brick says.
Current JBS education campaigns include efforts to get the US out of the United Nations, reclaim the Panama Canal, and cut federal taxes.
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