Sometimes you just have to roll your eyes and wonder if some folks have given leave of their senses or are off their medications.

Last week, the Idaho Falls Post-Register’s Bryan Clark covered a lecture held in Rexburg at a local theater.  In attendance at the event were 70 residents, including current Rexburg Mayor Jerry Merrill and State Rep. Ron Nate.

The speaker was Tom DeWeese who fancies himself an “expert” on property rights. Here is what he shared:

DeWeese is one of the nation’s most prominent exponents of the Agenda 21 conspiracy theory . . .

It’s in things such as zoning, bike paths and conservation easements that DeWeese sees the advent of global totalitarianism. DeWeese invoked Hitler and Stalin, Mussolini and Napoleon, saying this time things would be much worse. He warned that unspecified “secret societies” sought to organize the entire world under a single “diabolical plan,” which he variously characterized as communist and fascist.

“There is such a plan for world domination,” DeWeese said, his voice rising in volume and urgency as he went on. “It is rapidly taking over with a pace and scope that no force or power ever experienced in history. Hitler would be so envious watching what is being done, so powerful and controlling is this force.”

Things such as bike lanes, walkable downtowns and efforts to decrease urban sprawl will usher in “a dark ages unlike anything seen in human history,” DeWeese said.

The sponsor was the local John Birch Society.

The JBS is a largely secret society organized along the lines of communist infiltration cells with roughly 20 carefully chosen members who try to manipulate local issues behind the scenes. They often try to take over local political parties, intervene in public policy issues, infiltrate entities like school boards --- all while hiding their role. Occasionally they will come out in public and hold events on topics like this to attract others to their banner.

The founder of the John Birch Society was a man named Robert Welch. He was a complete and absolute loon. He wrote a book called The Politician where he concluded President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the liberator of Europe from the scourge of Hitler, was as “dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy.”

Prominent conservatives in the 1960s slapped Welch and the John Birch Society hard for this silliness. Conservative Sen. Barry Goldwater publicly denounced the Eisenhower claim, as did Ronald Reagan. Conservative author Russell Kirk opined that, “Eisenhower is not a communist; he is a golfer.”

Welch and the John Birch Society also believed that U.S. government and U.S. society were almost completely controlled and manipulated by the Soviet communists who he asserted had infiltrated every corner. For years its major cause was to impeach the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Earl Warren for, among other reasons, ending the racist “separate but equal” doctrine. They also thought fluoride in drinking water was a deliberate plot, supported removing books from libraries and would target local businesses that wouldn’t bend to their odd whims.

The most prominent conservative critic of Welch and the John Birch Society was writer William F. Buckley, founder of the stoutly conservative National Review, who called out this nuttiness and “excommunicated” Welch and his organization from the conservative movement in 1962.

Unfortunately, today, the Birchers are back and occasionally slink out from under their rock.  Their causes include such pressing concerns as smart meters used by power companies to collect usage data, fear of sharia law in the U.S., a feared roundup of U.S. citizens by FEMA, and the often invoked fears of airplane contrails vaccinations.

That is why the claim that local zoning and bike paths will cause a “dark ages unlike anything seen in human history” is not too odd for a Rexburg John Birch Society meeting. 

The real public focus should be on Rep. Nate and Rexburg Mayor Merrill. Both should be ashamed for giving credence to this loopy group.

Steve Taggart is an Idaho Falls attorney specializing in bankruptcy (  He has an extensive background in politics and public policy.  He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..