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Paul Matzko

Paul Matzko

Doctoral Candidate

108 Weaver Building
University Park , PA 16802
Office Phone: (814) 769-1184

Office Hours:

  • 117 Pond Laboratory

Curriculum Vitae

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  1. Doctoral Candidate, Pennsylvania State University
  2. MA, Temple University, 2010
  3. BA, Bob Jones University, 2007


I study the intersection of politics and religion in twentieth century America under the direction of Philip Jenkins and Amy Greenberg. My work also intersects with media studies, public choice economics, and social movement theory.

Recent Publications:

"The National Council of Churches versus Right-Wing Radio: How the Mainline Muted the New Christian Right," The Lively Experiment: The Story of Religious Toleration in America, from Roger Williams to the Present, eds. Christopher Beneke and Christopher Grenda, Rowman & Littlefield, March 2015.

Review, "American Evangelicals and the 1960s," Axel R. Schafer ed., Review of Religious Research (March 2014): 353-355.

Awards and Service:

Humane Studies Fellowship, Institute for Humane Studies, George Mason University, 2013-2014.
Research Associate for the Association of Religion Data Archives, 2013-2015.
Lynn E. May Study Grant at The Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, Nashville, TN (Summer 2012)
Torrey M. Johnson Sr. Scholarship Fund at the Billy Graham Center Archives, Wheaton, IL (Summer 2012)


My dissertation — “Silencing the Minority: Religious Broadcasting, State Censorship, and the Rise and Fall of the New Christian Right in the 1960s” — explores the role played by conservative broadcasting in the rise of the New Christian Right. By the early 1960s a dozen conservative broadcasters could boast that they aired on more than a hundred stations nationwide. Their listeners skewed female, middle-class, and middle-aged. They formed boycotts, started book clubs, passed out flyers, and knocked on doors for conservative causes and candidates. They were the backbone of the New Christian Right and it was broadcasting that connected these interested, yet scattered individuals with one another.

Broadcasting was not only a means of organization for the New Christian Right but also a site of contention. The rapid growth in conservative broadcasting caught the baleful eye of the John F. Kennedy administration. In public the administration and its allies dismissed these grassroots activists as, in the words of Democratic National Committee Chairman John Bailey, “grandmothers dressed in cowgirl costumes passing out Barry Goldwater buttons.” In private they were less sanguine. As one of Kennedy’s White House aides reported to him, these radio listeners were causing significant problems by “harass[ing] local school boards, local librarians, and local governing bodies.”

Worried that the re-election campaign in 1964 would be another squeaker like that of 1960, the Kennedy brothers took action. They used Internal Revenue Service audits to revoke conservative broadcasters' tax exemptions, scaring away donors. They also pushed the Federal Communications Commission to discourage radio stations from putting Right-wing programs on the air. After Kennedy’s death, the Democratic National Committee and several allied interest groups carried on with the campaign.

It remains the most successful episode of state censorship since the Second Red Scare, yet it has almost entirely escaped scholarly attention. This calculated campaign against conservative broadcasting delayed the return of the New Christian Right to national political influence by a full decade. Not until Jimmy Carter relaxed enforcement of FCC regulations in the late-1970s did a new crop of politically-active religious broadcasters arise to bolster the Reagan Revolution.

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