Witherspoon Institute

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Witherspoon Institute
Founder(s)Robert P. George
PresidentLuis E. Tellez
BudgetRevenue: $1,806,735
Expenses: $2,563,903
(FYE December 2015)[1]
Address16 Stockton Street
Princeton, New Jersey 08540

The Witherspoon Institute is a conservative think tank in Princeton, New Jersey[2][3][4] founded in 2003 by Princeton University professor Robert P. George,[3][4][5] Luis Tellez, and others involved with the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions.[3][6] Named after John Witherspoon,[2] one of the signers of the United States Declaration of Independence, the institute's fellows include Harold James, John Joseph Haldane, and James R. Stoner, Jr.[7]


The Witherspoon Institute opposes abortion and same-sex marriage[8] and deals with embryonic stem cell research, constitutional law, and globalization.[3] In 2003, it organized a conference on religion in modern societies.[9] In 2006, Republican Senator Sam Brownback cited the Witherspoon document Marriage and the Public Good: Ten Principles in a debate over a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage.[3] It held a conference about pornography named The Social Costs of Pornography[10] at Princeton University in December 2008.[11]

The home of the Witherspoon Institute at 16 Stockton Street in Princeton, New Jersey

Financially independent from Princeton University, its donors have included the Bradley Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, the John Templeton Foundation, and the Lee and Ramona Bass Foundation.[3]

The institute publishes the online journal Public Discourse: Ethics, Law, and the Common Good.[12] It also provides educational opportunities to high school students, undergraduate students, graduate students, and young faculty members.[13][14][15] Most of these seminars focus on natural law philosophy and its applications in contemporary fields such as political theory, bioethics, and law.

Chen Guangcheng[edit]

On October 2, 2013, the Witherspoon Institute announced[16] the appointment of Chinese lawyer and human rights activist Chen Guangcheng as a Distinguished Senior Fellow in Human Rights,[17] as well as Visiting Fellow of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America,[18] and Senior Distinguished Advisor to the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice.[19] In an interview, Witherspoon Institute President Luis Tellez told Reuters: "We're not asking him to do anything specific ... The main point is he's a truth teller, he tries to tell the truth as he sees it."[20] Tellez said he expected Chen to continue his advocacy for human rights in China in his appointment, which was set to last for three years.[21]

On October 16, 2013, Chen made his first public appearance as a fellow of Witherspoon. He delivered a public lecture at Princeton University titled "China and the World in the 21st Century: The Next Human Rights Revolution,"[22] co-sponsored by the Witherspoon Institute and the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions.[23]

Regnerus study[edit]

In 2012, the Witherspoon Institute drew public attention for having funded the controversial New Family Structures Study (NFSS), a study of LGBT parenting conducted by Mark Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. The study was criticized by major professional scientific institutions and associations, as well as other sociologists at the University of Texas.[24] The University of Texas conducted an inquiry into the publication and declined to conduct a formal investigation in keeping with its policy that "ordinary errors, good faith differences in interpretations or judgments of data, scholarly or political disagreements, good faith personal or professional opinions, or private moral or ethical behavior or views are not misconduct."[25] But the university's sociology department said the Regnerus study was "fundamentally flawed on conceptual and methodological grounds and that findings from Dr. Regnerus' work have been cited inappropriately in efforts to diminish the civil rights and legitimacy of LBGTQ partners and their families."[26]


  1. ^ "The Witherspoon Institute Inc" (PDF). Foundation Center. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
  2. ^ a b "The Witherspoon Institute". Archived from the original on June 26, 2011. Retrieved July 9, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Yaffe, Deborah (16 July 2008). "A conservative think tank with many Princeton ties". Princeton University. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
  4. ^ a b Kirkpatrick, David D. (16 December 2009). "The Conservative-Christian Big Thinker". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
  5. ^ George, Robert P.; Bethke Elshtain, Jean (2014). The Meaning of Marriage: Family, State, Market, and Morals. Scepter. ISBN 9781594170898.
  6. ^ Allen, Jonathan (2013-11-25). "Friends Like These: How a Famed Chinese Dissident Got Caught Up in America's Culture Wars". New York: Reuters. Retrieved 2013-12-22.
  7. ^ "The Witherspoon Institute". Archived from the original on July 10, 2011. Retrieved July 9, 2011.
  8. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 22, 2012. Retrieved July 28, 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ Scruton, Roger (2006). A Political Philosophy. London: Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 210. ISBN 9780826480361.
  10. ^ "About - The Social Cost of Pornography". Socialcostsofpornography.com. Retrieved 2016-04-20.
  11. ^ "Past Events | The Witherspoon Institute". Winst.org. Retrieved 2016-04-20.
  12. ^ "The online journal of The Witherspoon Institute". Public Discourse. Retrieved 2016-04-22.
  13. ^ "Summer seminar on Christian moral life now accepting high school students". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
  14. ^ Matthew J. Franck (10 January 2014). "National Review Online". National Review. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
  15. ^ "Natural Law and Public Affairs Summer Seminar". First Things. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
  16. ^ Atlas, Terry (1 October 2013). "Chinese Dissident Chen Joins Witherspoon Institute". Bloomberg.
  17. ^ "Chen Guangcheng Appointed Distinguished Senior Fellow in Human Rights of the Institute | The Witherspoon Institute". Winst.org. Retrieved 2016-04-20.
  18. ^ Constable, Pamela (3 October 2013). "Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng joins Catholic University". The Washington Post.
  19. ^ "Promoting Human Rights Worldwide - Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice". Archived from the original on October 4, 2013. Retrieved October 4, 2013.
  20. ^ "Chinese dissident Chen to join conservative U.S. think tank". Reuters. 2 October 2013.
  21. ^ "Chen Guangcheng joins conservative institute after NYU departure | World news | theguardian.com". TheGuardian.com. Archived from the original on October 30, 2013. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  22. ^ "Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng advocates universal human rights". The Daily Princetonian. 2013-10-16. Archived from the original on 2016-04-14. Retrieved 2016-04-20.
  23. ^ Chen Guangchen. "James Madison Program : China and the World in the 21st Century : The Next Human Rights Revolution" (PDF). Web.princeton.edu. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-11-01. Retrieved 2016-04-22.
  24. ^ Kolowich, Steve (13 July 2012). "Is the Research All Right?". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
  25. ^ "University of Texas at Austin Completes Inquiry into Allegations of Scientific Misconduct". University of Texas at Austin. Aug 29, 2012. Archived from the original on November 18, 2012. Retrieved December 3, 2012.
  26. ^ "Statement from the Chair regarding Professor Regnerus". University of Texas at Austin. Mar 3, 2014.

External links[edit]