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Is Brownback Bringing Opus Dei Into The Senate?

by Bob Geiger

The United States Sen­ate is often called “the great­est delib­er­a­tive body in the world” which usu­ally raises the bar on the tenor and intel­lec­tual con­tent of speeches given on the floor and for the offi­cial record.

Not so for Sen­a­tor Sam Brown­back (R-KS) who took to the Sen­ate floor last week to deliver a stri­dent push for the big­oted Mar­riage Pro­tec­tion Amend­ment, with mas­sive dis­tor­tions of the issue and an argu­ment that was based almost solely on the opin­ion of a little-known, con­ser­v­a­tive think tank affil­i­ated with the Roman Catholic orga­ni­za­tion, Opus Dei .

“The prob­lem we have in front of us is the insti­tu­tion of mar­riage has been weak­ened, and the effort to rede­fine it on this vast social exper­i­ment that we have going on, redefin­ing mar­riage dif­fer­ently than it has ever been defined before,” the Kansas Sen­a­tor grimly intoned last week. “This effort of this vast social exper­i­ment, the early data that we see from other places, harms the insti­tu­tion of the fam­ily, the rais­ing of the next gen­er­a­tion. And it is harm­ful to the future of the Republic.”

Brown­back then went on to give fig­ures for how var­i­ous states have shown their hatred of gay peo­ple with their own pro­hi­bi­tions on same-sex mar­riage and used that as his ratio­nale for a sim­i­lar amend­ment to the U.S. Constitution.

But Brown­back really hit his stride when he described a paper, called “Ten Prin­ci­ples on Mar­riage and the Pub­lic Good,” pub­lished by a fairly new and extremely-conservative group at Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity. Accord­ing to Brown­back, the paper is an “… impor­tant state­ment of prin­ci­ples from top Amer­i­can schol­ars [to] be con­sid­ered care­fully by my col­leagues.” He then added that the sen­ti­ments expressed in the non-scientific trea­tise were so vital to our national dia­log that they should “..help guide our debate on this issue.”

The paper, spon­sored by the With­er­spoon Insti­tute at Prince­ton, makes a case for ban­ning same-sex mar­riage alto­gether. What’s extra­or­di­nary, is the idea of a United States Sen­a­tor attempt­ing to sway opin­ion on an amend­ment that would have altered our Con­sti­tu­tion (had it not been defeated last Wednes­day) by using a paper from an orga­ni­za­tion linked to Opus Dei, a strict, reli­gious group that some for­mer mem­bers have described as a cult.

Brown­back spent a good part of his lengthy Sen­ate speech last week cit­ing the study and attribut­ing it to “this Prince­ton group of schol­ars” while never men­tion­ing that all of the find­ings were based on the ultra­con­ser­v­a­tive With­er­spoon Insti­tute bol­stered by the involve­ment — directly or indi­rectly — of a non­profit, tax-exempt reli­gious orga­ni­za­tion in Opus Dei.

So what exactly is the With­er­spoon Insti­tute, whose paper formed the foun­da­tion of Brownback’s anti-gay argument?

The Insti­tute, which has only been around since 2003, has close ties to Tony Perkins and the Fam­ily Research Coun­cil , but is also tightly aligned with Opus Dei. Indeed, Luis Tellez, the pres­i­dent of the With­er­spoon Insti­tute is also the direc­tor and lead cleric of Opus Dei in Princeton.

Since its found­ing in 1928, Opus Dei has been known for its tra­di­tion­al­ist val­ues and right-wing polit­i­cal stances. And crit­ics in acad­e­mia — which include for­mer mem­bers who some­times go through “depro­gram­ming” upon exit­ing Opus Dei — charge that orga­ni­za­tions like the With­er­spoon Insti­tute are just veiled attempts by Opus Dei to spread its influ­ence in top-tier aca­d­e­mic circles.

So why then, is a U.S. Sen­a­tor offer­ing to Con­gress “research” linked to Opus Dei on some­thing as vital as amend­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion? It turns out that Brown­back, who was for­merly an evan­gel­i­cal Protes­tant, con­verted to Catholi­cism by way of Opus Dei in 2002 and was spon­sored in that con­ver­sion by Sen­a­tor Rick San­to­rum (R-PA), a vocal Opus Dei advocate.

Tellez, the leader of Opus Dei in Prince­ton, is a “numer­ary,” con­sid­ered the most con­ser­v­a­tive of the sect’s mem­bers — they are unmar­ried, celi­bate, devote every aspect of their lives to their spir­i­tual beliefs and turn over their salaries from sec­u­lar jobs to Opus Dei.

Again, it bears repeat­ing that Tellez is also the head of the With­er­spoon Insti­tute, the group Brown­back cited at great length as his pri­mary argu­ment against gay marriage.

And remem­ber also, it is Brown­back, as an Opus Dei con­vert, who also leads the charge on Capi­tol Hill against abor­tion and stem cell research and who, along with San­to­rum, is seen by the Reli­gious Right’s as a point man on “cul­ture war” issues.

The other cen­tral fig­ure in the With­er­spoon orbit is Dr. Robert George, a Prince­ton pro­fes­sor and a board mem­ber in the Insti­tute who, not coin­ci­den­tally, helped draft the fed­eral gay-marriage ban that was just defeated in the Sen­ate. George chaired a meet­ing of reli­gious lead­ers in late 2005, that included Dr. James Dob­son and other mem­bers of the extreme Reli­gious Right. In fact, in addi­tion to his piv­otal role in the With­er­spoon Insti­tute, George is also a board mem­ber at Perkins’ Fam­ily Research Coun­cil , a group known for its big­oted posi­tions on the gay community.

And, via Brown­back, all of this is ulti­mately find­ing its way into the halls of Congress.

While it may not be tech­ni­cally ille­gal for Brown­back to be so clearly mix­ing hard-right reli­gious ide­ol­ogy — and faux-academic papers pro­moted by reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions like Opus Dei — with debate on the Sen­ate floor, it should cer­tainly raise some eye­brows. In a coun­try where strict sep­a­ra­tion of church and state is man­dated, it seems Brown­back is freely blend­ing the two, attempt­ing to use reli­gious dogma to influ­ence pub­lic pol­icy — all the while not dis­clos­ing to his Sen­ate col­leagues the back­ground sources of the research he is citing.

But this should not be sur­pris­ing com­ing from Brownback.

In a Jan­u­ary 2006 Rolling Stone arti­cle , “God’s Sen­a­tor,” Brown­back is described as a reli­gious zealot with a view for America’s future that could almost be described as medieval.

“In his dream Amer­ica, the one he believes both the Bible and the Con­sti­tu­tion promise, the state will sim­ply wither away. In its place will be a coun­try so suf­fused with God and the free mar­ket that the social fab­ric of the last hun­dred years — schools, Social Secu­rity, wel­fare — will be pri­va­tized or sim­ply done away with,” reads the arti­cle. “There will be no abor­tions; sex will be con­fined to het­ero­sex­ual mar­riage. Men will lead fam­i­lies, moth­ers will tend chil­dren, and big busi­ness and the church will take care of all.”

After all, it was Brown­back, who came to Con­gress in 1994 and refused to sign Newt Gingrich’s “Con­tract With Amer­ica” because he felt it wasn’t con­ser­v­a­tive enough. Even then, as a new­comer to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, Brown­back believed that the vast majori
ty of what he saw as Big Gov­ern­ment should sim­ply be elim­i­nated, includ­ing the depart­ments of edu­ca­tion, energy and commerce.

And, yes, it was also Brown­back who was so out­raged at the split-second glimpse of Janet Jackson’s nip­ple dur­ing the 2004 Super Bowl, that he intro­duced the Broad­cast Decency Enforce­ment Act, which sub­stan­tially raised fines for such sim­ple on-air dis­plays of nudity.

Finally, in addi­tion to being brought into Catholi­cism by the likes of Opus Dei and using laun­dered research by an affil­i­ated group on the Sen­ate floor, Brown­back chairs a meet­ing every Tues­day night with the “Val­ues Action Team,” con­sist­ing of reli­gious lead­ers like Dob­son who help the Sen­a­tor for­mu­late his thoughts on pub­lic pol­icy issues.

Accord­ing to Time mag­a­zine , Opus Dei has assets in the neigh­bor­hood of $2.8 bil­lion and, with John McCain unlikely to sig­nif­i­cantly rouse the Reli­gious Right in 2008, look for Brown­back to be the guy that Opus Dei, Focus on the Fam­ily and the Fam­ily Research Coun­cil turn to as their pres­i­den­tial candidate.

And make no mis­take about it: Brown­back wants to run. So if you think his views for a new Amer­ica, as viewed from the Sen­ate floor, are scary, think of what he’ll be like sit­ting at 1600 Penn­syl­va­nia Avenue.

In his mind, it may already be ordained.

You can reach Bob Geiger at geiger.bob@gmail.com


3 comments for “Is Brownback Bringing Opus Dei Into The Senate?”

  1. I guess the exist­ing argu­ments against gay mar­riage just weren’t dumb enough...

    Wife of NC State Sen­a­tor says Amend­ment One is nec­es­sary ‘to pro­tect the Cau­casian race’
    By: Pam Spauld­ing Wednes­day May 2, 2012 9:06 am

    Nance para­phrased the remarks, as told to him by those who were present: “Dur­ing the con­ver­sa­tion, Ms. Brun­stet­ter said her hus­band was the archi­tect of Amend­ment 1, and one of the rea­sons he wrote it was to pro­tect the Cau­casian race. She said Cau­casians or whites cre­ated this coun­try. We wrote the Con­sti­tu­tion. This is about pro­tect­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion. There already is a law on the books against same-sex mar­riage, but this pro­tects the Con­sti­tu­tion from activist judges.”


    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 2, 2012, 11:51 am
  2. Ah, Kansas gov­er­nor Sam Brownback’s admin­is­tra­tion appears to have found a loop­hole that will allow it to nul­lify fed­eral gun-control laws: A new law makes it ille­gal to enforce fed­eral gun laws if the guns are made in Kansas and stay in Kansas:

    Mon­day, May 6, 2013 10:57 AM CDT
    Kansas gov­er­nor: It’s OK to ignore fed­eral gun laws
    A new law makes it a crime for agents to enforce fed­eral leg­is­la­tion on “Made in Kansas” firearms
    By Lois Beckett

    As we detailed yes­ter­day, dozens of states are con­sid­er­ing bills that attempt to nul­lify fed­eral gun laws. One such bill became a law last month in Kansas. It exempts “Made in Kansas” guns from fed­eral reg­u­la­tion and makes it a crime for fed­eral agents to enforce fed­eral law.


    Kansas’ Sec­re­tary of State Kris Kobach, who helped draft the new law, also released a response to Holder’s let­ter. “As a for­mer pro­fes­sor of con­sti­tu­tional law, I ensured that it was drafted to with­stand any legal chal­lenge,” he wrote.

    “The Obama Admin­is­tra­tion has repeat­edly vio­lated the United States Con­sti­tu­tion for the past four-and-a-half-years. That abuse can­not continue.”

    Kobach told ProP­ub­lica that he does not con­sider Kansas’ law to be “nul­li­fi­ca­tion,” because the law only asserts that fed­eral reg­u­la­tions do not apply to guns that are made in Kansas, and have never crossed the state’s borders.

    “Nul­li­fi­ca­tion implies that you’re say­ing the whole fed­eral law is wrong. That was the nul­li­fi­ca­tion of the 19th cen­tury. We’re not doing that…we’re act­ing with a scalpel.”

    Kobach said he did not craft the leg­is­la­tion with the goal of pro­vok­ing a legal bat­tle. He said it’s also pos­si­ble that the Jus­tice Depart­ment will “decide that actu­ally their legal posi­tion is not as clear as they thought” and back down.

    Before the law can be chal­lenged in court, he said, some­one will have to be “directly injured” — for instance, if the fed­eral gov­ern­ment decides to crack down on a Kansas gun man­u­fac­turer who decides to start mak­ing “Made in Kansas” guns with­out a fed­eral license.

    “We’re a long way from lit­i­ga­tion at this point,” Kobach said.

    Sim­i­lar bills nul­li­fy­ing fed­eral gun laws are con­tin­u­ing to advance in at least three other states: Louisiana, Mis­souri, and Alabama. In Alaska, a bill exempt­ing any gun pos­sessed in Alaska from fed­eral law has been approved by the state leg­is­la­ture and is await­ing action from Gov. Sean Par­nell. Bills attack­ing fed­eral gun laws have been intro­duced in at least 37 states this year.

    Many of the bills have caveats. In Kansas, for exam­ple, the law spec­i­fies that state will not actu­ally arrest fed­eral agents who try to enforce gun regulations.

    Bills in other states, includ­ing Mon­tana, Wyoming, and Ten­nessee have attempted to go fur­ther. The approved ver­sion of Alaska’s bill removed a mea­sure that would have allowed state law enforce­ment to arrest fed­eral agents for try­ing to enforce gun laws.

    If this legal tac­tic works get ready for a wave of state-based micro-gun man­u­fac­tur­ers. Actu­ally, you should prob­a­bly get ready for a wave of gun micro-manufacturers regard­less of how this lat­est nul­li­fi­ca­tion push works out.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 6, 2013, 12:13 pm
  3. Rick San­to­rum announced his sec­ond bid for the Pres­i­dency today. Given the scope, and nature, of the GOP pri­mary field, each indi­vid­ual announce­ment is barely a news­wor­thy event. But, in defense of Rick, he did win in Iowa in 2012, so an announce­ment by Rick San­to­rum that he want to become the most pow­er­ful man alive does sort of count as real news. Sort of.

    In tan­gen­tially related news...

    Ex-Santorum cam­paign staffer kills him­self after stab­bing fel­low Yale con­ser­v­a­tive
    Arturo Gar­cia
    26 May 2015 at 17:26 ET

    A for­mer cam­paign staff mem­ber for Rick San­to­rum took his own life on Tues­day morn­ing after stab­bing a Yale Uni­ver­sity stu­dent, the Asso­ci­ated Press reported..

    Author­i­ties said 22-year-old Tyler Carlisle jumped from a ninth-story win­dow in an apart­ment com­plex across the street from the uni­ver­sity after stab­bing 21-year-old Alexan­der Michaud. Carlisle fell onto a ter­race on the building’s third floor and died. Michaud was hos­pi­tal­ized and was listed in sta­ble con­di­tion as of Tues­day night.

    Carlisle, who recently grad­u­ated from the uni­ver­sity, worked on Santorum’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign in 2012 and was the cam­paign man­ager for Repub­li­can Joseph Bentivegna’s con­gres­sional cam­paign last year. Michaud, who is slated to grad­u­ate in 2017, is the pub­lisher for a con­ser­v­a­tive cam­pus pub­li­ca­tion, the Yale Free Press..

    Michaud is also listed as the “chan­cel­lor of cards and games” for the Party of the Right, a cam­pus orga­ni­za­tion that described its mis­sion on its web­site as mak­ing “Great Men.”

    “We are a band of broth­ers, brought together by the bat­tles we have fought,” the group’s web­site states. “The intense per­sonal inter­ac­tion that the Party demands of its Mem­bers helps to forge strong ties and last­ing friend­ships. The Party holds many social events through­out the semes­ter, which include Toast­ing Ses­sions, Nights of Cards and Games, Table at Com­mons, the Annual Ban­quet, the Fall Bac­cha­na­lian Orgy, and much more.”

    The AP reported that Carlisle was also a mem­ber of the group. Accord­ing to WCBS-TV, police described the two men as acquaintances.

    “I don’t believe the vic­tim was a room­mate,” Offi­cer David Hart­man said. “We’re not cer­tain about the rela­tion­ship. We know that they knew one another.”


    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 27, 2015, 2:49 pm

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