Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

News & Supplemental  

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

Post a comment