Is Brownback Bringing Opus Dei Into The Senate?

  • Bob Geiger's picture
    Bob Geiger
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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 " 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 majority 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


Spreading Fascism

  • Chip's picture
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Thanks, Bob, for a really superb, insightful, compelling read.

Not so long ago, I didn't think the term "culture war" was inappropriate. I thought it was melodramatic to describe what is going on. I look at my neighbors, and I don't feel as though I'm in a "culture war" with them. At least, not now, but perhaps I'm wrong.

Long ago, I swore to uphold the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Of course, I thought that oath would primarily mean foreign. I was wrong.

Long ago, I thought the Vietnam war was the war of my generation. I didn't know that it actually, sadly, was really the training wheels for this cultural war. I was wrong.

Long, long ago, as a student, I read my political science text, which as I recall, had only a passing few paragraphs about fascism. I thought that was all I needed to know. I was wrong.

But maybe I wasn't the only one. Maybe there are a lot of other fellow Americans who, when they hear "fascism," think of Mussolini and Hitler, and after all, our lives are nothing like that, right?

So let me point out that your post clearly describes the 8th characteristic of fascism:

    "Religion and Government are Intertwined - Governments in fascist
    nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool
    to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is
    common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the
    religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or

Ben Franklin is reported to have responded to the question of what type of government our nation was instituted as: "A republic if you can keep it."

Only by knowing the characterisitics of fascism will we be able to keep our republic with its democratic traditions.

While this Wikipedia article

  • Bill Harding's picture
    Bill Harding
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While this Wikipedia article is flagged as “disputed” for neutrality, the definition is not. This definition fits the goals and un-American thinking of PNAC, Opus Dei, the Religious Right, and the current Republican neoconservative administration.

Fascism is a radical authoritarian political philosophy that combines elements of corporatism, totalitarianism, extreme nationalism, militarism, anti-communism and anti-liberalism.

The DLC neoliberals of the Third Way movement enable these fascists by feigning a “centrist” position so that they can play both sides of the most pressing social issues of our Constitutional history. Their insidious goals are really to protect their corporate interests, while pandering to their Democratic constituents for votes (see Hilary Clinton, Joe Lieberman, et al).

The Constitution is an inconvenient truth for those who place the almighty dollar and corporate interests above individual freedoms, and the founding principles of American Liberalism.

Didn't the REPUBLIKLAN Party bring Reverend Moon into the senate

  • dbaer's picture
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to consecrate the senate chamber? I don't consider any member of the REPUBLIKLAN Party a follower of Jesus, but rather a follower of Tomas de Torquemada and Ayn Rand.

The Moon King

  • dinamic's picture
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This is off topic and for that I do apologize, but since dbaer is new here I couldn't resist answering his question.

June 21, 2004 | You probably imagine your congressman hard at work in the Capitol debating legislation, making laws -- you know, governing. But your newspaper probably didn't tell you that one night in March, members of Congress hosted a crowning ritual for an ex-convict and multibillionaire who dressed up in maroon robes and declared himself the Second Coming.
Find the whole story here

If you aren't gagging yet or you actually like that feeling try this link More on Moon

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross." ~ Sinclair Lewis

In a time of deception telling the truth is a revolutionary act. ~ George Orwell

Oh dear God,

  • kwahlf's picture
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Help us----

Is it the End of Days? ( sarcasm)

Btw; I like both of your signature lines, Di.

George Orwell and Sinclair Lewis knew a thing or two
on bringing about a change in our society.


  • wahoo's picture
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Submarine   USS Wahoo  ss238

And the Bush jumped over the moon..........

These are scary people....almost as scary as
Pat Robertson and James Dobson


"In Man's conquest of space, his own moon must be the first to surrender. From there he will step his way across the heavens to the edge of infinity. Each step will be as uncertain as the last, yet each will bring him closer to ultimate truth. Lunar Expedition One: Here a handful of brave scientists and technicians pave the way to the future. Their mission: to collect information that will eventually enable Man to inhabit the Moon; to use the Moon as a springboard to the stars, across the lunar surface, a surface whose depths and desires are, as yet, unprobed..."

Do you think

  • jurassicpork's picture
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this "10 Things I Hate About You Liberals" list published by Witherspoon is in any way associated with Sam Alito's old friends at CAP? This tripe sounds like it's right up their dark, fetid alley.

I always...

  • Subway Serenade's picture
    Subway Serenade
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...make it a point to practice safe sects. And I prefer Doris Dei...


Love Songs From Ground Zero

Brownback is definitely bringing Opus Dei into the senate!

  • aggressiveprogressive's picture
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And, many thanks to Bob Geiger for bringing this not so stealthy attack on our rights to our attention. That Brownback is armed with right-wing religious ammo laundered through a Princeton think tank is not really all that surprising given the backstory of Samuel Alito. When he was a student at Princeton, Alito - a deeply conservative Roman Catholic - began his journey into the hinterlands of right-wing political extremism. During his Senate confirmation hearings, staffers at the Judiciary Committee were bombarded with notes, letters and memoranda linking Alito to Opus Dei. On the Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas have been linked to Opus Dei for many years, and John Roberts, the new Chief Justice, has been connected to the group that practices self-mortification as well. Both Rick Santorum and Louis Freeh (former head of the FBI) have been tied to the shadowy organisation for years. The Opus Dei conspiracy to infiltrate the US government at high levels is now open and public - rather than secret. Thanks again for reminding us that our rights are under threat from a concerted group of conspirators linked directly to Opus Dei and their cultic spiritual perversities.