Sunday, February 19, 2012

Opus NOM

In 2009 I first wrote of the obvious connections between National Organization for Marriage and Opus Dei. NOM's Brian Brown responded dismissively on August 28 in their weekly email newsletter: ". . . another blogger accused us of being a front group for a Catholic religious order. "

He refused to use the words "Opus Dei." Yet, the most interesting aspect of this was that Brown was denying that which was perfectly obvious.

For starters, NOM was physically housed, at the time, in the same Princeton office suite as the Witherspoon Institute which is an Opus Dei organization co-founded by then NOM Chairman, Robert George. The president of Witherspoon is Luis Tellez, an Opus Dei numerary (an ultra-conservative celibate member) who also happens to be on the board of NOM. Tellez is on the boards of numerous Opus Dei institutions (often with Robert George). At least five of these are, or were, housed in a suite adjoining the space shared by NOM and Witherspoon. So NOM was structured like all of the other Opus Dei entities in the Princeton area including its board of directors and its physical location.

There remains little or no doubt that NOM is an Opus Dei organization.

Sam Brownback
Before there was a National Organization for Marriage, the fight for inequality was waged by Witherspoon Institute directly. In 2006, it was then Sen. Sam Brownback (now governor of Kansas) who stridently pushed for a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman. Brownback, a former evangelical Christian converted to Catholicism in 2002 through Opus Dei. He was sponsored by none other than Sen. Rick Santorum who was a strong vocal advocate of Opus Dei.

On the floor of the US Senate, Sam Brownback cited a Witherspoon paper titled The Ten Principles of Marriage. Brownback referred to this paper as "… 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." During his speech, Brownback made vague references to "a group of Princeton University scholars" as the authors.

I find it astonishing that a US Senator, on the Senate floor, was relying upon, and citing, a paper from an organization directly linked to Opus Dei, a strict, secretive, ultra-conservative religious group that some former members have described as a cult. Brownback has since conceded that he was converted to Catholicism through Opus Dei but claims that he is not a member of Opus Dei.

Robert "Robby"
Brownback's ally through all of this was none other than NOM's founder, Robert George. It was George who drafted the gay marriage ban that was ultimately defeated in the Senate. In 2005, George chaired a meeting of religious leaders that included Dr. James Dobson, Tony Perkins (George is also a board member of Perkins' Family Research Council) and a number of other right wing mullahs. Their mission was to prevent marriage equality from spreading beyond Massachusetts which began the previous spring.

So what conclusions can we draw from all of this?
  • A well organized effort to frustrate marriage equality has been in place for some time.
  • It is a religious endeavor that is well financed and well connected.
  • National Organization for Marriage is a Catholic Church/Opus Dei auxiliary.
  • In spite of what would seem overwhelming obstacles we have made significant progress.
NOM's 2010 tax return offers an interesting aside. Luis Tellez is spelled as  "Teller." Accidental? Probably but with these folks one never knows for sure.
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