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Religion Last Updated: Jul 1st, 2008 - 00:50:01

The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property leaps headlong into the showdown over same-sex marriage in California
By Bill Berkowitz
Online Journal Guest Writer

Jul 1, 2008, 00:12

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They've been around for more than 30 years; trace their roots to a Brazilian anti-communist dissident Catholic; wear colorful outfits during their protests on college campuses; and apparently have enough spare change to fund three 4,000-plus-word simultaneously-placed advertisements in three national dailies.

Of all the conservative organizations that will be getting involved in the same-sex marriage showdown in California, one of the least known is a Catholic outfit called the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP). TPF isn't a fly-by-night letter-head-only group that suddenly formed to get in on what promises to be one heck of a battle.

On June 5, in response to the California Supreme Court's ruling in support of same-sex marriage, TPF issued a press release announcing the publication of two-page advertisements critical of the decision, appearing "simultaneously" in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Times, costing the group perhaps as much as three-quarters of a million dollars.

The ads, which explicitly called for civil disobedience, were titled "Battling for America's Soul: How Homosexual 'Marriage' Threatens Our Nation and Faith -- the TFP Urges Lawful and Conscientious Resistance."

The ads led with three introductory graphs:

Within the perspective of the nation's Cultural War, Americans felt the full force of two actions favoring the homosexual movement in May 2008. Same-sex "marriage" is now being imposed upon the nation by government fiat.

On May 15, 2008, California's Supreme Court declared the unconstitutionality of Proposition 22--ignoring the voices of 61% of California voters who approved the measure in 2000--and all other California statutes restricting marriage to the union of one man and one woman, and imposed homosexual "marriage" on the Golden State.

Concomitantly, New York Governor David Patterson unilaterally ordered all government agencies to revamp their rules, procedures, and regulations so as to show legal recognition to same-sex "marriages" contracted outside the state.

In bold red headlines, section heads read:

A) The Acceptance of Same-Sex "Marriage" Is Incompatible with Christianity

B) The Catholic Church's Perennial and Immutable Moral Doctrine Condemns Homosexual Practice

C) Same-Sex "Marriage" Harms the Common Good

D) TFP Calls for Lawful, Conscientious Resistance to Same-Sex "Marriage" and the Homosexual Movement

E) We Are Opposing the Homosexual "Moral Revolution"

Conclusion: We Are Battling for the Soul of America

In the press release announcing the ads, TFP director Preston Noell hit a handful of Christian conservative talking points: "Mainstream America is understandably upset about same-sex 'marriage,'" it said. "It is a grave offense against God and undermines 2,000 years of Christian morality. Same-sex 'marriage' threatens the social stability of our nation and future."

Noell pointed out that "there's a battle going on for America's soul. At the root of this conflict lies a profound divergence of worldviews. The Christian worldview is anchored in reality, whereas secularism does not respect reality's constraints."

For Noell, the Supreme Court decision was more than just about same-sex marriage; it was another indication that Christians were under attack from a judiciary run wild: "America is witnessing a rising tide of laws and judicial decisions that favor homosexual practices on one hand, and hinder and punish those who oppose them for reasons of faith and conscience on the other. I'm starting to see elements of a new religious persecution falling into place, and that's most troubling."

According to a recent post at People For the American Way's Right Wing Watch, TPF has "brought a unique style of protest -- serious young men with red capes, heraldic banners, and brass bands -- to issues ranging from abortion, homosexuality, and contraception to anti-Communism, water subsidies, flag burning, and the Gulf War."

In addition, the group has organized protests against: performances of "The Vagina Monologues" on college campuses; the films "The Last Temptation of Christ," "Dogma," and "The Da Vinci Code," both Dan Brown's best-selling book and the movie; and called the performance of the play "The Pope and the Witch" on college campuses "academic freedom run amok."

"Its members are openly scornful of liberal democracy citing the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Enlightenment as the events that caused the fall of society," Frank Cocozzelli wrote in an August 2006 piece as part of his series on the Catholic Right at Talk2Action. "It is simply impossible to be more reactionary."

And while the organization may lack the media savvy and ubiquitous presence of William Donohue's Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, it is apparently doing pretty well for itself financially; Right Wing Watch reported that TPF brought in $6.8 million in donations and sales in 2006. The organization "relies on the dedication" of approximately 75 full-time volunteers and 60 paid employees, has full-time members and supporters and "its affiliate campaign, America Needs Fatima count on over 120,000 supporting members nationwide who donate or promote TFP ideas."

According to TFP's website, the group "was born of a group of Catholic Americans concerned about the multiple crises shaking every aspect of American life."

Founded in 1973, the Spring Grove, Pennsylvania-based American TFP "was formed to resist, in the realm of ideas, the liberal, socialist and communist trends of the times and proudly affirm the positive values of tradition, family and property."

According to its website, "The American TFP's corporate name is The Foundation for a Christian Civilization, Inc. (the "Foundation") . . . [which] is incorporated in the State of New York as a non-profit corporation, and is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization."

The website points out that "The first TFP was founded in Brazil in 1960 by Prof. Plinio Corr�a de Oliveira [and] later, the American TFP became but one of many autonomous TFPs that now exist around the world dedicated to the same ideals and at the service of Christian Civilization."

In a September 1989 piece published in the Village Voice, Sarah Ferguson wrote: "Fiercely anticommunist, the TFP espouses the utter sanctity of private property and the restoration of 'Christian Civilization.'" TFP's founder, writes Ferguson, was a "fascist fanatic" who thought "the Inquisition was the best thing to ever happen to the Catholic Church. His all-male acolytes in Brazil refer to themselves as the 'Holy Slavery' and are known to engage in elaborate rites and brutal self-mortification in worship of the Virgin Mary, and Oliveira's mother, Lucilia."

In her book "People of God: The Struggle for World Catholicism," Penny Lernoux wrote that TFP was instrumental in backing CIA-led coups against Brazilian president Joao Goulart and Chilean President Salvador Allende.

More recently, TFP was listed as a signatory to the American Family Association boycott of Ford, demonstrated against the September 2007 appearance at the United Nations of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and has been identified as a participant in the Arlington Group, a coalition of top-shelf conservative Christian leaders and organizations.

Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement and a frequent writer for Media Transparency. He documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right.

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