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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.