Ginni Thomas' Think Tank Allied With Group That Celebrates Spanish Inquisition
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In recent days, the media has turned its attention to Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas -- not for her troubling ties to right-wing extremist groups, but for her bizarre demand for an apology from the woman who accused her husband of sexual harassment more than a decade ago. Yet Mrs. Thomas' Tea Party think tank, Liberty Central, promotes the causes of groups that take pride in intolerance, including one right-wing Catholic group, Tradition, Family and Property, whose founder declared the Spanish Inquisition "the most beautiful page in the history of the Church."
Earlier this year, AlterNet reported on Liberty Central's embrace of Gun Owners of America, whose president, Larry Pratt -- guru to the militia movement -- unapologetically addressed a rally of white supremacists in 1992, and more recently told attendees of a gun owners' rally in Washington, D.C., that they are "at war" with the federal government. We also looked at Liberty Central's relationship with the Missouri Sovereignty Project, which threatens armed insurrection against the government. Since then, Thomas has added to the " Friends of Liberty Central" page on her think tank's Web site a plug for Tradition, Family and Property, a virulently anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-democratic Catholic group founded in 1960 in opposition to Brazilian land reform.
TFP has long enjoyed ties to the far right in American politics, including the International Freedom Foundation, which existed primarily as an American front group for the apartheid regime in South Africa during the Reagan years, according to researcher Richard Bartholomew, and was once led by convicted felon and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. But TFP is better known for its role in promoting and supporting authoritarian regimes in South America. Here's Bartholomew:
TFP played a role in the 1964 coup in Brazil, and in Uruguay it allegedly received explosives from the Brazilian military attaché that were used to attack communist installations. The editor of TFP's Chilean magazine, Jaime Guzmán, became chief ideologist for General Pinochet's regime.
If TFP's activities on behalf of torturers and anti-democratic forces weren't enough to give one pause, there's its status as a cult. TFP is an all-male organization that finds its recruits among adolescent boys, whom it trains in the use of the combat regalia of the Middle Ages -- maces, crossbows, and the like -- according to the late Penny Lernoux's 1989 book, People of God: The Struggle for World Catholicism. The medieval games in which the boys partake are so brutal, Lernoux reported, that one recruit told her his arm had been broken three times in the exercises.
The medieval games continue today. Last July, TFP sponsored a 10-day "Call to Chivalry" camp in rural Louisiana, where, according to the group's Web site, boys and young men took part:
Some new skills were learned such as medieval spear throwing and archery. Mock sword battles with padded weapons were a great success as were paintball wars in the thick tropical-looking forest surrounding the property. An exhausting hike in the Tunica Hills Park taught a poignant lesson of endurance.
At the time Lernoux was reporting, recruits were taught to worship not only the Blessed Virgin Mary, the holiest woman in Catholicism, but also the flesh-and-blood mother of TFP founder Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, whom he referred to as Santa Monica. Oliveira, who died in 1995, loved the Spanish Inquisition, he wrote, "because, while it went on, the Catholic Church managed to cleanse itself of heretics." (Never mind that many of those so-called heretics were Jews who wanted nothing more than to practice their own faith, or people whose politics were inconvenient to the Spanish throne.)