News & Politics

Anti-LGBT March at Supreme Court Dominated by Group That Celebrates Spanish Inquisition

Tradition, Family & Property, a far-right Catholic group born of opposition to land reform in Brazil, recruits young men and schools them in medieval combat.

The banners of Tradition, Family & Property, a far-right group, dominated the anti-gay march outside the Supreme Court on March 23, 2013
Photo Credit: A.M. Stan

Amid the the array of pro- and anti-LGBT forces outside the Supreme Court today, as the Court heard oral arguments in a case about marriage equality in California, one stood out: Tradition, Family & Property, a far-right Catholic organization whose founder cited the Spanish Inquisition as "a glorious moment" for the church. The Inquisition burned more than 1,000 Jews at the stake, confiscated the property of tens of thousands, and ultimately led to the expulsion of all Jews from Spain in 1492.

The medieval and just post-medieval eras play a key role in TFP's ideology and conduct. As I reported in 2010:

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.


In South America, TFP is known for backing authoritarian regimes; it was involved in the 1964 military coup in Brazil, according to researcher Richard Bartholomew, who also notes that after the coup against Allende in Chile, "[t]he editor of TFP's Chilean magazine, Jaime Guzmán, became chief ideologist for General Pinochet's regime."

As for the Supreme Court of the United States, TFP has a once-removed relationship: It was one of the sponsors of the short-lived Liberty Central Web site founded by Ginni Thomas, wife of Justice Clarence Thomas.

Outside the court today, as pro-LGBT groups lined the street in front of the court, TFP's red standards, adorned by a medieval griffin, and its marching band of young men in business suits accessorized with red sashes, set the tone for the march led by the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage.

Adele M. Stan is a weekly columnist for The American Prospect. Follow her on Twitter @addiestan.