Feb 012011
 

The Religious Right is a powerful force in American politics and society, tipping elections and making themselves one of the most influential voting blocs in the country. Their objectives are worn on their sleeves; their zeal unquestionable. Yet for everything that is known far more remains just out of common knowledge. In this series we will delve into this unknown tracking down more on their most powerful players, money, influence, and how they achieve their goals.

Focus on the Family, one of the many intellectual children of Dr. James Dobson, represents another facet of the Religious Right’s machinery and organization. Unlike their sister group theFamily Research Council Focus on the Family is much less of a lobbying organization and does most of their work outside of DC. While the FRC keeps their headquarters in Washington DC Focus on the Family runs their operations from Colorado Springs, a city dubbed the “Evangelical Vatican” thanks to the high concentration of world-famous megachurches and larger-than-life pastors. This distance from Washington has done little to dent their influence and effectiveness as a major force in the Religious Right. By leaving the heavy lobbying efforts to other organizations Focus on the Family serves as one of the main spearheads of grassroots operations across the country with allies around the world.

Focus on the Family was founded by Dr. James Dobson in 1977 to promote and uphold family values in the United States. Focus on the Family styles itself as less overtly political than other organizations. To cooperate with the Holy Spirit in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with as many people as possible by nurturing and defending the God-ordained institution of the family and promoting biblical truths worldwide” is their mission statement. Nowhere do they overtly proclaim support for traditional Republican Party positions instead focusing exclusively on religious slogans and imagery. In spite of recent shakeups in their finances and leadership the organization has kept up their main operations with little disruption: the dissemination of Christian fundamentalist propaganda. To Focus on the Family separation of Church and State exists to protect churches from government coercion, not to establish a secular government. On this ideological foundation they advance laws based on their religious beliefs on many issues including gambling, educational policy, the teaching of intelligent design, gay rights, abortion, and women’s rights.

The main front Focus on the Family engages is traditional marriage. Focus on the Family has consistently and most heavily engaged in the fight against gay marriage by offering their own brand of marriage counseling as the public face of the effort. Their main argument against gay marriage include claims of the downfall of Western civilization as one of the many consequences. To advance their efforts Focus on the Family raises and spends millions of dollars a year for advertising and advocacy campaigns. One of their more direct approaches is the Love Won Out Ministry, a group that claims to “cure” homosexuality. To provide further support they publish a number of studies claiming scientific basis to support their claims. These publications have been denounced by the American Psychological Association and the Royal College of Psychiatrists as unscientific and promoting an atmosphere of hate. The war against gay rights, while a major focus of effort for the organization, is just a part of Focus on the Family’s crusade to reclaim America in the name of the cross.

As part of advancing their objectives Focus on the Family uses their prominent position and network of allies in the Religious Right to rally support for their agenda. One excellent example is the National Day of Prayer Task Force. Officially the Task Force is not affiliated with Focus on the Family in any meaningful fashion. Their main office is in Focus on the Family’s headquarters in Colorado Springs and their current Chairman is Shirley Dobson who assumed the position in 1991. During the Bush Administration the Task Force coordinated the observances thanks toannual presidential proclamations giving them unofficial but clear government support. Non-Christian groups that applied to participate were regularly ignored. In the 2008 Presidential campaign, through their PAC Focus on the Family Action, they spent millions of dollars in support of John McCain’s campaign following the selection of Sarah Palin as Vice Presidential nominee. They bankrolled an extensive mailing campaign predicting doom and gloom if the GOP lost the 2008 election. Focus on the Family does not put all their proverbial eggs in one basket. They have a network of international affiliates in New ZealandAustraliaIndonesiaSingapore,TaiwanIreland, and Africa just to name a few.

Focus on the Family presents another facet to the Religious Right’s political machine. Unlike the Family Research Council they work largely in grassroots efforts eschewing a heavy emphasis on Washington lobbying for a substantial propaganda arm and international reach. While they escaped being labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center Focus on the Family remains a powerful force in the Religious Right. With substantial funding and support Focus on the Family in spite of recent shakeups and setbacks remains on the front lines as a crucial element for Christian fundamentalists in the Culture War.

Also published at Ryan’s Desk

Jan 242011
 

The Religious Right is a powerful force in American politics and society, tipping elections and making themselves one of the most influential voting blocs in the country. Their objectives are worn on their sleeves; their zeal unquestionable. Yet for everything that is known far more remains just out of common knowledge. In this series we will delve into this unknown tracking down more on their most powerful players, money, influence, and how they achieve their goals.

In the political circles of the Religious Right few have better connections and influence than long-time Christian conservative Gary Bauer. Yet in spite of his considerable influence he has largely stayed out of the spotlight. Unlike the more famous megapastors like the late Jerry Falwell or John Hagee Bauer does not need the notoriety and attention to advance his cause. This has enhanced his effectiveness in the movement as a very capable behind the scenes organizer founding and leading several highly influential and well-funded socially conservative PACs.

Bauer has been with the Religious Right since it first became a major force in American politics. His political career began in 1982 when he was appointed to the position of Deputy Undersecretary for the Department of Education by President Reagan. He was later promoted to Undersecretary at the same department and served in this role until 1987 when he was named domestic policy adviser to the President. While in office he headed Reagan’s Special Working Group on the Family which presented their study on family issues in “The Family: Preserving America’s Future” in 1986. It declares, “This fabric of family life has been frayed by the abrasive experiments of two liberal decades.” Very true to Christian Fundamentlist thinking Bauer casts followers of traditional family values as a persecuted element of society in dire need of government protection. In particular he singles out abortion, teen sex, children born out of wedlock, and the divorce rates blaming these all on a decline of solid Christian values.

In 1989 following the election of George H.W. Bush Bauer left the White House and was recruited by the Family Research Council, a rising star of the Religious Right. As President of the organization Bauer expanded the small group from a budget of one million with a staff of three to a $14 million operation and a headquarters in Washington DC. To improve their muscle he founded FRC Action, a political action committee, in 1992. He followed up in 1996 with the founding of the Campaign for Working Families who would make their mark in the 1998 midterm elections by raising $7 million for Christian conservative political candidates. Under Bauer’s tenure the FRC and its allies established themselves as a formidable force in the Republican Party and the pro-life movement. Along with cementing their lobbying and fundraising prowess the FRC bulked up their information campaigns to shape the political discourse. From humble beginnings Bauer’s leadership turned the FRC into the political powerhouse it is today and made a name for himself as a staunch Culture Warrior.

With his position assured in 1999 Bauer resigned as President of the FRC to campaign for the Republican nomination for President. Central to his campaign was the emphasis on moral values decrying the “culture of death” in America. Bauer’s run for the Presidency, thanks to a crowded field, would end in February of 2000 when he dropped out of the race. Following his defeat Bauer would found another PAC, American Values, and was tapped as president of Christians United for Israel. Like his other PACs American Values would quickly establish itself as a strong member of the Religious Right’s growing army of lobbying groups. In the mid 2000s Bauer’s group would sign up with the secretive Arlington Group with his presence touted as a badge of honor for the organization.

In spite of his relatively low profile Bauer has remained an active figure in the Culture War. During the Bush Supreme Court nomination debates Bauer weighed in against Harriet Miers taking part in the campaign to derail her nomination on the grounds that she was a “stealth candidate” who appeared to be a conservative but would advance liberal ideas once on the high court. Following the nomination of Samuel Alito Bauer, along with other prominent Christian conservatives, came out in support of Bush’s new pick for the Supreme Court rallying a campaign to ensure Alito’s nomination. Bauer has remained highly active since with regular articles at Human Events and his reputation as a successful and influential organizer. Since 2008 Bauer in particular has been vocal in his support of Governor Sarah Palin for her strong socially conservative credentials. In spite of losses and setbacks he has continued to press the Religious Right’s case to make their vision for America reality.

Bauer’s history and track record makes him one of the more effective and dangerous operatives in the Christian fundamentalist movement. He rarely takes center stage, leaving the spotlight to more bombastic and flamboyant figures working to build up the Religious Right’s political and organizational muscle. So far he has seen considerable success on this front with his most successful PACs exercising considerable influence and power in Washington to this day. Working behind the scenes and day to day in Washington Bauer continues to be a major force in the movement. With his string of successes and connections Gary Bauer’s involvement in any major campaign or candidate is a clear sign that the social conservative establishment has a major stake in the outcome.

Also published at Ryan’s Desk