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

Dec 022010
 

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.

On Tuesday November 23rd the Southern Poverty Law Center added the Family Research Council to their list of hate groups. This recent bad press along with the FRC’s response claiming the label is nothing more than a smear campaign has brought this influential fundamentalist group back into the public eye. Controversy is nothing new to the Family Research Council having been on the front lines of the Culture War since its inception. Far from being a fringe organization the Family Research Council is a multi-million dollar powerhouse spearheading the political efforts of the Religious Right.

The Family Research Council was founded in 1980 by James Dobson to “drive the national debate on family issues”. It was incorporated in 1983 as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization to serve as advocates for the Christian Fundamentalist cause. In 1992 under the leadership of Gary Bauer created FRC Action, a 501(c)4 political action group as their lobbying arm. They declare their mission as the defense of marriage and family believing that “God is the author of life, liberty, and the family, FRC promotes the Judeo-Christian worldview as the basis for a just, free, and stable society.” This is re-affirmed by FRC Action’s support for “A renewal of ethical monotheism and traditional Judeo-Christian standards of morality-the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God”-to which the founding fathers appealed in the Declaration of Independence.”

The FRC is an organization with considerable reach and power. With a donor base for their political arm cutting across economic and geographic lines the FRC has a large, mobilized, and well-coordinated body of supporters.  They regularly post updates of action items on their site calling for action by good Christians often to great effect. In 2005 they flexed this muscle by helping organize Justice Sunday to rally support to end the filibuster of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. They declared the filibuster was an insult to people of faith and cried persecution, claiming the Democratic filibuster was covering for activist judges who were “working under the veil of the judiciary, like thieves in the night, to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedoms.” Alito received strong support from the FRC following his nomination airing ads in support and mobilizing supporters to contact their senators.  In 2006 they organized the first Values Voters Summit to bring together social conservatives in Washington DC. Now in its fourth year the summit boasts an impressive list of sponsors including Liberty University and the American Family Association.  Gary Bauer, Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schafly, and Sean Hannity have all addressed the Summit as a keynote guest speaker. The FRC has stayed on the front lines of the Culture War organizing or participating in campaigns nationwide and acting abroad. In 2008 the FRC through FRC Action was an active part of the election campaign spending large sums of money to defeat Barack Obama and in support of several socially conservative candidates. In June of 2010 they joined several other organizations in opposition to a Congressional resolution condemning an Ugandan anti-gay law. The law included provisions calling for the death penalty to “recidivists” and prison time for any who sheltered people suspected of “homosexual tendencies”. Their most recent victory was the 2010 unseating three of the Iowa Supreme Court justices who voted to overturn the state’s gay marriage ban.

The FRC shows no signs of slowing down any time soon with substantial revenue and assets on-hand.  Their propaganda campaigns are broadcast nationwide with multiple local groups doing the boots on the ground work.  Boasting connections with the most influential members of the movement and favors owed by powerful politicians the FRC is no minor fringe group but a potent force to be reckoned with in the vanguard of the Religious Right.

Also published at http://ryansdesk.blogspot.com/2010/12/mapping-religious-right-family-research.html