Focus on the Family

After 9th Circuit Rules Proposition 8 Unconstitutional, Marriage Equality Opponents Look to the Supreme Court

The Ninth Circuit Court today upheld a lower court ruling which found Proposition 8, which overturned marriage equality in California, unconstitutional. Religious Right activists immediately denounced the ruling and used the decision to attack gays and lesbians, judges, Hollywood and San Francisco.

The National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown emailed members with a warning that the case will end up with an “all-or-nothing showdown at the United States Supreme Court” and told members that donations are needed to deny “same-sex marriage radicals” a legal victory:

Moments ago, the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit handed down a sweeping ruling striking down California’s Proposition 8 and—for the first time ever—finding a "right" to same-sex marriage in the United States Constitution!

This sets up an all-or-nothing showdown at the United States Supreme Court.



A Supreme Court victory would preserve the marriage laws of 44 states, denying same-sex marriage radicals in their campaign to force gay marriage on the entire nation in one fell swoop. But if we lose at the Supreme Court, marriage will be jeopardized not just in California, but in all 50 states.

NOM also posted additional statements from Brown and board chairman John Eastman, who called it an “absurd ruling”:

“As sweeping and wrong-headed as this decision is, it nonetheless was as predictable as the outcome of a Harlem Globetrotters exhibition game,” said Brian Brown, NOM’s president. “We have anticipated this outcome since the moment San Francisco Judge Vaughn Walker’s first hearing in the case. Now we have the field cleared to take this issue to the US Supreme Court, where we have every confidence we will prevail.”



“Never before has a federal appeals court – or any federal court for that matter – found a right to gay marriage under the US Constitution,” said constitutional scholar John Eastman, who is chairman of NOM. “The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is the most overturned circuit in the country, and Judge Stephen Reinhardt, the author of today’s absurd ruling is the most overturned federal judge in America. Today’s ruling is a perfect setup for this case to be taken by the US Supreme Court, where I am confident it will be reversed. This issue is the Roe v Wade of the current generation, and I sincerely doubt the Court has the stomach for preempting the policy judgments of the states on such a contentious matter, knowing the lingering harm it caused by that ruling.”

The Alliance Defense Fund senior counsel Brian Raum dubbed the ruling a “Hollywood-orchestrated attack on marriage”:

No court should presume to redefine marriage. No court should undercut the democratic process by taking the power to preserve marriage out of the hands of the people. Americans overwhelmingly reject the idea of changing the definition of marriage. Sixty-three million Americans in 31 state elections have voted on marriage, and 63 percent voted to preserve marriage as the timeless, universal, unique union between husband and wife.

We are not surprised that this Hollywood-orchestrated attack on marriage–tried in San Francisco–turned out this way. But we are confident that the expressed will of the American people in favor of marriage will be upheld at the Supreme Court. Every pro-marriage American should be pleased that this case can finally go to the U.S. Supreme Court. The ProtectMarriage.com legal team’s arguments align with every other federal appellate and Supreme Court decision on marriage in American history.

Catholics for the Common Good president William May derided the court for failing to “to protect the centrality and integrity of marriage for children and society”:

"It is outrageous that judges continue to disregard the will of 7 million voters who voted to protect the centrality and integrity of marriage for children and society," May said.

Federal District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker presided over a show trial about marriage in which plaintiff's counsel trotted out witness after witness with emotional arguments in a PR attempt to re-argue Proposition 8.

"Failing to disclose that the judge himself was similarly situated as the plaintiffs (in a long-term committed relationship with a same-sex partner), Walker could find no rational reason for the voters to define marriage between a man and a woman and concluded they were bigoted and discriminatory," said May.

"To reach his judgment about the voters and his decision to strike down Prop 8, he created a new definition of marriage as merely the public recognition of a committed relationship for the benefit of adults. However, the voters of California know that marriage is much more than that. It is the reality that unites a man and a woman with each other and any children born from their union. This is what marriage is; that is what it does. It is a reality that can only be recognized by law and never changed."

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council accused the court of “judicial tyranny” and trying to “impose San Francisco values on the entire country”:

"Today's decision was disappointing but not surprising, coming from the most liberal Circuit Court in the country. This Hollywood-funded lawsuit, which seeks to impose San Francisco values on the entire country, may eventually reach the Supreme Court. This is not about constitutional governance but the insistence of a group of activists to force their will on their fellow citizens.

"This ruling substitute's judicial tyranny for the will of the people, who in the majority of states have amended their constitutions, as California did, to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

"However, we remain confident that in the end, the Supreme Court will reject the absurd argument that the authors of our Constitution created or even implied a 'right' to homosexual 'marriage,' and will instead uphold the right of the people to govern themselves.

"Voters in 31 states have voted to uphold the historic and natural definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Twenty-nine, a majority of American states, have actually inserted such a definition into the text of their state constitutions," concluded Perkins.

Focus on the Family analyst Bruce Hausknecht called the ruling “yet another instance of social engineering”:

“Opponents of Prop 8 insist on changing the definition of marriage for everyone, including children who deserve the opportunity to grow up in a home with their own married mother and father," Bruce Hausknecht, judicial analyst at Focus on the Family, said in a statement after the ruling.

“But no judge has the right to redefine marriage," he continued. "Doing so redefines parenthood, and offers yet another instance of social engineering based on the desires of adults rather than the interests of children."

Concerned Women for America CEO Penny Young Nance asserted that the judges “undermined the foundations of the family and liberty”:

Once again, the Ninth Circuit lives up to its reputation as the most overturned court in the country. Only this time, they have reached a new low. They not only showed a complete disregard for the Constitution, but also for those principles and values that gave birth to it, and for "we the people" who are supposed to be the ultimate authority.

Californians voted overwhelmingly to support the traditional definition of marriage that has been the foundation of this great nation. Our experiences have shown us, as science proves, that the best environment for children to develop as productive members of our society is in a home where there is a mother and a father who love them and each other unconditionally. Yet with a stroke of the pen these three judges have undermined the foundations of the family and liberty.

Shame on them.

We know this issue will eventually end up at the U.S. Supreme Court and we hope, for the sake of our country's future, that they will show much more respect for the Constitution, our foundations and the people who give them the right to make these rulings in the first place.

UPDATE: The Capitol Resource Institute blasted the ruling as “a stunning assault on democracy”:

"This is a stunning assault on democracy and California's initiative process," explained Karen England, Executive Director of pro-family group Capitol Resource Institute and a key leader in the passage of Proposition 8. "Well over 50% of California voters approved Proposition 8; today their will was overturned by a panel of arrogant judges who want to impose their political agenda on the rest of us."

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling is not the end of the road for Proposition 8.

"The truth will always prevail and we are confident that the traditional-and true-definition of marriage will be upheld by the Supreme Court," stated England. "The voice of the people must be heard and respected. The future of California and American families depends upon the sanctity of traditional marriage. It's time for the courts to recognize marriages' critical role in society and protect it."

Former NOM head Maggie Gallagher, now with the Culture War Victory Fund, writes on National Review Online that the ruling represents a “breathtaking exercise in ill-natured illogic”:

In a breathtaking exercise in ill-natured illogic, a divided Ninth Circuit ruled 2–1 that because Prop 8 does not take away civil-union benefits for same-sex couples, it’s an unconstitutional exercise in irrational animus towards gay people.

Dishonestly, the court claimed it did not require any heightened scrutiny to reach this result.

Gordon Klingenschmitt said that the “Founding Fathers are turning over in their graves” as a result of the ruling:

The liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals announced today that the Founding Fathers wrote homosexual 'marriage' rights into the U.S. Constitution, and overturned California's Proposition 8 traditional marriage law, which had twice been passed by voters. The Founding Fathers are turning over in their graves, since all of them believed sodomy was a crime, and certainly not a Constitutional right.

Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver claimed the ruling “undermines the legitimacy of the judicial system” and represents the “unraveling of the actual judiciary”:

"This is a travesty of justice and it undermines the legitimacy of the judiciary," Staver tells OneNewsNow. "When judges find that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, it's absolutely absurd. This is, I think, an illustration of why the judiciary has lost the confidence of the American people."

"If you look at ideology ... pushed by this particular panel, obviously that's what this panel did: they looked at their own ideological bias, their radical positions -- not the Constitution itself. And when they did that, it undermined their own legitimacy -- and I think this is the unraveling of the actual judiciary. It is the very seeds, as Thomas Jefferson said, of tyranny."

"They're not only saying that the voters don't have the right to amend their own constitution and define marriage, they're also saying that there is a constitutional, guaranteed right to same-sex marriage in the United States Constitution itself. That's absolutely absurd. It is insane to suggest that there is such a right in the United States Constitution."

The Family Leader dubbed the court a “friend of the radical homosexual agenda” and referred to the ruling as a case of bullying:

Today's decision by the liberal 9th Circut Court, while expected, is sad and outrageous on many levels. Not least of which is "we the people" get bullied again by a few "robed masters." It's also evidence that when executives go wobbly on fighting the left's agenda and not appointing ONLY strict constructionist judges, who take the Constitution and due process seriously, we continue to lose these battles. However, the 9th Circuit's opinon is no surprise; they have been a friend of the radical homosexual agenda for years. As for us; we have only begun to and will continue to be in the fight! Join us!

Gary Bauer of American Values chided the “Circus” Court for attempting to “force its radical agenda down our throats” and “threatening religious liberty”:

The Ninth “Circus” Court of Appeals has struck again. Today, a divided three-judge panel overruled the majority of California voters and struck down Proposition 8 — the state’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

The court’s majority ruled that traditional marriage “fails to advance any rational basis.” So in spite of thousands of years of recorded history, in spite of the values held by every major faith, in spite of basic biology and common sense and in spite of the will of the people, these left-wing judicial ideologues believe that normal marriage is irrational.

Here’s the bottom line: The culture war is real. The left does not intend to allow these issues to be decided by the people in their respective states. It will use the courts to force its radical agenda down our throats.

This is why it is so important for men and women of faith to be informed and active in the public policy debates of our time. These decisions are redefining our cherished values and threatening religious liberty.

After 9th Circuit Rules Proposition 8 Unconstitutional, Marriage Equality Opponents Look to the Supreme Court

The Ninth Circuit Court today upheld a lower court ruling which found Proposition 8, which overturned marriage equality in California, unconstitutional. Religious Right activists immediately denounced the ruling and used the decision to attack gays and lesbians, judges, Hollywood and San Francisco.

The National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown emailed members with a warning that the case will end up with an “all-or-nothing showdown at the United States Supreme Court” and told members that donations are needed to deny “same-sex marriage radicals” a legal victory:

Moments ago, the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit handed down a sweeping ruling striking down California’s Proposition 8 and—for the first time ever—finding a "right" to same-sex marriage in the United States Constitution!

This sets up an all-or-nothing showdown at the United States Supreme Court.



A Supreme Court victory would preserve the marriage laws of 44 states, denying same-sex marriage radicals in their campaign to force gay marriage on the entire nation in one fell swoop. But if we lose at the Supreme Court, marriage will be jeopardized not just in California, but in all 50 states.

NOM also posted additional statements from Brown and board chairman John Eastman, who called it an “absurd ruling”:

“As sweeping and wrong-headed as this decision is, it nonetheless was as predictable as the outcome of a Harlem Globetrotters exhibition game,” said Brian Brown, NOM’s president. “We have anticipated this outcome since the moment San Francisco Judge Vaughn Walker’s first hearing in the case. Now we have the field cleared to take this issue to the US Supreme Court, where we have every confidence we will prevail.”



“Never before has a federal appeals court – or any federal court for that matter – found a right to gay marriage under the US Constitution,” said constitutional scholar John Eastman, who is chairman of NOM. “The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is the most overturned circuit in the country, and Judge Stephen Reinhardt, the author of today’s absurd ruling is the most overturned federal judge in America. Today’s ruling is a perfect setup for this case to be taken by the US Supreme Court, where I am confident it will be reversed. This issue is the Roe v Wade of the current generation, and I sincerely doubt the Court has the stomach for preempting the policy judgments of the states on such a contentious matter, knowing the lingering harm it caused by that ruling.”

The Alliance Defense Fund senior counsel Brian Raum dubbed the ruling a “Hollywood-orchestrated attack on marriage”:

No court should presume to redefine marriage. No court should undercut the democratic process by taking the power to preserve marriage out of the hands of the people. Americans overwhelmingly reject the idea of changing the definition of marriage. Sixty-three million Americans in 31 state elections have voted on marriage, and 63 percent voted to preserve marriage as the timeless, universal, unique union between husband and wife.

We are not surprised that this Hollywood-orchestrated attack on marriage–tried in San Francisco–turned out this way. But we are confident that the expressed will of the American people in favor of marriage will be upheld at the Supreme Court. Every pro-marriage American should be pleased that this case can finally go to the U.S. Supreme Court. The ProtectMarriage.com legal team’s arguments align with every other federal appellate and Supreme Court decision on marriage in American history.

Catholics for the Common Good president William May derided the court for failing to “to protect the centrality and integrity of marriage for children and society”:

"It is outrageous that judges continue to disregard the will of 7 million voters who voted to protect the centrality and integrity of marriage for children and society," May said.

Federal District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker presided over a show trial about marriage in which plaintiff's counsel trotted out witness after witness with emotional arguments in a PR attempt to re-argue Proposition 8.

"Failing to disclose that the judge himself was similarly situated as the plaintiffs (in a long-term committed relationship with a same-sex partner), Walker could find no rational reason for the voters to define marriage between a man and a woman and concluded they were bigoted and discriminatory," said May.

"To reach his judgment about the voters and his decision to strike down Prop 8, he created a new definition of marriage as merely the public recognition of a committed relationship for the benefit of adults. However, the voters of California know that marriage is much more than that. It is the reality that unites a man and a woman with each other and any children born from their union. This is what marriage is; that is what it does. It is a reality that can only be recognized by law and never changed."

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council accused the court of “judicial tyranny” and trying to “impose San Francisco values on the entire country”:

"Today's decision was disappointing but not surprising, coming from the most liberal Circuit Court in the country. This Hollywood-funded lawsuit, which seeks to impose San Francisco values on the entire country, may eventually reach the Supreme Court. This is not about constitutional governance but the insistence of a group of activists to force their will on their fellow citizens.

"This ruling substitute's judicial tyranny for the will of the people, who in the majority of states have amended their constitutions, as California did, to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

"However, we remain confident that in the end, the Supreme Court will reject the absurd argument that the authors of our Constitution created or even implied a 'right' to homosexual 'marriage,' and will instead uphold the right of the people to govern themselves.

"Voters in 31 states have voted to uphold the historic and natural definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Twenty-nine, a majority of American states, have actually inserted such a definition into the text of their state constitutions," concluded Perkins.

Focus on the Family analyst Bruce Hausknecht called the ruling “yet another instance of social engineering”:

“Opponents of Prop 8 insist on changing the definition of marriage for everyone, including children who deserve the opportunity to grow up in a home with their own married mother and father," Bruce Hausknecht, judicial analyst at Focus on the Family, said in a statement after the ruling.

“But no judge has the right to redefine marriage," he continued. "Doing so redefines parenthood, and offers yet another instance of social engineering based on the desires of adults rather than the interests of children."

Concerned Women for America CEO Penny Young Nance asserted that the judges “undermined the foundations of the family and liberty”:

Once again, the Ninth Circuit lives up to its reputation as the most overturned court in the country. Only this time, they have reached a new low. They not only showed a complete disregard for the Constitution, but also for those principles and values that gave birth to it, and for "we the people" who are supposed to be the ultimate authority.

Californians voted overwhelmingly to support the traditional definition of marriage that has been the foundation of this great nation. Our experiences have shown us, as science proves, that the best environment for children to develop as productive members of our society is in a home where there is a mother and a father who love them and each other unconditionally. Yet with a stroke of the pen these three judges have undermined the foundations of the family and liberty.

Shame on them.

We know this issue will eventually end up at the U.S. Supreme Court and we hope, for the sake of our country's future, that they will show much more respect for the Constitution, our foundations and the people who give them the right to make these rulings in the first place.

UPDATE: The Capitol Resource Institute blasted the ruling as “a stunning assault on democracy”:

"This is a stunning assault on democracy and California's initiative process," explained Karen England, Executive Director of pro-family group Capitol Resource Institute and a key leader in the passage of Proposition 8. "Well over 50% of California voters approved Proposition 8; today their will was overturned by a panel of arrogant judges who want to impose their political agenda on the rest of us."

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling is not the end of the road for Proposition 8.

"The truth will always prevail and we are confident that the traditional-and true-definition of marriage will be upheld by the Supreme Court," stated England. "The voice of the people must be heard and respected. The future of California and American families depends upon the sanctity of traditional marriage. It's time for the courts to recognize marriages' critical role in society and protect it."

Former NOM head Maggie Gallagher, now with the Culture War Victory Fund, writes on National Review Online that the ruling represents a “breathtaking exercise in ill-natured illogic”:

In a breathtaking exercise in ill-natured illogic, a divided Ninth Circuit ruled 2–1 that because Prop 8 does not take away civil-union benefits for same-sex couples, it’s an unconstitutional exercise in irrational animus towards gay people.

Dishonestly, the court claimed it did not require any heightened scrutiny to reach this result.

Gordon Klingenschmitt said that the “Founding Fathers are turning over in their graves” as a result of the ruling:

The liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals announced today that the Founding Fathers wrote homosexual 'marriage' rights into the U.S. Constitution, and overturned California's Proposition 8 traditional marriage law, which had twice been passed by voters. The Founding Fathers are turning over in their graves, since all of them believed sodomy was a crime, and certainly not a Constitutional right.

Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver claimed the ruling “undermines the legitimacy of the judicial system” and represents the “unraveling of the actual judiciary”:

"This is a travesty of justice and it undermines the legitimacy of the judiciary," Staver tells OneNewsNow. "When judges find that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, it's absolutely absurd. This is, I think, an illustration of why the judiciary has lost the confidence of the American people."

"If you look at ideology ... pushed by this particular panel, obviously that's what this panel did: they looked at their own ideological bias, their radical positions -- not the Constitution itself. And when they did that, it undermined their own legitimacy -- and I think this is the unraveling of the actual judiciary. It is the very seeds, as Thomas Jefferson said, of tyranny."

"They're not only saying that the voters don't have the right to amend their own constitution and define marriage, they're also saying that there is a constitutional, guaranteed right to same-sex marriage in the United States Constitution itself. That's absolutely absurd. It is insane to suggest that there is such a right in the United States Constitution."

The Family Leader dubbed the court a “friend of the radical homosexual agenda” and referred to the ruling as a case of bullying:

Today's decision by the liberal 9th Circut Court, while expected, is sad and outrageous on many levels. Not least of which is "we the people" get bullied again by a few "robed masters." It's also evidence that when executives go wobbly on fighting the left's agenda and not appointing ONLY strict constructionist judges, who take the Constitution and due process seriously, we continue to lose these battles. However, the 9th Circuit's opinon is no surprise; they have been a friend of the radical homosexual agenda for years. As for us; we have only begun to and will continue to be in the fight! Join us!

Gary Bauer of American Values chided the “Circus” Court for attempting to “force its radical agenda down our throats” and “threatening religious liberty”:

The Ninth “Circus” Court of Appeals has struck again. Today, a divided three-judge panel overruled the majority of California voters and struck down Proposition 8 — the state’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

The court’s majority ruled that traditional marriage “fails to advance any rational basis.” So in spite of thousands of years of recorded history, in spite of the values held by every major faith, in spite of basic biology and common sense and in spite of the will of the people, these left-wing judicial ideologues believe that normal marriage is irrational.

Here’s the bottom line: The culture war is real. The left does not intend to allow these issues to be decided by the people in their respective states. It will use the courts to force its radical agenda down our throats.

This is why it is so important for men and women of faith to be informed and active in the public policy debates of our time. These decisions are redefining our cherished values and threatening religious liberty.

Dobson Joins Santorum on the Stump

Focus on the Family founder and Family Talk host James Dobson appeared with Rick Santorum at a campaign rally in Colorado, which has its caucus on February 7. Dobson joined other Religious Right leaders in endorsing Santorum and hailed him for fighting against same-sex marriage, and reportedly also backed Santorum because he disapproved of Newt Gingrich’s third wife Callista. Dobson said that neither Mitt Romney nor Gingrich are authentic conservatives, lauding Santorum for caring “about the moral integrity of this nation” and his consistent “fight for marriage and fight for the unborn.” While Dobson stressed social issues, the former Pennsylvania senator claimed that his image as a “social conservative” was responsible for his third place defeat in Florida:

After delivering a pointed version of his stump speech before a crowd of more than 1,200 people at Mr. Biggs Family Funhouse here, Santorum introduced Dobson, the head of the conservative group Focus on the Family.

Dobson, who endorsed Santorum in January, made the point that he was at the event “as a private individual,” and this disclaimer may have allowed him to be a bit more candid.

“It would appear to me that Mitt Romney is not a conservative,” Dobson said to much applause. “And Newt Gingrich is not – well I don’t know what he is. You’re the only true conservative in the race.”

The two men then had a conversation that veered more personal than political, with Dobson explaining the rationale behind his decision to support Santorum in the Republican primary.

“I believe you really care about the moral integrity of this nation and I believe you will fight for it,” Dobson said to Santorum. “Fight for marriage and fight for the unborn child and fight for the all the other principles that matters so much to me and so many others.”

During his opening remarks, Santorum suggested that his image as a staunch social conservative potentially damaged his efforts to appeal to the majority of the Republican electorate whose primary concern for 2012 is the flagging economy.

“I had the highest favorability as anybody in Florida,” Santorum said. “But I didn’t win, even though I had the most positive – highest positive, lowest negative. I didn’t win, and you ask the people why, ‘well, we’re not sure you can win. People think you’re a social conservative and we need someone who’s an economic conservative.’”

But looking at the issues, Santorum argued, none of the three other major GOP candidates differ in their stated positions on social issues. “What makes me more socially conservative than they? Some would suggest that I actually believe what I’m saying as opposed to them,” Santorum said.

James Dobson Endorses Santorum, Hopes He Can Stop Same-Sex Marriage

Focus on the Family founder and Family Talk host James Dobson endorsed Rick Santorum today, which comes as no surprise as Dobson advocated for Santorum behind closed doors at a meeting with fellow Religious Right leaders in Texas. According to reports, Dobson feared the repercussions of electing Newt Gingrich and having “a woman who was a man’s mistress for eight years” as First Lady.

In his endorsement, Dobson said that “the institution of the family” is “in serious jeopardy,” warning that the “very definition of marriage is threatened, which has implications for the next generation and the stability of society itself.” Dobson has previously compared Santorum to Tim Tebow and saluted him for “standing up for righteousness,” and joins social conservative activists Maggie Gallagher, Penny Nance, Richard Viguerie, John Stemberger and Gary Bauer in endorsing the former Pennsylvania Senator:

Dr. Dobson, well-known radio broadcaster, psychologist and author of 35 best selling books, and consultant to three U.S. Presidents, said today, "The institution of the family is the key issue facing this great nation. It is the foundation, the bedrock, upon which every dimension of Western Civilization rests. If it is undermined or weakened by cultural and governmental forces, the entire superstructure will collapse in short order. And indeed, today it is in serious jeopardy. The very definition of marriage is threatened, which has implications for the next generation and the stability of society itself.

"Of all the Republican candidates who are vying for the presidency, former Sen. Santorum is the one who has spoken passionately in every debate about this concern. He has pleaded with the nation and its leaders to come to the aid of marriages, parents, and their children. What a refreshing message. The Congress voted in 1969 to impose a marriage penalty tax on husbands and wives who were struggling to raise their children. That unfair tax continued for 32 years, until George W. Bush rolled it back. Now, if Democrats and some Republicans have their way, the marriage penalty tax will be re-imposed in 2013. We desperately need a president who will intercede on behalf of those who are caring for the next generation and working to build this nation.

"While there are other GOP candidates who are worthy of our support, Sen. Santorum is the man of the hour. His knowledge of international politics, especially Israel and the turmoil in the Middle East, is highly relevant to the dangerous world in which we live. This is why I am endorsing former Senator Rick Santorum for president of the United States, and urge my countrymen to join us in this campaign."

UPDATE: Rick Santorum thanked Dobson in a statement and hoped his endorsement would help “build upon our momentum generated from our Iowa Caucus win”:

I am truly honored to receive Dr. Dobson's endorsement today. Dr. Dobson has been a light for conservative movement, an unwavering leader in the face of forces both within and outside our Party to call a truce on the foundational principles that make our nation the greatest in the history of the world, but he knows that calling a truce is nothing more than surrendering. I commit to never surrender our principles, our foundational values, and the moral enterprise that is America. I am excited to work with Dr. Dobson in the weeks to come as we build upon our momentum generated from our Iowa Caucus win.

Meanwhile, the Red White and Blue Fund, a pro-Santorum Super PAC, is airing a new ad in South Carolina narrated by Bauer, who helped found the Family Research Council with Dobson, calling Santorum an opponent of “liberal elites and those who seek to undermine the nation’s freedoms and moral fabric”:

After Multiple Layoffs and Budget Cuts, Focus Branches Out into Financial Planning

Since 2007, Focus on the Family has undergone round after round of layoffs while watching its annual budget get cut almost in half as the organization has regularly struggled to make ends meet.

So I guess it only makes sense that Focus has decided to expand its counseling services to helping families struggling with financial problems to "become debt free and live a life of financial freedom":

Focus [On The Family] has banded together with two Christian organizations, Crown Financial Ministries and Finicity, to bring a message of freedom and hope to millions of families trapped in cycles of financial disorder.

...

"At Focus we hear from countless families who are struggling with significant personal debt and having difficulty living within their means - the numbers of those looking for help has especially increased during these trying economic times," says Rich Bennett, Vice President of Ministry Strategy at Focus on the Family. "The financial piece impacts their marriages, their ability to effectively parent, their spiritual, mental and emotional health, and even the quality of their lives."

"To that end, we are excited to partner with these trusted organizations to bring proven, effective solutions to assist with these pervasive family problems."

According to Focus on the Family, it's not 'Pro-Life' to Protect Newborns from Mercury Poisoning

Like David Barton, who has no academic training as a historian but is the Religious Right’s point person on American history, Calvin Beinser of the Cornwall Alliance has no scientific credentials but has become the go-to person for right-wing activists on questions of science, particularly climate change. While he lacks any credentials what Beisner does have is close ties to organizations financed by the energy industry and a history of attacking scientists, spreading misinformation, and fueling fears that the environmental movement is a pagan plot to destroy Christianity and kill “about 95% of the human race.”

Beisner is especially concerned about growing calls for environmental protection made by evangelical Christians, and has went out of his way to attack groups like the Evangelical Environmental Network for calling on public officials to clamp down on mercury poisoning. Beisner’s outburst against his fellow evangelicals should come as no surprise, as he has even gone after a Koch-financed study which actually confirmed the science behind climate change. He joined Focus on the Family’s political arm CitizenLink, whose head Tom Minnery appeared in Beisner’s Green Dragon video series, to disparage the EEN for thanking both Republican and Democratic politicians who supported efforts to reduce mercury emissions:

According to the EEN, one of every six American babies is born with harmful blood mercury levels, “which causes permanent brain damage in the unborn and infants.” Therefore, the 12 federal legislators EEN is thanking with radio, TV and billboard ads for supporting the EPA restrictions are “pro-life.”

In truth, only one in every 1,000 American babies is exposed to harmful doses of mercury, and the slight delays in cognitive development it may cause generally disappear by age 7, says Beisner. Moreover, all 12 of the federal legislators EEN is supporting are among the most pro-abortion Congress has to offer.

“Calling this ‘pro-life’ is quite a misnomer, but it will result in a lot of people being confused about who’s really pro-life and who’s not,” Beisner said. “Some of these people have 100 percent pro-abortion voting records in Congress, so people need to know they’re really getting the wool pulled over their eyes if they fall for this.”

But the Center for Disease control did in fact find that one in six newborns, or 630,000 of the 4 million babies born annually, are “at risk for developmental disorders because of mercury exposure in the mother's womb,” which PBS described as mercury levels “so high that they are potentially at risk for learning disabilities and motor skill impairment and short-term memory loss.”

This attack on evangelical environmentalists comes at a time when Focus on the Family head Jim Daly pledged to take the organization in a different direction than his predecessor James Dobson, and Christianity Today reported that CitizenLink recently launched “an effort to reach young adults on issues related to sex trafficking, poverty, and the environment.” It also puts the group at odds with the long list of evangelical leaders who signed the “Evangelical Call to Stop The Mercury Poisoning of the Unborn.”

But apparently for Focus on the Family, being “pro-life” does not entail protecting newborns from mercury poisoning.

Editorial Memo: The Right's Recycled Supreme Court Strategy

Right-wing advocates who have made a decades-long push to bring federal courts under ideological domination are planning to wage a campaign against any nominee President Obama makes to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

To Hell with Health Care Reform: Religious Right Leaders Attack Obama, Spout GOP Dogma about "Socialism" While Fanning Flames on Abortion

Much of the Religious Right's organizing energy has been devoted to incendiary and false claims about the administration's alleged stealth plan to force every health plan to cover - and force all doctors to provide - abortion services. None of these approaches are actually included in the plans working their way through Congress. In fact, anti-choice members of Congress are using health reform to institute a new nationwide abortion ban in private insurance plans taking away coverage women already have.

As Senate Prepares to Take Up Hate Crimes Bill, Far Right’s Inflammatory Claims Should Not Be Taken Seriously

Anti-gay organizations have been fighting the steady advance of federal hate crimes legislation with rhetoric that is increasingly unhinged from reality. When the U.S. House of Representatives passed a hate crimes bill on April 29 with a bipartisan 74-vote margin, Religious Right leaders and some of their congressional allies were inspired to new heights (or depths) of literally incredible accusations.

Themes from the Right -- Nomination Day

Right-wing political and legal groups and pundits responded to President Barack Obama’s nomination of federal appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court by cranking up their well-funded attack machine, following their pre-fab attack script (they have been attacking her for months as a potential nominee), launching ads against her confirmation, and threatening to use the nomination as a political bludgeon against Democrats from more conservative states.

The Right Re-Tools as a 'Resistance Movement'

Now that the Religious Right and the Republican Party are regrouping from significant electoral defeats, many progressives as well as pundits are tempted once again to dismiss the movement or the continued threat it poses to the constitutional principles of equality, privacy, and separation of church and state. But the legal, political, grassroots, and media infrastructure that has been built steadily over recent decades is still largely in place. It maintains a powerful ability to shape public debate and mobilize millions of Americans. And it is finding a renewed focus in opposing the Obama administration and obstructing progressive change.

Dobson Steps Down as Chair of Focus on the Family

In response to news reports that James Dobson is stepping down as the chairman of Focus on the Family, People For the American Way president Kathryn Kolbert issued the following statement:

"James Dobson may be stepping down, but he's not stepping off the field. Dobson will continue hosting his national radio show and pushing his far right agenda under the cover of folksy advice.

What Has the Right Been Up to for the Past 25 Years?

A shorthand look at the rise of the Religious Right from political obscurity to the corridors of power.

The Patriot Pastors Electoral War Against the 'Hordes of Hell'

A new generation of Religious Right leaders is turning conservative churches into political machines for far-right Republican candidates with rhetoric that might make Pat Robertson blush. The new report by People For the American Way Foundation, NAACP, and the African American Ministers Leadership Council documents how high-level Republican officials in Ohio and elsewhere are embracing the self-proclaimed "Christocrats" and counting on a new wave of aggressive politics-from-the-pulpit to win elections.

"Parental Rights"

"Parental Rights" is a phrase often used to mask a right-wing agenda to undermine the rights of children.

Back to School with the Religious Right

The Religious Right continues to target public schools in a variety of ways that disrupt education and threaten religious liberty, according to a report released by People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF). The report provides an in-depth analysis of the struggle over the future of our public education system by focusing on six categories: creationism; textbook controversies; sexuality education; religion and public schools; anti-gay activity and censorship.

Sabotaging Science: Creationist Strategies in the '90's

This report examines the increasingly sophisticated strategies that creationists use in an effort to inject their ideas into public school science curricula

Anti-Gay Politics and the Religious Right

An analysis of the Religious Right's anti-gay policies and activities, leading up to the Christian Coalition's 1998 Road to Victory Conference.

Dobson’s Choice: Religious Right Leader Becomes Political Power Broker

A report by People for the American Way Foundation

Table of Contents

Introduction

Focus on the Family founder and chairman James Dobson is perhaps the most influential right-wing Christian leader in the country, with a huge and loyal following that he can reach easily through an impressive media empire. He is a household name for millions of parents and families who have come to know him through his parenting advice books and videos. He is increasingly using his goodwill and media access to promote far-right politics and politicians, and to push the Republican Party to more vigorously adopt the Religious Right’s social agenda. Yet many Americans probably heard of him for the first time in January thanks to SpongeBob SquarePants. When Dobson argued that an educational video featuring a number of popular children’s cartoon characters advanced the homosexual agenda, he was ridiculed for “outing” SpongeBob.[1] In fact, Dobson wasn’t asserting that SpongeBob is gay, but that teaching children to be tolerant of those different from themselves, particularly gays and lesbians, is a sinister proposition.[2]

Dobson’s stance — equating tolerance with evil — reflects the extremism of his policy positions and his unforgiving stance toward those who disagree with him. While his comments about SpongeBob were deserving of ridicule, Dobson must not be dismissed as a buffoon. In fact, it is urgently important that journalists and other Americans pay closer attention to the positions Dobson promotes — and his influence with the politicians he is helping get elected.

While Dobson made a name for himself as an avuncular purveyor of parenting advice, he now uses that power to promote a range of troubling views and candidates who share those views:

  • He says the gay rights movement is seeking the “utter destruction of the family”[3] and likens proponents of marriage equality to the Nazis[4]
  • He has backed candidates who call for the execution of abortion providers[5], including recently sworn-in U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn[6]
  • He strongly opposes embryonic stem cell research, which he calls “state-funded cannibalism” [7]
  • He urges parents to abandon the public school system[8 ]
  • He supports a constitutional amendment that would permit coercive organized prayer in public schools[9], and supported a state Supreme Court justice who defied federal court orders so that he could use his position as a judge to promote his personal religious beliefs[10]

Dobson has a massive radio empire and millions of followers he regularly exhorts to action, increasingly on behalf of right-wing Republican candidates to public office. In 2004, Dobson created a new political organization, endorsed approximately 25 Republican candidates (including President Bush), and campaigned for successful right-wing Senate candidates.[11] As the election approached, Dobson and other Religious Right leaders participated in weekly strategy sessions with the Bush reelection campaign.[12] Focus on the Family (FOF) sponsored the “I Vote Values” initiative[13], aimed at encouraging more religious conservatives to register and vote. Meanwhile, Dobson used his daily radio program to pressure Congress to support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.[14]

Dobson, like his Religious Right colleagues, is now urging President Bush and congressional leaders to aggressively pursue the right wing’s social agenda and pack the federal courts with ideologues who share their worldview. And Dobson, in his trademark bullying political style, is threatening retaliation against anyone who is not sufficiently fervent.

In spite of his place at the center of right-wing politics in America, Dobson likes to cultivate the sense that he would rather not be playing politics. In August 2004, during the height of what was for Dobson an extremely active campaign season, he bristled: “It bothers me a lot, because 95 percent of what we do here [at Focus on the Family] is not related to public policy. And yet whenever the media comes here, all they want to talk about is who I’m supporting for the presidency.” [15] It sometimes seems as though Dobson is protesting too much. Frequently, the political endorsement he gives is prefaced with an I don’t do this very often caveat.[16] And, he claims not to be a Republican, but rather to represent those who “stand for moral principles and values.”[17] Yet year after year, Republican politicians travel to FOF’s Colorado Springs campus, attempting to curry favor with Dobson. Almost as regularly, Dobson threatens to punish the GOP for failing to be sufficiently committed to his ultraconservative agenda on such social issues as abortion, gay rights, and the separation of church and state. But Dobson has had some success with shaping his coverage in the media; scarcely an election cycle goes by without another profile portraying Dobson as a reluctant warrior newly entering the world of politics.[18]

This white paper briefly examines the growing political power of Dobson, a cultural icon in the ultra-conservative evangelical community and an increasingly aggressive power broker in Republican Party politics.


Dobson is particularly concerned with schools in states with “safe schools” legislation intended to prohibit discrimination against homosexuality. He has mentioned eight states — Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Washington, Wisconsin, and Vermont — plus the District of Columbia as being particularly worrisome. Regarding public schools and the “homosexual movement,” Dobson said, “It isn’t just California that has drifted into this dangerous stuff. This is where we are, especially on both coasts, but to some degree throughout the nation.”
 

It Begins with a Dare

Dobson was born in Louisiana, and grew up in Oklahoma and Texas. In his early years, he followed his traveling evangelist parents to revival meetings in small southwestern towns. Dobson says he became a born-again Christian at age three at a church service conducted by his father, a Nazarene minister. He attended Pasadena College and received a Ph.D. in child development from the University of Southern California in 1967.[19]

While teaching at USC, he wrote Dare to Discipline, the book that ultimately made him famous. The book was controversial because of Dobson’s glowing endorsement of corporal punishment. It has sold more than 3.5 million copies[20] since its release in 1970. One apparent reason for the book’s initial popularity was the attractiveness of its authoritarian message at a time when many parents were in the market for a style of parenting that would respond to the perceived permissiveness of the 1960s. In one of his books, Dobson described this time as:

“social upheaval [with]... a sudden disintegration of the moral and ethical principles such as has never occurred in the history of mankind. All at once, there were no definite values. There were no standards. No absolutes. No rules. No traditional beliefs on which to lean.”

The success of his book prompted Dobson to leave his position as Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the USC School of Medicine to speak and write full time. He quickly discovered faster ways to reach a broad audience with his message. In 1977, Dobson persuaded Tyndale House Publishers to give him a $35,000 contribution to start Focus on the Family. In return, he offered them the right to publish his next book, The Strong-Willed Child. Dobson immediately set about the business of developing a radio program and persuading a string of stations to air the program. By March 1977, he was on the air with a weekly broadcast from Arcadia, California carried by 43 radio stations.

The following years were a period of explosive growth for Focus on the Family. It released its first film series and increased the weekly radio program to a daily program, first 15 minutes long, then 30 minutes. FOF opened its Canadian office and could be heard around the world via Armed Forces Radio Satellite. By 1984, FOF had 400 employees and a daily 30-minute program heard on 400 stations.

The Dobson Empire

In the intervening years, Dobson has built a colossal media empire. FOF is now located on an 81-acre campus in Colorado Springs, Colorado which has its own zip code, employs 1,300 people and sends out four million pieces of mail each month.[21] Dobson is heard daily on more than 3,000 radio facilities in North America and on approximately 6,300 facilities in 116 countries worldwide. His estimated listening audience is more than 200 million worldwide and, in the U.S., he appears on 80 television stations each day.[22] Meanwhile, news alerts go to 104,000 activists each day through Focus’ Citizen Link email service.[23]

Dobson has become a fixture on cable news shows, appearing regularly on such programs as CNN’s Larry King Live, Fox News’ Hannity and Colmes, and MSNBC’s Scarborough Country. During these appearances, Dobson mixes pointed political messages with folksy, almost grandfatherly, advice on parenting.

In addition to electronic media, Dobson’s views on family, politics, and culture are spread through a variety of print publications, including magazines aimed at each age group. In an effort to reach mainstream audiences, Dobson also produces a syndicated advice column.[24] Dobson’s books, most of which mix practical self-help advice with scripture and social commentary, have sold more than 12 million copies.[25] Titles include What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women, Bringing Up Boys, When God Doesn’t Make Sense, and Parenting Isn’t For Cowards.

Turning Listeners into Lobbyists

While Dobson’s early career truly did focus primarily on family life, he got a taste for political power in 1979. That year, President Jimmy Carter formed a White House Conference on the Family. On his radio program, Dobson announced that he wished to be a member of the advisory committee and before long, thousands of his supporters contacted the White House demanding Dobson’s inclusion.[26] Dobson would return to this strategy — using the platform afforded by his radio program to apply pressure on politicians and business leaders — frequently in years to come.

Throughout the ‘80s, Dobson was regularly tapped to join presidential advisory committees, including a panel on teen pregnancy prevention and Attorney General Edwin Meese’s Commission on Pornography.[27*]

In a demonstration of his increasing interest in public policy, in 1988, Dobson convinced FOF’s board to take over a small political advocacy group, the Family Research Council (FRC)[28]. After appointing former Reagan aide Gary Bauer as president, FRC became FOF’s lobbying arm for several years.

In 1992, due to Internal Revenue Service concerns about FOF’s lobbying activities, FRC, was spun off into an entirely separate organization.[29] Since the early 1990s, FRC has emerged as a leading right-wing think-tank championing so-called “traditional family values” by lobbying for state-sponsored prayer in public schools, private school vouchers, abstinence-only programs, filtering software on public library computers, and the right to discriminate against gay men and lesbians.

Bauer later asserted that, by separating FOF from FRC, Dobson was expressing distaste for political activism:

“He feels very strongly that when he talks about things like abortion and gay rights he is not involved in politics, that in fact he is engaged in a moral argument. For years, he has tried to make this distinction, because his critics accuse him of trying to be a political power broker within the Republican Party. Jim never wanted to be and never tried to be what Pat Robertson tried to be in the Republican Party.”[30]

Whether or not that statement was ever accurate, it certainly does not describe Dobson now. He took an active role in the 2004 Republican Senate primary in Pennsylvania, campaigning fervently for right-wing Representative Pat Toomey[31], who gave Sen. Arlen Specter, loathed by the far right for his professed moderation, a serious challenge. In the general election, Dobson campaigned hard for Bush and for right-wing Senate candidates like Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. And he is not at all shy about threatening GOP officials who are not quick enough to fall in line.


Dobson has frequently attacked material he deems pornographic. He opposes funding by the National Endowment for the Arts of projects he considers obscene. And, in 1989, he conducted a death row interview with serial killer Ted Bundy. During the interview, Bundy claimed that pornography had helped to spur his crime spree. In an interesting twist, FOF marketed tapes of the interview for $25 apiece. After being accused of cashing in on the Bundy murders, Dobson indicated that the profits from the sales would go to anti-pornography groups. Similar questions were raised after Dobson’s ministry offered recordings of an interview with another serial killer, David Berkowitz (a.k.a. Son of Sam) on its web site for a $7 suggested donation.
 

Dobson and the GOP: When Is Far-Right Far Enough?

By the mid-1990s, Dobson had developed an intense — and sometimes strained — relationship with the Republican Party. In 1996, six contenders for the GOP presidential nomination visited the FOF campus in Colorado Springs, hoping to win Dobson’s support.[32] However, the nominee who emerged, Sen. Bob Dole, did not meet with Dobson’s approval. When Dole considered softening his party’s hard line stance on such social issues as abortion, Dobson drew a line in the sand. “There is very, very strong sentiment on this subject,” Dobson said, “and I think it is certain that there is going to be conflict out there, especially if Sen. Dole follows the path he is now on.”[33]

Ultimately, rather than support Dole, Dobson voted for Howard Phillips, the fringe nominee of the U.S. Taxpayer Party, saying “I voted for Howard Phillips …because he stands for the principles and the values that I believe in, and nobody else did.”[34] What are Phillips’ principles and values? Phillips has linked the deterioration of the family to the “liberation of the wife from the leadership of the husband,” urged the U.S. government to “send the United Nations packing,” suggested that the Clintons were guilty of murder, and likened Ronald Reagan’s dealings with the Soviet Union to Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Nazi Germany.[35] He advocates abolishing the Internal Revenue Service and entirely privatizing Social Security.[36] Phillips, who considers homosexual acts to be “an abomination in the sight of God,” believes “[e]very hospital, every private business, every property owner, every school” should have the right to require HIV tests “from people who seek to use its facilities.”[37]

The Dole split proved to be only the first in a series of fallings out between Dobson and the GOP. In 1998, in a speech before the Council for National Policy, Dobson described his frustrations with the Republicans in the starkest terms yet:

“Does the Republican Party want our votes — no strings attached — to court us every two years, and then say, ‘Don’t call me. I’ll call you.’ And to not care about the moral law of the universe. Is that what they want? Is that the way the system works? Is this the way it’s going to be? If it is, I’m gone, and if I go, I will do everything I can to take as many people with me as possible.”[38]

Dobson warned that he would use his radio empire as much as legally possible to deliver his message to the Republicans.[39] In response to Dobson’s complaints, then-Republican National Committee chairman Jim Nicholson met with so-called pro-family groups. Dobson toured Washington, visiting Congressional leaders, and in a letter to longtime political ally then-Rep. Tom Coburn (R-OK) listed his legislative demands, which included: cutting off government funding to Planned Parenthood and other “pro-abortion organizations,” eliminating “so-called safe-sex and condom distribution programs,” passing parental consent laws pertaining to both abortion and contraception, banning human cloning, ending funding of fetal tissue research programs, and defunding the National Endowment for the Arts. He also voiced support for government funding of religious education via school vouchers, the elimination of the U.S. Department of Education, and a ban on so-called “partial-birth abortion.”[40]

In a reflection of just how much influence Dobson held at this point, the GOP vowed to hold floor votes on the issues he raised.[41]

That same year, Dobson offered his personal endorsement and appeared in a radio commercial supporting Randall Terry, [42] the founder of the radical anti-abortion group Operation Rescue. Terry was running for a seat in the US House of Representatives. Terry is a fanatic who, during a 1989 protest in front of a Boulder, Colorado family health clinic, prayed for the assassination of the clinic’s doctor.[43] In one speech, Terry was explicit: “When I or people like me are running the country, [abortion providers] better flee because we will find you, we will try you, and we will execute you.”[44] During his 1998 campaign, Terry advocated abolition of property taxes, the federal income tax, and Social Security.[45] He described his Democratic opponent as a “hard core pro-death leader” and a “leader of a growing number of treacherous politicians who support special rights for militant sodomites.”[46] After losing the Republican Party primary, Terry ran in the general election on the Right-to-Life ticket[47] where he garnered 7 percent of the vote.[48]

During the 2000 election cycle, Dobson chose not to endorse a presidential candidate, even though his longtime associate, Gary Bauer, was in the running for the Republican nomination.[49] This is not to say that Dobson sat out the election altogether. He had some very unflattering things to say concerning GOP hopeful Sen. John McCain, primarily because the Senator refused to provide assurances that he would choose an anti-abortion running mate and Supreme Court nominees.[50] In addition, Dobson expressed distaste for then-Gov. George Bush’s compassionate conservative rhetoric.

“Bush’s advisers are telling him he can have it all — the big tent — which I don’t believe works in this culture. The strategists have concluded that…they can hold onto the conservative Christians and get the mushy middle at the same time. I don’t believe you can do it.”[51]

He also warned Republicans against removing anti-abortion language from the party platform, once again threatening to bolt the party: “My interest in candidates of the Republican Party is dependent upon its continued support for the sanctity of life and the other moral issues of great concern. If the pro-life plank is eliminated or amended, I’m gone.”[52]

Dobson is also an outspoken advocate for weakening the separation between church and state,[53] and a supporter of Roy Moore, the former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court who was ousted from his seat after ignoring a federal court order to remove a massive granite monument to the Ten Commandments he installed in Alabama’s state judicial building. Moore has become a folk hero to Religious Right activists for using his powerful public position to promote his religious beliefs and for defying court orders to stop doing so. In August 2003, Dobson spoke at a rally in support of Moore, calling him “a wonderful man…who had the courage of his convictions to put it on the line.”[54] Moore, who also takes extremist positions on reproductive choice and gay rights — he once suggested that the state should execute gays[55] — is reportedly considering a run for Governor.

2004: Power and Prejudice

Dobson has likened the early political activities of Focus on the Family to guerrilla warfare. As one former FOF vice president put it, “He used to talk about us as a guerrilla artillery organization in the mountains, firing off little bombs now and then.”[56] If this was the case, Dobson’s 2004 political mobilization efforts were a true escalation — a frontal assault.

In May 2004, Dobson announced the formation of Focus on the Family Action, or Focus Action. In a letter to his supporters, Dobson explained that Focus Action had been created because the IRS and Congress were “choking [FOF’s] ability to stand up for what we believe” and that this new organization would have the freedom to “lobby for its core principles.”[57] As Focus Action was set up as a 501(c)(4) organization, it is able to have a greater role in political activities.[58]

Why did Dobson choose to so fully embrace politics in 2004? “There are dangers, and that is why I have never done it before,” he explained. “But the attack and assault on marriage is so distressing that I just feel like I can’t remain silent.”[59] The defining moments of this “assault” came in two court decisions, Lawrence v. Texas, in which the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Texas anti-sodomy law and reversed its infamous Hardwick decision, and a November 2003 decision from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage violated the state constitution.[60]

Dobson’s anti-gay positions are pervasive. He opposes anti-discrimination regulations[61] and called for a boycott of Proctor & Gamble when the company supported a Cincinnati ballot initiative to remove a discriminatory provision from the city charter.[62] In his 2004 book Marriage Under Fire, Dobson likens proponents of gay marriage to the Nazis: “Like Adolf Hitler, who overran his European neighbors, those who favor homosexual marriage are determined to make it legal, regardless of the democratic processes that stand in their way.”[63] Further, he claims that the “homosexual activist movement [is] working to implement a master plan that has as its centerpiece the utter destruction of the family.” According to Dobson, the goals of the homosexual movement include:

“universal acceptance of the gay lifestyle, the discrediting of Scriptures that condemn homosexuality, muzzling of the clergy and Christian media, granting special privileges and rights in the law, overturning laws prohibiting pedophilia, indoctrination of children and future generations through public education, and securing all the legal benefits of marriage for any two or more people who claim to have homosexual tendencies.”[64]

In Dobson’s view, legalizing marriage for same-sex couples would result in a slippery slope: “How about group marriage? Or marriage between daddies and little girls? How about marriage between a man and his donkey?”[65]

Dobson’s “first objective”[66] became amending the U.S. Constitution to prohibit gay marriage, and legislation designed to do just that had already been proposed in the House and Senate.

On eight occasions in the run up to the July 14, 2004 Senate cloture vote, Dobson used his radio program to trumpet the importance of the so-called “Federal Marriage Amendment.”[67] In one instance, he read out the names of all uncommitted Senators and urged listeners to call them “until the switchboard smokes.” Although his program is normally financed by Focus on the Family, in this case, due to the explicitly political slant of this particular broadcast, Focus Action paid for it.[68] Two weeks prior to the vote, Focus Action’s public policy staff contacted all uncommitted Senators, warning them that Dobson supporters would be notified via radio and letter of all FMA opponents.[69] Alerts regarding the vote were regularly sent to 104,000 email activists as well as the 1.25 million listeners of FOF’s “Family News in Focus” daily radio program.

In addition, full-page ads were placed in hometown papers of fifteen Senate opponents of FMA. The ads, which featured a melancholy-looking freckle-faced boy, asked: “Why Doesn’t Senator [insert name] Believe Every Child Needs a Mother and Father?” Among those targeted by the ads was then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.[70] Dobson seemed particularly intent on damaging Daschle — who was locked in a close reelection battle. Dobson blamed Daschle for leading Democratic resistance to a handful of President Bush’s most extreme judicial nominations.[71]

Ultimately, despite the unrelenting efforts of Dobson and Focus Action, opponents of FMA blocked a final vote in the Senate. An effort to stop the filibuster failed by 48 to 50 with 60 votes needed to end debate. Following the vote, Focus Action issued another set of full-page newspaper ads. These featured a very cross-looking little boy and the headline “Shame on you, Senator.” Despite losing the Senate vote, Dobson argued that Focus Action’s efforts helped to ensure that the marriage issue was uppermost in people’s minds going into the November elections.[72]

Focus Action also brought the fight to the state level, supporting efforts in eleven states to add prohibitions against gay marriage to their constitutions. Thousands of Dobson-penned letters in support of the marriage amendments were sent to each state and Dobson frequently plugged the amendments on his radio show. Focus Action coordinated signature gathering efforts in five states, and even provided cash donations for anti-gay marriage drives in Michigan and Oregon. All eleven ballot measures were ultimately successful.[73]

While Focus Action did the overtly political work, Dobson, through Focus on the Family, went in search of the oft-cited millions of evangelical Christians that Bush advisor Karl Rove claimed failed to show up at the polls in 2000. Dobson presented his message as a “call to Christian duty.” In an October broadcast of his Focus on the Family radio program he said:

“Do you know that in the year 2000, four million evangelicals did not go to the polls? Do you know that more than 25 million Christians of various stripes — Catholics, mainline, other perspectives — did not register and did not vote? That is an outrage. And it must not happen again.”[74]

Focus on the Family partnered with the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) to develop the iVoteValues.com voter awareness and registration initiative, which worked to make “biblical values” central to the voting habits of evangelicals.[75] Ultimately, Focus on the Family sent out 1.3 million registration kits modeled on those distributed by the Southern Baptist Convention.[76]

The Senate as Means to an End

One of Dobson’s expressed aims for 2004 was to swell the “ranks of social conservatives” in the Senate, so as to build “more backbone in that chamber to stand tough on godly issues” such as marriage[77] and to encourage the confirmation of far-right judges. Through a convoluted leap of logic, Dobson argued that the Massachusetts gay marriage decision came about in part due to a failure on the U.S. Senate’s part to rein in an “imperious” judiciary. During the October Mayday for Marriage rally on the Mall in Washington, DC, Dobson explained to tens of thousands of supporters[78] how marriage could be saved and the judiciary cleansed by means of housecleaning in the Senate:

“We can’t get our hands on the courts…they’re out of reach. They’re unaccountable. They’re un-elected. They’re arrogant. They’re independent. They are imperious and they think they rule this country….We can’t reach the court, but we can reach the Senate, and we can do that on November the second. I urge you to remember in November....We must change the make-up of the Senate. We must get the Senate to limit the power of the court, one way or another. We must turn out the vote.”[79]

Dobson’s lobbying on proposals to restrict marriage were often tied to his efforts to elect far-right Senate candidates and defeat moderate or progressive candidates.

In addition to radio broadcasts, emails, and ads, Dobson headlined a number of “Stand for the Family” rallies in the months leading up to the elections. The states in which these events were held — Louisiana, North Carolina, and South Dakota — all featured Democrat-held Senate seats that were being vigorously contested by right-wing Republicans. Daschle was a particular target, along with seats vacated by retiring Sen. John Breaux (D-LA) and vice presidential nominee John Edwards (D-NC). The advertising for these rallies took on an overtly political tone:

“It’s time to take a Stand for the Family. Plan to attend these vitally important rallies with Dr. James Dobson and special guests — you’ll learn about what’s at stake this election and get equipped to fight for critical issues that will protect the family!”

Along with Dobson, the meetings featured Family Research Council President Tony Perkins as well as Dobson’s former colleague, Gary Bauer, who now heads American Values. Many rally-goers received free copies of Dobson’s Marriage Under Fire. Participants were encouraged to place inserts concerning the rallies in their church bulletins and to attend get-out-the vote workshops prior to the main event.[80]

Dobson mailed letters comparing the position of Senate candidates in several states. Again, his choice of targets is instructive. In addition to the states visited in the “Stand for Family” rallies, letters went to potential voters in four other states where Democrats were locked in tight struggles against right-wing GOP candidates: Colorado, Florida, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. In November, the Republicans won all of these contests save one — Colorado. In a post-election victory message from Focus Action, Dobson claimed credit for all these victories. He seemed to particularly savor Daschle’s defeat, which he said “rocked the political world.”[81]

It should be noted that even minor ideological deviations can mean missing out on Dobson’s endorsement. For example, Dobson supported former Congressman Bob Schaffer over Peter Coors in Colorado’s 2004 GOP Senate primary, despite the fact that Schaffer and Coors had almost identical stands on the issues. According to Tom Minnery, head of public policy at Focus on the Family, Coors failed to get Dobson’s nod due in part to the fact that his company, Coors Brewing Co., provides health benefits to same-sex partners. Although Coors supported a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, “it’s a little bit less reassuring to know that he’s got a very gay-friendly company,” said Minnery.[82]

Dobson also gave personal support to several GOP Senatorial candidates, including the Party’s standard bearers in Louisiana, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and South Dakota.[83] It is perhaps unsurprising that these are many of the same states that were targeted by the Stand for Family rallies, Focus Action mailings, and full-page FMA advertisements. All of these candidates won in November.

Among the candidates Dobson worked hard to elect was Oklahoma’s Tom Coburn. At a meeting of GOP leaders this spring, Coburn had this to say about the so-called “gay agenda”: “The gay community has infiltrated the very centers of power in every area across this country, and they wield extreme power ... That agenda is the greatest threat to our freedom that we face today. Why do you think we see the rationalization for abortion and multiple sexual partners? That’s a gay agenda.”[84] A speech delivered by Dobson in support of Coburn expressed the issue in equally stark terms: “Homosexuals are not monogamous. They want to destroy the institution of marriage…. It will destroy marriage. It will destroy the Earth.”[85]

Celebrations and Threats

In a statement from Focus Action immediately following the November election results, Dobson struck a triumphant tone. Although Focus Action had been prohibited from explicitly endorsing President Bush, Dobson’s statement left little doubt of his organization’s pleasure at the prospect of four more years:

“This election is a resounding victory in the battle for American families. We applaud the re-election of President Bush, who has shown himself a true champion for the family and of traditional values. Those who care deeply about the moral issues facing this nation have cause to be encouraged by the prospect of the Bush administration promoting policies supportive of these values throughout his second term.”[86]

However, the blush was soon off the rose. Four days after his statement praising President Bush, Dobson took a more resigned tone, telling ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, “I’m quite sure [Bush] will fail us. He doesn’t dance to our tune.” But, echoing past threats, Dobson warned Republicans that such failures would have consequences. Any backsliding on efforts to pass FMA, end abortion, prohibit stem cell research, or produce a far right Supreme Court would be punished:

“I think that this President has two years — or more broadly, the Republican party has two years to implement those policies or certainly four, or I believe they’ll pay a price at the — in the next election.”[87]

Ensuring the nomination and confirmation of right-wing judicial nominees has been high on Dobson’s list since the 2004 elections. In November, he and other Religious Right leaders worked to prevent Sen. Arlen Specter’s (R-PA) ascension to the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee. When Specter made the common sense observation that Senate Democrats had already filibustered some of the President’s more extreme nominees and so were likely to resist efforts to install anti-abortion Supreme Court appointees,[88] Dobson fumed that Specter was guilty of “arrogant grandstanding.”[89] Dobson complained that Specter was “a big-time problem for us, someone who must be derailed,”[90] but Specter kept his committee chairmanship after pledging to his colleagues to look favorably on President Bush’s nominees.

In January 2005, Dobson issued another threat, this one aimed at Senate Democrats. He promised “a battle of enormous proportions from sea to shining sea” should the Democrats attempt to block right-wing judicial nominees via filibuster. He singled out five Senators whose terms end in 2006, warning that if they opposed Bush’s choices, “many of them will be in the ‘bull’s eye’ the next time they seek reelection.”[91]

Conclusion

James Dobson has spent thirty-five years building a media empire and a loyal following, and in recent years he has moved aggressively to put both in the service of a far-right political agenda. His increasingly successful efforts as a leading power broker working to move the Republican Party into an even closer embrace with the Religious Right political movement merit closer attention, because the agenda Dobson is promoting is at odds with cherished American ideals of individual liberty, separation of church and state, and an independent judiciary committed to upholding Americans rights and freedoms.

Endnotes


[1] Conan O’Brien, 1/22/05.
[2] Jill Serjeant, “U.S. Christians Issue Gay Warning Over Kid Video,” Reuters, 1/20/05.
[3] James Dobson, Marriage Under Fire: Why We Must Win This Battle, (Multnomah, 2004) p. 19.
[4] Ibid, p. 41.
[5] Robert Schlesinger, “Medicine Man,” Salon, 9/13/04, http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2004/09/13/coburn
[6] Bill Sherman, “Commentator Gives Support to Coburn,” Tulsa World, 10/22/04.
[7] “Focus on the Family Broadcast to Feature Mel Gibson on the Stem-cell Ballot Issue,” Focus on the Family, 10/29/04.
[8] Ted Olsen, “Weblog: Dobson Again Calls for Parents to Pull Kids out of Public Schools,” Christianity Today, 7/9/02, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2002/126/22.0.html
[9] Bob Kellogg, “Prayer Amendment Effort Returns,” Family News in Focus, 2/21/02.
[10] James Dobson, “Restoring the Foundations: Repealing Judicial Tyranny,” 8/28/03, http://www.family.org/fmedia/misc/A0027564.cfm
[11] “Dobson’s Work Important During Election, But He’s Not Done,” Associated Press, 11/14/04.
[12] Alan Cooperman and Thomas B. Edsall, “Evangelicals Say They Led the Charge for the GOP,” Washington Post, 11/8/04, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A32793-2004Nov7.html
[13] Dwayne Hastings, “Focus on the Family Signs on to ERLC’s iVoteValues Initiative,” BP News, 8/12/04, http://www.baptistpress.com/bpnews.asp?ID=18853
[14] “Focus on the Family Action Update,” November 2004, http://www.focusaction.org/pdfs/actionupdatenov04.pdf
[15] Paul Asay, “Focus’ Focus Is American Family; Political Activism a Small Part of Efforts, Founder Says,” The Gazette, 8/28/04.
[16] James Dobson, “A Message to the People of New York’s 26th Congressional District,” April 27, 1998; “Dobson, Reed Like Gex -- But Bunning’s Unhappy, House Race Hotline, 4/30/98; “Dr. Dobson Endorses Schaffer,” 6/26/04; Patricia Poist, “Down to the Wire; With Election Day Near, James Dobson Comes Here to Support Pat Toomey for Senate, Stressing Toomey’s ‘Pro-Family’ Stance,” Lancaster New Era/Intelligencer Journal/Sunday News, 4/24/04.
[17] Fox News: Hannity & Colmes, 7/15/04.
[18] David D. Kirkpatrick, “Warily, a Religious Leader Lifts His Voice to Politics,” New York Times, 5/13/04; Dan Gilgoff, “The Dobson Way,” US News & World Report, 1/17/05, http://www.usnews.com/usnews/issue/050117/misc/17evangelicals.htm ; Laura Sessions Stepp, “The Empire Built on Family and Faith,” Washington Post, 8/8/90; Helen Parmley, “Reluctant ‘Rising Star,’” Dallas Morning News, 8/19/89; Dale Buss, “Paterfamilias of Family Values,” Wall Street Journal, 10/17/88.
[19] People For the American Way, “Focus on the Family: Extremism Cloaked in the Rhetoric of Family Values,” 1993.
[20] Per the front cover of The New Dare to Discipline, http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0842305068/ref=sib_dp_pt/103-3681628-898...
[21] David Kelly, “In Colorado, a Wellspring of Conservative Christianity,” Los Angeles Times, 7/6/04.
[22] “Right Wing Organizations: Focus on the Family,” People For the American Way Foundation, 1/04, http://www.pfaw.org/pfaw/general/default.aspx?oid=4257

[23] “Focus on the Family Action Update,” November 2004, http://www.focusaction.org/pdfs/actionupdatenov04.pdf
[24] Patrick Kampert, “James Dobson the Empire Builder,” Chicago Tribune,z 7/14/02.
[25] David D. Kirkpatrick, “Warily, a Religious Leader Lifts His Voice to Politics,” New York Times, 5/13/04.
[26] Laura Sessions Stepp, “The Empire Built on Family and Faith,” Washington Post, 8/8/90.
[27] ibid.
[28] ibid.
[29] “Right Wing Organizations: Family Research Council,” People For the American Way Foundation, December, 2003, http://www.pfaw.org/pfaw/general/default.aspx?oid=4211
[30] Nina J. Easton, “The Power and the Glory,” American Prospect, 5/20/02, http://www.prospect.org/print/V13/9/easton-n.html
[31] Patricia Poist, “Down to the Wire; With Election Day Near, James Dobson Comes Here to Support Pat Toomey for Senate, Stressing Toomey’s ‘Pro-Family’ Stance,” Lancaster New Era/Intelligencer Journal/Sunday News, 4/24/04.
[32] Patrick Kampert, “James Dobson the Empire Builder,” Chicago Tribune, 7/14/02.
[33] Pete Winn, “Dr. Dobson Speaks to the Council for National Policy,” Family News in Focus, 1998.
[34] From a 1998 speech to the Council for National Policy. See: http://www.buildingequality.us/ifas/cnp/dobson.html
[35] “To the Right, Roy Moore Is a Justice for All,” People For the American Way Foundation, August 2003
[36] “Presidential Candidates,” The Gazette, 10/22/00.
[37] Howard Phillips, “AIDS: Protect the Innocent,” Washington Post, 6/19/87.
[38] “FOF’s James Dobson: A Rogue Elephant in the GOP ‘Big Tent,’” Church & State, March 1998.
[39] ibid.
[40] Benjamin Domenech, “Dobson’s Choice: Why the Conservative Outsider’s Agenda Worries GOP Leaders,” Washington Post, 4/19/98.
[41] Ralph Z. Hallow, “GOP Vows to Push Religious-Right Issues,” Washington Times, 4/10/98.
[42] Randall Terry for Congress, campaign letter dated May 24, 1998.
[43] John M. Swomley, “The Run of Whose Life?” Humanist, 5/1/98.
[44] David Corn, “Faith and Commandments on the Campaign Trail,” The Nation, 9/28/98.
[45] David Corn, “Faith and Commandments on the Campaign Trail,” The Nation, 9/28/98.
[46] John M. Swomley, “The Run of Whose Life?” Humanist, 5/1/98.
[47] Rachel Van Dongen, “Give Them Liberty... Despite Setbacks, Terry Says Battle Just Beginning,” Roll Call,
[48] “Election 98: New Yorks’ Representatives,” Newsday, 11/5/98
[49] Eric Gorski, “Focus on Issues: Abortion Is Key, Dobson Warns Bush,” Gazette, 5/25/00.
[50] Susan Jones, “Conservative Critics Raise Their Voices Against McCain,” CNS News, 2/18/00.
[51] John Harwood, “Focus on Family Leader Dobson Emerges at Christian Right’s Most Powerful Voice,” Wall Street Journal, 5/26/00.
[52] John Gizzi, “Conservatives Vow to Protect Pro-Life Plank,” Human Events, 5/5/00.
[53] Gary Schneeberger, “Dobson Tells Christian Voters ‘Enough is Enough,’” Citizen Link, 9/7/04, http://www.family.org/cforum/extras/a0033582.cfm
[54] James Dobson, “Restoring the Foundations: Repealing Judicial Tyranny,” 8/28/03, http://www.family.org/fmedia/misc/A0027564.cfm
[55] “Alabama Chief Justice Unfit for Office,” People For the American Way Foundation, 2/22/02
[56] Laura Sessions Stepp, The Empire Built on Family & Faith,” Washington Post, 8/8/90.
[57] James Dobson, “First Objective: Pass the Federal Marriage Amendment!” July 2004, http://www.focusaction.org/articles/A0000015.cfm
[58] Eric Gorski, “Dobson Shifts Power to Focus on Politics,” Denver Post, 11/14/04, http://www.denverpost.com/framework/0,1413,36~11676~2534210,00.html
[59] David D. Kirkpatrick, “Warily, a Religious Leader Lifts His Voice in Politics,” New York Times, 5/13/04.
[60] Pete Winn, “Gay ‘Marriage’ OK’d by Massachusetts Court,” CitizenLink, 11/19/03, http://www.family.org/cforum/feature/a0028895.cfm.
[61] Peter Winn, “Contentious Bills Await Returning Congress,” CitizenLink, 8/31/01, http://www.family.org/cforum/feature/a0017443.cfm
[62] “Focus on the Family Urges Procter & Gamble Boycott,” Focus on the Family, 9/16/04, http://www.family.org/welcome/press/a0033732.cfm
[63] James Dobson, Marriage Under Fire: Why We Must Win This Battle, (Multnomah, 2004) p. 41.
[64] Ibid, p. 19, emphasis added.
[65] Ibid, p. 49.
[66] James Dobson, “First Objective: Pass the Federal Marriage Amendment!” July 2004, http://www.focusaction.org/articles/A0000015.cfm
[67] “Focus on the Family Action Update,” November 2004, http://www.focusaction.org/pdfs/actionupdatenov04.pdf
[68] Michael Foust, “Dobson on FMA: Call Senators ‘until the switchboard smokes,’” 7/7/04, http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=18638
[69] “Focus on the Family Action Update,” November 2004, http://www.focusaction.org/pdfs/actionupdatenov04.pdf
[70] James Dobson, “First Objective: Pass the Federal Marriage Amendment!” July 2004, http://www.focusaction.org/articles/A0000015.cfm ; “Focus on the Family Action Takes on Swing State Senators over FMA,” http://www.focusaction.org/activities/a0000010.cfm ; Sample ad: http://www.focusaction.org/pdfs/SouthDakotaFMA.pdf
[71] “Dobson Praises Election Triumphs for the Family,” Focus on the Family Action, 11/3/04, http://www.focusaction.org/press/a0000040.cfm
[72] “Focus on the Family Action Update,” November 2004, http://www.focusaction.org/pdfs/actionupdatenov04.pdf
[73] ibid.
[74] “Dr. James Dobson Calls Pro-Family America to the Polls,” Focus on the Family, 10/14/04, http://www.family.org/welcome/press/a0034114.cfm
[75] Dwayne Hastings, “Focus on the Family Signs on to ERLC’s iVoteValues Initiative,” BP News, 8/12/04, http://www.baptistpress.com/bpnews.asp?ID=18853
[76] Judith Kohler, “Ministry Head Pushes Christians to Vote,” Associated Press, 10/30/04; “Focus on the Family Action Update,” November 2004, http://www.focusaction.org/pdfs/actionupdatenov04.pdf
[77] “Focus on the Family Action Update,” November 2004, http://www.focusaction.org/pdfs/actionupdatenov04.pdf
[78] David D. Kirkpatrick, “Rally Against Gay Marriage Draws Thousands to the Capital,” New York Times, 10/16/04.
[79] “Right Wing Watch Online 2004: October: Mayday for Marriage,” People For the American Way Foundation, 10/1/04.
[80] “2004 Stand for the Family Rallies,” Focus on the Family Action, 6/21/04, http://www.focusaction.org/activities/a0000004.cfm / Sample flyer: http://www.focusaction.org/pdfs/SDArenaBulletinBW.pdf
[81] “Focus on the Family Action Update,” November 2004, http://www.focusaction.org/pdfs/actionupdatenov04.pdf
[82] Gwen Florio, “Schaffer Gaining More Support from Conservatives,” Rocky Mountain News, 6/29/04.
[83] Eric Goreski, “Dobson Shifts Power to Focus on the Politics,” Denver Post, 11/14/04, http://www.denverpost.com/framework/0,1413,36~11676~2534210,00.html
[84] Robert Schlesinger, “Medicine Man,” Salon, 9/13/04.
[85] Carmel Perez Snyder, “Marriage, Family Advocate to Support Coburn,” The Oklahoman, 10/23/04, http://www.newsok.com/electok/article/1345390. Emphasis added.
[86] “Dobson Praises Election Triumphs for the Family,” Focus on the Family Action, 11/3/04, http://www.focusaction.org/press/a0000040.cfm
[87] “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” ABC News, 11/7/04. See also: David D. Kirkpatrick, “Some Backers of Bush Say They Anticipate a ‘Revolution,’” New York Times, 11/4/04.
[88] “Key GOP Senator Warns Bush on Judicial Choices,” Associated Press, 11/4/04, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6405485/
[89] “Dobson Blasts Sen. Specter’s ‘Arrogant Grandstanding,’” Focus on the Family Action, 11/4/04, http://www.focusaction.org/press/a0000042.cfm
[90] “Profile: Expectations of Evangelical Christians on the Heels of President Bush’s Re-Election,” NPR: Day to Day, 11/11/04.
[91] David Kirkpatrick, “Evangelical Leader Threatens to Use His Political Muscle Against Some Democrats,” New York Times, 1/4/05.

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