As many of us commemorated the 48th anniversary of the historic Stonewall Inn-surrection during our month of Pride, the Trump administration chose to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of an extremist right-wing group, Focus on the Family, as Vice President Mike Pence addressed the group in its Colorado Springs location promising “you have an unwavering ally in President Donald Trump.”
Pence referred to Focus on the Family as a “cornerstone of American life for so many Americans,” and he signified that its founder, James Dobson, is a “friend and mentor to me.” During last year’s presidential campaign, Pence spoke on Dobson’s radio program.
Focus on the Family comprises a conservative theocratic mega-media Christian ministry. On its official website, FOF promotes itself:
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.”
FOF declares that “ultimately, we believe that the purpose of life is to know and glorify God through an authentic relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ. This purpose is lived out first within our own families then extended, in love, to an increasingly broken world that desperately needs Him.”
Founded by James C. Dobson in 1977, FOF, charted as a not-for-profit agency, functions as the largest theocratic-right organization in the United States operating out of Colorado Springs, Colorado. FOF supported the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (the federal law enacted September 21, 1996 defining legal marriage as only a union between one man and one woman).
It rejects reproduction freedoms for women, opposes sexuality education in schools except “abstinence-only,” works to ban curricular materials it deems inappropriate including notions of multiculturalism and specifically anything it has determined promotes the so-called “homosexual” or “gay agenda,” encourages prayer in schools, supports private school vouchers to pay for parochial education at tax payer expense and to the detriment of public schooling, and many other conservative causes.
According to Dobson, “Tolerance and its first cousin, diversity, are almost always buzzwords for homosexual advocacy.”
Dobson backed elective candidates, Randall Terry and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who have called for the execution of abortion providers. He has referred to embryonic stem-cell research as “state-funded cannibalism,” encourages parents to abandon the public school system, and supports a constitutional amendment that would permit forced organized prayer in public schools. In addition, he founded a group called “Love Won Out” (later called “True Story) in 1998 dedicated to converting homosexuals to heterosexuality.
Dobson led FOF until 2003, before leaving when he established Family Talk in 2010 and initiating his radio broadcast, “Family Talk with Dr. James Dobson.” In his 2004 book Marriage under Fire, Dobson likens proponents of marriage for same-sex couples to 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”
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 this movement includes “…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.”
In addition to FOF, Dobson also created the Family Research Council (FRC) in 1981, which has developed into a major influential theocratic right organization campaigning for so-called “traditional family values” as FRC sees it. The Southern Poverty Law Center has deemed FRC an extremist “hate group.”
In the face of Internal Revenue Service investigations of FRC’s overt lobbying activities, FRC administratively separated from FOF in 1992 to become an independent organization. Gary Bauer took over the helm as first president until 2003 when Tony Perkins succeeded him.
FRC takes virtually identical theocratic right positions as its “parent” organization, FOF. Peter Sprigg, FRC’s Senior Researcher for Policy Studies asserted that same-sex sexuality should be legislated and declared illegal, and that “criminal sanctions against homosexual behavior” should be enforced. More recently, Sprigg argued that repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy would encourage molestation of heterosexual service members.
Perkins himself has argued that “Homosexual men are more likely to abuse children than straight men,” that “homosexual misconduct” in the military will increase without the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and on Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court: “We do not need a justice on the Supreme Court who sees it as her life mission to write the homosexual version of Roe v. Wade by striking down one-man, one-woman marriage across America.”
We must locate both FOF and its offshoot FRC in a wider context, for they most certainly do not operate in isolation, but are, in fact, part of a much larger and wider conservative theological, political, and social movement founded and maintained on their interpretation of conservative Christian biblical pronouncements and principles.
This informal coalition of conservative Christian groups, often known collectively as the “Christian Right,” primarily evangelical and Catholic, include The Heritage Foundation (a conservative political “think”-tank founded in 1973), Concerned Women for America, American Coalition on Traditional Values, Coalition for Religious Freedom, Eagle Forum, Moral Majority, American Center for Law and Justice, Christian Coalition, Christian Voice, National Organization for Marriage, and many others.
Though the term “Christian Right” has been used to represent this movement, this terminology is inaccurate and misleading. A sizable number of well-intentioned conservative Christians do not abide by many of the extreme stances taken by movement leaders – leaders who seem to have hijacked Jesus’s message. While several leaders and organizations within this movement bristle against the notion of a large centralized government, paradoxically, they seem to be working toward the imposition of a powerful theocracy in their image.
Since “Christianity” cannot be viewed as monolithic because numerous denominations make disparate interpretations of scripture, the term “theocratic right” is more accurate to represent this rightwing religiously-based movement under discussion.
Several universities are also associated with the theocratic right, namely Bob Jones University, Oral Roberts University, Liberty University, Regent University, Patrick Henry College, and Baylor University. The theocratic right movement operates with vast media network of electronic and print outlets, including The Christian Broadcasting Network, Fox News, and a complex radio network with leading commentators including Rush Limbaugh and formerly Laura Schlessinger.
Many of these theocratic right groups and religious ministries push what they refer to as Christian therapy to, as they phrase it, remove people from the “deviant homosexual lifestyle.” These therapies go by such names as the X-Gay religious ministries, Exodus International, Homosexual Anonymous (a cynical co-optation of 12-Step programs methods of recovery), Parents, Families, and Friends of X-Gays and Lesbians (an obvious rip-off of the LGBT allies support network PFLAG — Parents, Families, and Friends of Gays and Lesbians), and the so-called reparative or conversion therapies, which promise conversion to heterosexuality if the patient has the required motivation to change.
As a brief aside, the theocratic right paints LGBT people as having so-called “lifestyles” while at least implying, on the other hand, that heterosexual people live lives. “Homosexual lifestyles” are political and theocratic buzzwords to conjure up forbidden and depraved sexual and predatory behaviors.
While no Republican president, including Trump, has ever issued a statement in support of LGBTQ Pride Month, President Clinton issued his first and second proclamations during his final two years in the White House, and President Barack Obama proclaimed this historic event each of his eight years in office.
As the first president to release a presidential proclamation commemorating Pride Month, Clinton stated, in part:
I am proud of the measures my administration has taken to end discrimination against gays and lesbians and ensure that they have the same rights guaranteed to their fellow Americans… America’s diversity is our greatest strength. But, while we have come a long way on our journey toward tolerance, understanding, and mutual respect, we still have a long way to go in our efforts to end discrimination.”
Trump and all the Republicans remain missing in any form of positive action.