Dark Christianity
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May 2008
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dogemperor [userpic]
Digging deeper


One of the ways to understand the religious supremacists is to dig down to the local level and see where they are influencing government on the state and local level. Talk To Action gives some details on how "Focus on the Family" is doing this.

publican successes are predicated on the idea of "turning out the base" with this "wedge issue." While it is not always clear that this tactic is as successful as some say, there is no question that it is taking place. Anti-gay politics is a staple of American life. So, who exactly is behind this?

Well, there are many actors, of course. But I want to focus on just one, multidimensional player: Focus on the Family headed by Christian radio psycologist James Dobson. And I want to zero in on one aspect in particular -- Focus on the Family political operations in the states.

Several years ago, I wrote a study about state level conservative think tanks and advocacy groups, published by Political Research Associates (pdf file). There were two, related networks started in tandem in the late 1980s. One emphasized the business/libertarian part of public policy, and the other emphasized the policy issues dear to the religious right. The latter, was the network of Family Policy Councils affiliated with James Dobson's Focus on the Family. The details have changed since I published that study, but the general trajectory remains the same. Most importantly, these groups are at the forefront of antimarriage equality campaigns nationwide, and their role as fronts for Focus on the Family are not widely understood and that Dobson's organization has active, organizational tentacle in 34 states, in addition to his radio program which is available just about everywhere.

For example, the point group in the recently defeated effort to repeal anti-discrimination laws in Maine, was the FOF affiliate, the Christian Civic League of Maine.

In defeat, the Maine FOF group immediately announced that they will now seek to amend the state constitution to ban marriage equality. When they do, they can draw on the experience of many other FOF-led efforts from around the country. For example, the point group in seeking to get an anti-marriage equality measure on the ballot in Massachusetts, is the Massachusetts Family Institute.

Some already existing local groups grafted onto FOF as state level affiliates, and others were started from scratch. And some groups have come and gone. But whatever their genesis, they are joined at the hip with Focus on the Family, just as the Family Research Council serves as the group's de facto political lobby in Washington, DC. The Family Research Council merged with FOF in 1988, but later decoupled in order to give it more flexibility politically without necessarily reflecting on the Focus on the Family. However, the distinction has always been pretty thin. Among other things, James Dobson has remained on the board of directors all these years.

Similarly, although the FOF states that the State Family Councils "have no corporate or financial relationship with each other or with Focus on the Family," this is disingenuous, since an organization must meet certain criteria to become affiliated with Focus on the Family; and must behave in certain ways in order to maintain it's standing. Some groups have been dropped over the years. Even a casual examination of the web sites of these groups will show, they have similar, although not uniform, structures, procedures, and policy agendas. But all are deeply involved in state politics, and thier activities often include voter mobilization and even distribution of voter guides.

There are currently FOF-affiliated state policy councils in 34 states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Have you focused on your local Focus on the Family?

The anti-gay element deeply disturbs me in a way that seems almost like deja-vu. Why? I studied the events leading up to the Third Reich, and a lot of the anti-gay fulminations sound hauntingly like what the Nazis were saying about Jews. In fact, it's almost word for word in places. There's a website somewhere that does a comparison, and it is really chilling.

These people are hateful and punitive. They are against any kind of contraception or pregnancy termination for women, against physician assisted suicide, and believe that all life is so sacred that suffering does not count. "Pro-life" means pro-suffering, pro-punishment, pro death penalty. "Life" is also a tricky thing with them- only certain 'life' is sacred to them- lives of minorities, women, and gays are not. They are hypocrites.

We need to learn about them. Who they are, what their influence is in our local communities, and then we need to stand up to them. Do it in small ways, pick at the edifice with letters to the editor, with brave people who are willing to endure these peoples' hate and intolerance. We need to drain their coffers, send them barking up expensive and humiliating trees. We need to remove them from power and return them to the obscurity from which they came.

These people will always be with us. But the difference is that they do not need to be in power.