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 (Crossposted at Political Cortex- but soon I will no longer cross-post on a regular basis! So please come say hello at the Cortex)

Anti-gay politics is at the center of American life these days. Some argue that many Republican 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 psychologist 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 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 roles as fronts for Focus on the Family are not widely understood. It is no small thing to get one's mind around the idea that Dobson's organization has active tentacles in 34 states, in addition to his radio program which is heard 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?

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Originally posted to Frederick Clarkson on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 08:05 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Its important to connect the dots (4.00)
    The state level groups are an important source of Dobson's actual power. Radio psychology alone ain't it.
    •  I love your daughter, Kellie n/t (none)
    •  Cut off the beast's head (4.00)
      I think we need to also go after the head of the beast in Colorado Springs.  While that area is heavily Republican, unaffiliated voters outnumber Republicans by a lot.  In the recent November elections, Colo. Springs completely and totally rejected Dobson's hand-picked nut-jobs for school board.  The people in Colo. Springs aren't all completely retarded, they just need constant reminders of how un-Christian FOF is.  

      Colo. Springs is in the 5th Congressional district in Colorado.  Joel Hefley (R) has represented this district for 20 years (despite promising to term limit himself).  He's never had to raise much more than $100k b/c the Dems never ran anyone seriously against him, until now.  

      The best way to show Dobson he's an out-of-touch piece of shit is to beat him in his own district --show the nation how weak he really is.  

      Jay Fawcett is the Dem running in CO-5.  He was recently featured in the Kos Fighting Dems post.  His site is .  He's a Gulf War vet (the prequel), an Air Force Academey Graduate and former professor there, was on the front lines of Desert Storm and was awarded a bronze star for his efforts in that much-more-justified-and-intelligently-conducted-conflict.  Anyway, show him some love and send a message to FOF that they can "Fuck Off Forever!"

      beat them at their own game, then pursue the high ground

      by wj on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 09:46:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hmmmm (none)
    Just wondering.... what letter does the fourth asterisk stand for?
  •  Very interesting, (none)
    though Dobson is at a low ebb lately, thanks to all the revelatory things he and Robertson have been saying.

    But on your last point, why would you not cross-post here and avail yourselves of the largest progressive audience on the internets?

    That just doesn't make sense.

    The Republicans want to cut YOUR Social Security benefits.

    by devtob on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 08:09:45 AM PST

  •  Thank you (4.00)
    for an excellent post.

    Personally, I continue to refer to the organization in question as 'Feces on the Family'.  

  •  shouldn't the title be.... (none)
    Fuck-us On the Family?  That's what I call Dobson's group.

    We were promised a democracy, sold an oligarchy, and ended up with a kakistocracy...

    by topicalstorm on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 08:26:33 AM PST

  •  where's the IRS on this? (none)
    this is blatant political activity by an exempt group.

    oh, they are pro-nazi- they get the exemption. now i see.

  •  I know that (none)
    Focus on the Family has been heavily anti-gay.

    But what I wonder, given that Dobson is so much of a cheerleader for beating 2 year old children with paddles, orother items, whether FoF has been active in the more blue states (CT, MA, ME, etc) in trying to repeal child abuse legislation?

    Does anyone here know?

    •  absolutely! (none)
      His parenting advice, particularly with infants, has been shown to be medically problematic.  He is into extreme control of children.  The scary thing is how many people actually attempt his parenting suggestions.

      "For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, and the dream shall never die." Ted Kennedy

      by sobermom on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 09:17:37 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The damage he is doing is unbelievable (none)
        But if these a-holes are actually on the record trying to repeal child abuse legislation or trying allow beatings in school to be legal, we should be tarring and feathering them with that.

        They can maybe claim 'family values' for their anti gay and anti abortion stances and get away with it with a large percentage of the public, but the number of people who approve of child abuse is relatively small.

        And still more people don't like the idea of beating dogs (something Dobson reported doing in one of his books)

  •  The MN press conference pushing the Hate Amendment (none)
    last week prominently featured a Kansas preacher and a few of his, um, 'flock.' As if we in Minnesota can't be trusted to make up our own minds about discrimination and Hate.

    Read about it here. Unbelievable.

    "To love G-d is to love justice." - Paul Wellstone
    I need your help to get to the MN House.

    by JK Minnesota on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 08:35:23 AM PST

  •  Thanks for posting this (none)
    but I wish you'd offer us more information. I know FOF is behind a lot of the organizing, but it seems to me that where they have really been sucessful is in dribbling out the hysterical "Facts" and "data" against gays and gay marriage which they do through a host of seemingly non poliitical family oriented projects. At least that has been my impression of seeing the same incorrect "facts" spewed by my republican christian sister in law. I think the lock step false science of these groups is, ultimately, more harmful than their structural organization.


    •  a perfect explication of the liberal falacy (none)
      The idea that facts can overcome organizing.

      Here is the thing. If you do not know the measure of your opposition. Who they are, what their strategy is, what kind of resources they have, what their plans are, one ends up with misdirected use of resources, poor strategy, and risking losing everything.  

      It's been the turning a blind eye to such matters that has gotten us to where we are today. There are lots of fine organizations and writers that talk about facts and science every day. They have huge budgets. Why don't you contact them for the information you seek?

  •  Colorado (none)
    I can't believe Colorado isn't listed. I believe FOF is headquartered here in Colorado Springs. James Dobson may even live there.

    "Is the President concerned that there's a stench of corruption around the Republican establishment in Washington?" -- Terry Moran to Scotty, 9/28/05

    by OLinda on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 08:49:58 AM PST

  •  What the.... (none)
    I didn't know they were in my state!! Ack...I want them to leave! Now! Go to some other state...(no offense to those of you in other states)...

    I'm tempted to call just to find out how many there are and when/where they meet....perhaps I'll infiltrate and get some secret information...

  •  Always happy to have a chance (none)
    to repost one of my favorite home made pics:

    Image Hosted by

    seen in Brevard County, FL  Dec 2004

    Similar bumperstickers available from

    The most un-American thing you can say is, "You can't say that." -G. Keillor

    by Eddie Haskell on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 09:42:51 AM PST

  •  focus? (none)
  •  Do we need to boycott Chick-Fil-A (none)
    I love their chicken.  And I have no problem if a businessowner wants to close their business on Sundays because that's a private industry decision and more power to 'em because they lose a bunch of money not being open on Sunday.

    But I went to Chick-Fil-A last weekend and in the kids meals were CD's with stories on them - and the stories were produced by Focus on the Family - so you know that the "morals" were twisted.  My kids wanted to listen but I said no.  I was going to listen myself first to screen it, but then decided just to trash them.  Their "morals" are so twisted and sick that it's not funny.


    Democrats *do* have a plan for Social Security - it's called Social Security. -- Ed Schultz

    by FredFred on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 10:13:11 AM PST

  •  I would just die laughing (none)
    If Dobson ever got caught with his pants down getting humped by a gay prostitute...hell, I'd hump him myself (requiring LOTS of least) as long as I could take pictures and release it to the media!

    Frankly whenever anyone is that self-righteous and focused on fixing other people's problems I assume they have some seriously farked up stuff going on in their own lives...

  •  correction ? (none)
    Christian radio psychologist James Dobson

    Isn't "anti-Christian radio psycho" more accurate?

  •  Just for fun... (none)
    ...Dobson's group should be referred to whenever possible as "Focus on the Fanny."  

    This reflects their obsession with corporal punishment, as well as their fixation on gays which I'm sure is due at least in part to jealousy.

    "...the big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart." -- Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

    by Roddy McCorley on Tue Nov 15, 2005 at 10:23:33 AM PST

  •  FoF is still pushing at the AFA (none)
    i grew up in colorado springs but have since disowned it as my home town... it's a scarey place what with the retired military, norad, northcom headquarters, peterson afb, ft. carson, and the air force academy... the afa is still under assault from the fundies...

    why won't it go away...? three guesses and the first two don't count...


    "Praise God that we have been allowed access by the Academy into the cadet areas to minister among the cadets. We have recently been given an unused classroom to meet with cadets at any time during the day," the husband-and-wife team of Darren and Gina Lindblom said in the Oct. 11 letter to their donors.


        The Lindbloms' letter was made public by Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein, a 1977 Air Force Academy alumnus who was a White House lawyer in the Reagan administration. He has filed a federal lawsuit accusing the Air Force of violating the First Amendment's establishment clause by fostering evangelical Christianity over all faiths.

        Weinstein, who has been joined in the suit by four recent graduates of the academy, said that some other religious groups are allowed onto the academy's campus, but only during certain hours and under close supervision by Air Force chaplains.

        "The only group that gets 24/7 unrestricted access to cadets is this fundamentalist, born-again Christian group," Weinstein charged.

    answer...? four words... focus on the family, located just across interstate 25 from the academy... dobson's office undoubtedly faces the beautiful rampart range, the face of the rockies, that serves as a lovely backdrop to the air force academy, and i'm sure he simply can't stand to think of all that intelligent youth just sitting there, waiting to be proselytized...

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