Freedom Writer - December 1994
Profile:Focus on the Family
Focus on the Family (FOTF) was founded in 1977 as a 501(c)(3) organization.
The 1000+-employee organization moved from California in 1991 to its
present location in Colorado Springs.
_Christianity_Today_ ranks FOTF the number-one ministry in the U.S.
by income. About one percent of its annual budget of $150 million
goes for grassroots lobbying.
FOTF produces five different radio programs which are broadcast on
more than 1,550 stations worldwide, including many in the former Soviet
Union. The "Focus on the Family" program is the second-largest nationally
syndicated radio talk show in America.
FOTF publishes the periodicals _Focus_on_the_Family_, _Clubhouse_,
_Clubhouse_Jr._, _Physician_, _Breakaway_, _Brio_, _Parental_Guidance_,
and _Citizen_. _Focus_on_the_Family_ is a "family-oriented", Christian
magazine that publishes a complete list of radio stations carrying
FOTF receives over 1,200 phone calls a day and more than 200,000 letters
a month, and responds with over 52 million pieces of literature and
more than a million cassettes a year. Letters are "personally" answered
by Dr. James Dobson, using a computerized file of 1,000 prototype
Dobson, 60, a licensed psychologist, is president and chairman of
the board of directors. According to the organization's literature,
"Focus on the Family is governed by an independent board of directors
committed to the lordship of Jesus Christ and His principles for the
success of the family unit."
The other board members are Shirley Dobson, "a homemaker and complement
to her husband's ministry"; Hugo W. Schoellkopf III; Susan Baker,
wife of former Secretary of State James Baker; Lee Eaton; Ted Engstrom,
president of World Vision; Michael Roberts, a former dentist turned
pastor; Beth Allen Blakemore, president of Clover Investments of Midland,
Texas; Bobb Biehl, president of Masterplanning Group International;
and Tony Wauteriek, founder of the Illinois investment banking firm
of Wauteriek & Brown.
Dr. Dobson receives no salary from FOTF. His income is derived from
the royalties of eleven books, including his popular _Dare_to_Discipline_.
The ministry was built upon the success of this 1970 bestseller, which
emphasizes the need for administering pain in child discipline. The
book has sold tens of millions of copies and is still widely available.
"Millions of Americans now look to [Dobson] for spiritual and, sometimes,
political guidance," according to _The_New_York_Times_. "He has emerged
as one of the country's most influential religious figures."
Dobson made national news in 1989 when he conducted a last-minute
interview with convicted serial killer Ted Bundy. Just before his
electrocution, Bundy accepted Christ and blamed pornography for his
inclination to murder young women. Dobson taped his interview with
Bundy and made thousands of dollars selling copies. He gave all the
proceeds to other ministries, including Rev. Donald Wildmon's American
More recently, Dobson, a member of the Council for National Policy,
has come under fire from some elements of the Christian community
for his political activities. Dobson denies that FOTF is politically
oriented, but he says that God "has called us to be His representatives
in our nation and in our world. Select candidates who represent your
views and work for their election. This is a vital part of what it
means to be 'salt and light' in today's world."
Well-entrenched and extremely popular, FOTF is ahead of most Christian
Right groups in the development of a loyal, if unwitting, political
FOTF attracts adherents through its radio, telephone, and mail counseling
ministry. Respondents are invited to receive FOTF political materials,
including _Citizen_ magazine. _Citizen_ tells its almost 300,000 readers
how to combat gay rights, abortion, pornography, and sex education.
FOTF materials show up everywhere. Christian Right candidates for
school boards frequently rely on FOTF materials. In conjunction with
Concerned Women for America, FOTF designed and promotes a "no sex"
sex education program for public schools.
FOTF's Community Impact Seminars teach members of local churches how
to become political activists. FOTF's Community Impact Curriculum
manual explores the duty of Christian political involvement, promotes
a Christian America, and attacks the separation of church and state.
To date, over 30,000 have attended these seminars.
The Community Impact Curriculum manual outlines the FOTF strategy:
"The first thing required to win a war is soldiers." "Churches must
begin with a program of 'recruitment,' or more plainly, discipleship."
"Secondly, an army needs intelligence. Where are the battles raging?
Who is involved? What is the nature of the conflict and the size of
the enemy? Questions like these must be answered in order to direct
the efforts of your soldiers. Many organizations are devoted to providing
such intelligence, either on a single social issue or a broad array
of concerns. Focus on the Family has a number of resources designed
to provide your church with intelligence."
FOTF played a major role in the passage of Amendment 2 in Colorado,
depriving gays and lesbians of equal protection under the law (see
article on page 8).
FOTF-affiliated political groups exist in some 35 states. The affiliates'
names usually contain the words family, research, resource, council,
or capitol. Until recently, Family Research Council (FRC), under the
direction of Gary Bauer, was FOTF's Washington, DC lobbying arm.
In 1988, the Washington-based Family Research Council, headed by Gary
L. Bauer, became part of FOTF. In October, 1992, Dobson announced
the separation of the two groups, saying "FRC has been hampered because
of stringent lobbying limits imposed on it as a part of the larger
Focus on the Family ministry." He said FRC is "looking at an array
of new initiatives and a new level of activism."
FRC has applied for 501(c)(3) status, and wants to appear to operate
as a distinctly separate organization. However, Dobson is on FRC's
board of directors.
Bauer is a former research director for the Republican National Committee,
a domestic policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan, and former Under
Secretary of Education.
To get on the FOTF mailing list, send a small contribution. Ask for
Citizen magazine. Request Family Research Council's monthly Washington
Watch from the FRC, 700 Thirteenth St. NW, Suite 500, Washington DC
20005, or call (202) 393-2100.
"The Radical Right: The Stealth Crusade" by Phillip Frazer and Mark
Shapiro, _The_Washington_Spectator_, March 15, 1993.
"Out of Focus" by Rob Boston, _Church_&_State_, March 1993.
"Why Psychologist Without a Pulpit Is Called Religious Right's New
Star" by Peter Steinfels, _The_New_York_Times_, June 5, 1990.
"A Condemned Man's Last Request" by Peter Axthelm and Michael Ryan,
_People_Weekly_, February 6, 1989.
Focus on the Family
102 North Cascade
Colorado Springs CO 80903
(719) 531-3400 tel
(719) 531-3331 fax
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