Focus on the Family
Focus on the Family is a “global Christian ministry” that provides “help and resources for couples to build healthy marriages that reflect God’s design, and for parents to raise their children according to morals and values grounded in biblical principles.” According to their website, they reach “more than 220 million people in 155 nations” and are based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The current president of Focus on the Family is Jim Daly, who was named one of the “new faces of the Christian right” by Newsweek in 2010. Daly joined Focus on the Family in 1989 and became president of the organization in 2015.
The group was founded in 1977 by Dr. James Dobson, a clinical pediatric psychologist who served on the faculty of the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. He left the hospital to found Focus on the Family after becoming “increasingly concerned about the breakdown of the traditional family and its negative effects on the culture at large.” He started with a radio broadcast, also called Focus on the Family, and in the 1980s, began expanding into Canada and the UK, and publishing magazines. Focus on the Family now produces “radio broadcasts, websites, simulcasts, conferences, interactive forums, magazines, books, counseling and much more,” as well as maintaining multiple 1-800 helplines.
Dobson is also the founder of the Family Research Council (FRC), another far-right Christian organization that has been designated a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its anti-LGBT advocacy, and in fact the two organizations merged for a number of years, with FRC as an official arm of Focus on the Family from 1988 to 1992.
Focus on the Family is well-known for its support of “conversion therapy” for gay people. They sponsor an annual “Day of Dialogue” (to counter the pro-LGBT “Day of Silence”), encouraging high school and college students to discuss “God’s design for sexuality” with their peers; according to the Day of Dialogue website, “[Jesus] brought forgiveness and restoration to many people who were caught in sexual brokenness.” Focus on the Family’s website also promotes “counseling for unwanted same-sex attractions,” saying, “We affirm the Scriptural teaching that homosexuals can and do change their sexual identity (1 Cor. 6:9-11). We support counseling and the availability of professional therapy options for unwanted homosexual attractions and behavior.” The American Psychiatric Association has said that the “potential risks” of such so-called “therapy… are great, including depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior.”
Through its Heartlink outreach, Focus on the Family also supports Crisis Pregnancy Centers (also known as Pregnancy Resource Centers or Pregnancy Medical Clinics), organizations whose goal is to dissuade “abortion-risk” women from terminating their pregnancies, and are known to disseminate false information to the women they “counsel.” Heartlink provides these CPCs with “educational resources free of charge to qualified organizations that counsel and educate pregnant women who are at-risk for abortion.” Heartlink also has a program called “Option Ultrasound,” which provides grants to pregnancy medical clinics to establish ultrasound capabilities in their clinics, claiming that, “for women who are abortion-minded, seeing that little life on the ultrasound monitor can change their hearts and minds about choosing life for their baby.”
CitizenLink is the “public policy partner” of Focus on the Family. It was created as Focus on the Family Action in 2004, and rebranded as CitizenLink in 2010. CitizenLink’s goal is to “help citizens understand and passionately engage in policy issues relevant to families from a foundation firmly established in a biblical worldview” and to “encourage them to participate in the democratic process in order to forge a better future for our children and our culture.” Through CitizenLink, Focus on the Family has played a large role in much of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act legislation that has made its way through statehouses across the country. The controversial RFRA legislation provides “protections” for people or businesses that act based on their religious beliefs (usually by refusing service to LGBT customers); as of April 2015, 21 states have debated or passed RFRA laws. Focus on the Family’s judicial analyst Bruce Hausknecht said that these laws preserve the “right of conscience” for business owners. The Koch Brothers-backed Center to Protect Patient Rights made a huge contribution of $4,195,218 to CitizenLink in 2012.