James C. Dobson, the Southern California psychologist and evangelical Christian radio broadcaster, has launched a public policy program to promote “pro-family” coalitions in all 50 states in order to “affect legislation and to affect our culture.”
“Once these coalitions are in place,” Dobson wrote supporters of his ministry, “our state legislators will discover that they can no longer write off the concerns of conservative Christian families.”
The “behind-the-scenes” program, according to Peb Jackson, a senior vice president of Dobson’s Pomona-based Focus on the Family organization, is designed to help regional coalitions emphasize goals shared by Dobson’s ministry. These include outlawing abortion, supporting home schooling, campaigning against pornography and backing conservative political candidates.
The coalitions, now organized in eight states including California, typically would conduct research and provide information, lobby legislators and establish political action committees. Dobson’s group is also working with coalitions in Arizona, Minnesota, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington state.
Jackson said Focus allows the coalition groups to run free four-page inserts in Focus’ 150,000-circulation magazine, Citizen. “And we’ll give them spot announcements on stations that carry Focus programs,” Jackson said.
Dobson, the last to interview Ted Bundy before the serial killer was executed in Florida recently, produces several Christian radio programs heard on 1,300 stations in 35 countries. As a part of the pro-family agenda, his organization also recently merged with the Family Research Council in Washington, headed by Gary Bauer, who until last November was domestic policy adviser to former President Ronald Reagan.
“As the lobbying/research arm of Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council will . . . seek to provide the pro-family movement with an active, rather than merely reactive, voice in Washington,” Dobson wrote in a recent newsletter to 1.8 million constituents and financial supporters.
In the same letter, Dobson outlined plans for the pro-family coalitions:
“Unfortunately, the pro-family movement has been terribly disorganized and ineffective in its stateside effort. Dozens of activist groups have struggled mightily to advance their individual causes, but they have seldom cooperated. . . . The pro-life people, the anti-pornography groups, the public education activists, the legislative specialists and the gay rights opponents are out there competing with one another for funding and preeminence in each locale. But there is a better way.
“Focus on the Family proposes to help these special interest groups weld themselves into statewide coalitions that will speak and act in cooperation with one another.”
Dobson predicted that these coalitions will be organized in a majority of the states “within a year.”
In an unrelated matter, Dobson recently withdrew the three periodicals published by Focus on the Family from membership in the Evangelical Press Assn. because the association refused to adopt a policy barring its executive editor from writing editorial comments.
The dispute with the Evangelical Press Assn. began last spring when Dobson objected to an editorial by Gary Warner in a publication that went only to association members. Warner’s article was critical of the Reagan Administration and suggested, among other things, that Christian protests against pornography at convenience stores were misguided and warned against “giving blanket approval to individuals and groups that spout ‘pro-family’ slogans.”
Dobson said he felt Warner “ridiculed positions we consider to be very central to the purpose of our ministry” and threatened to withdraw from the association unless its board muzzled Warner.
While the association’s board did adopt a policy requiring future Warner articles to carry a disclaimer and be reviewed by John Stapert, association president, the board affirmed Warner’s “prophetic role.”
That wasn’t enough for Dobson, who pulled his periodicals out of the Evangelical Press Assn. last month, expressing “regret that we could not find the middle ground.”
In a telephone interview this week, Tom Minnery, Focus vice president of public policy, said: “It serves no useful purpose to have the executive director (Warner) serve as a prophet . . . (or) express his own political views.”