Focus on the Family: Legislating Hate and Subverting the Constitution

James Dobson
James Dobson, Dominionist

In no instance have… the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people.
– James Madison

Because he thinks the Supreme Court will never outlaw abortion, James Dobson, dominionist and head of the Christian hate group known as Focus on the Family, figures he can do an end around by getting individual states to ban it.

I would be willing to settle for each state making a decision, and we’ll fight that out in the state legislatures in 50 states. I just don’t see the Supreme Court saying this is flat-out illegal. I wish they would, but I don’t think that will happen.

Dobson says that “You can’t deny it’s a baby. You see it sucking its thumb, moving and turning cartwheels in its mother’s womb.”

That’s not a pretty picture, certainly, but it’s also not the whole argument. I don’t think many people argue that abortion should be employed as a method of birth control, but that is how abortion opponents frame their argument. Of course, they’re so anti-abortion that they’re willing to force incest and rape victims to bear their attackers’ babies and they’re willing to let mothers die.

There no explanation and no justification for the privileging of the life of a fetus over that of a mother.

This end-round the Supreme Court’s ruling, Roe vs. Wade (1973) has been tried before and the Supreme Court has struck down many state laws limiting or regulation abortion from the mid-70s on. The problem for James Dobson and his group is that the Supreme Court ruled that abortion is a fundamental right under the Constitution.

The pros and cons of abortion (or that ruling) aside, Dobson seems to miss one of the original purposes of the Constitution, which was to protect the American people from “excesses of democracy” of local legislatures, which tended to run roughshod over the rights of the minority.

In other words, certain restraints were placed on the powers of local legislatures in order to force them to respect the rights of all their citizens, not just the majority (Article I, Section 10).  That is why the United States Constitution trumps state constitutions. All citizens have rights equally, not just those who form part of a majority.

As James Madison said, “In Republics, the great danger is, that the majority may not sufficiently respect the rights of the minority.” In fact, Dobson places himself in direct opposition to Madison. While Dobson somehow imagines that his own particular religion is the truest guardian of a liberty he would extend to only a few, Madison argued that “The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.” And that true liberty extends to all.

This is the problem with state referendums which, for example, attempt to deprive certain groups of their civil rights – Proposition 8 in California being a case in point. The hypocrisy of the Republican position on rights is apparent when those rights are reserved for only a few. It is not the position of the Constitution that some are more equal than others, or that equal rights are dependent upon holding a majority. States can’t vote to ignore the Constitution. This is not something that is permitted. It is not something that can be permitted. Nor can states vote to ignore the rulings of the Supreme Court. It – not Dobson’s interpretation of the views of his supreme deity – is the final arbiter in the land.

Of course, while the Constitution says (Article VI, Section 3) that no religious test is required to hold office, Focus on the Family ignores the Constitution by arguing the opposite:

Does the candidate have a Christian world-view? Is he pro-life? A clue is whether he knows the embryonic stem-cell debate and opposes the process. Does she firmly support God’s definition of marriage, and does she oppose civil unions that give marriage benefits to same-sex couples? Does he believe that parents, rather than the state, have ultimate say over what a child learns in school? Is she hostile toward or silent on matters of faith? A candidate’s positions on all these issues are important indicators.

The major problem with the Republicans is that they have become not just the morality party but the party of one particular morality – Christian morality, and a specific type of Christianity at that. While most cultures share ideas of taboo behavior, it would be a mistake to assume that one idea of morality can function as a guide to every person on earth. The same protections employed in the Constitution to protect the minority apply to religious minorities. The eighteenth century’s Evangelicals understood this; Dobson does not.

But then Focus on the Family is anti-minority, and by that I do not mean necessarily racist, but opposed to groups that represent a minority point of view. For example, Focus on the Family thinks bullies are the true victims, not the kids they abuse and beat up or force into suicide. The majority should be able to do whatever they want and (for now) Christians are still a majority religion in the United States. Might, in Dobson’s view, appears to make right, and that was not the view of the framers of the Constitution.

But this is no surprise from a group that has argued that “tolerance and diversity” are “buzzwords” used to promote a (nonexistent) homosexual agenda, or that it is not gays that are being persecuted by Christians but Christians by gays. It is clear that fact plays very little role in Focus on the Family’s rhetoric.

Where at the founding of our nation Protestant leaders, unhappily familiar with the example of the Church of England and the Papacy, mostly showed opposition to the idea of state sponsored religion, today’s Protestant leaders seem to think the intention all along was to create an officially Christian United States, and James Dobson feeds into this misguided mania. Despite any evidence in favor and piles of evidence against, he insists that his fevered imaginings are reality.

When the only mention of Christianity in the Constitution is “the Year of the Lord” in Article VII; when there is no mention of liberty in the scripture he champions, Dobson’s claim that Christianity is essential to the American republic or to liberty are absurd. Every state ratified this secular Constitution without objection to the absence of God. That the American Revolution was a largely secular revolution might explain this; the Second Great Awakening, as it was called, was a product not of the 18th, but of the 19th century. James Dobson is not only attempting to bypass the Constitution, he is attempting to subvert it. He is not trying to save America but to destroy it. And in light of the evidence, Dobson’s claim that “the charge that we are hateful is simply not rooted in fact” rings hollow.

34 Replies to “Focus on the Family: Legislating Hate and Subverting the Constitution”

  1. This “state’s rights” argument just pisses me off.

    I’m all for states extending ADDITIONAL rights to their citizens, but the idea that they could restrict rights guaranteed by the Federal government gets way under my skin.

    I honestly believe that the far right envies the success of the Taliban and far right Muslim extremists. They’d do the same thing if they thought they could get away with it. They are absolutely out of touch with what being a citizen of the United States of America means, which is being a member of a secular government that honors religious traditions, IMO.

    Sick of people who wish they could live by 33AD morality trying to dictate how me and mine live, all while claiming their inability to do so is somehow a form of oppression. (grumble)

  2. I agree, Darklady. I do think there is an element of jealousy involved. Enough of these dominionist groups have spoken for us to know that many of the things extremist Muslims do they also wish to do, like engage in stonings. Their real problem with the alleged “oppression” of the Federal Government is that the government prevents them from oppressing people. Apparently, liberty is anti-Christian from their point of view, but then we already know that many of them privilege the Bible over the Constitution. More Christians need to wake up to the fact that should these folks win, they’re going to find out they’re the wrong kind of Christian.

  3. Good Morning Hraf,

    This is another excellent post from the man who has become the anchor of PoliticusUSA’s “morning drive time.” You are sort of our version of Howard Stern. :)

  4. Egads, I’ll try to take that as a compliment and keep the half-naked women at bay :)

    Thanks, Jason!

  5. your post says everything I would like to say DarkLady. Except I would extend it to say I am sick and tired of people who think that liberals have the opinion that the state or federal government should run everything. I do not expect the government to run everything. But I do expect the government to help in forwarding our society. And that is something we should all be expected to pay for. this is an old argument but in many ways we are light years behind Europe in our thinking. That is not saying we are not a free country, we are, but we still have the same morals here that burned witches at the stake.

    Newt Gingrich typifies your argument completely. Under him the American government would become the Taliban.

    Having religion is fine and it is a personal thing. Keep it personal and keep it in your home

  6. On the 10-2-10 post on Palingates about Andrew Shirvell, watch the video under Update 3, Shirvell says @2:20: “I wasn’t the only first person to um criticize Chris, in fact long before I started the blog, a couple of weeks before that, The Alliance Defense Fund, a well known legal Christian di uh um foundation put out an alert about Chris, so I’m not the only person who has criticized Chris and I’m not the first person to criticize Chris.”
    The Wikipedia description of The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) says it was launched in 1994 by six men, one being James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family.

    Shirvell got his law degree from Ave Maria School of Law. This school is supported by the very very right wing Thomas S. Monaghan, founder of Domino’s Pizza.
    I am not sure what this means, but I found it interesting:
    “The United States Department of Education annually collects and evaluates audited financial statements of private schools operating in the United States. In 2007, 2008, and 2009, Ave Maria School of Law received failing marks in these assessments, the only law school to fail. The school responded that “this situation will reverse itself over time.”

    IMO, Shirvell is clearly a product of the brainwashing of the so-called “religious right”. This brainwashing has prompted (dare I say, promoted?) Shirvell to stalk and cyber-bully a gay student at the University of Michigan.

  7. Excellent post. I wonder how different things would be if it were Dobson’s life on the line? If men were being told their life was not worth that of the fetus in their womb?

    If their bodies exacted such consequences for a moment of folly. It sure seems like men like him have plenty of moments of folly. Is he willing to die for that?

  8. The father of the tea party movement, Jim DeMented, spoke at a SC church on yesterday. His newest idea is to fire unmarried female teachers who are having sex with their boyfriends from their teaching jobs. Evidently, he didn’t think this one through completely. First, it is an extreme intrusion into the lives of a specific group of people. Second, it would require an expansion of government because it will take millions of people working in government to investigate the sexual activities of all unmarried teachers. Third, these government employees will have to be paid for conducting these investigations, causing an increase in government spending. I think DeMented is saying whatever he thinks he needs to say to get voters who attend churches in SC to vote for republicans. Never mind that this idea will fall by the wayside just as abortion has if/when republicans were to regain control of the WH and Congress.

    One of the most painful and depressing things I read last week were the responses from far right religious leaders to a comment President Obama gave in response to an interviewer’s question concerning being a Christian. The president stated that he came late to Christianity and sees himself as being his brother’s keeper. I’ve been a Christian since I was 7, and I read my Bible daily. These words are a central tenet of Christianity. The attacks on the president’s Christianity coming from the far right religious leaders were shameful. They completely picked apart what he said, distorted it, ran it through their judgment filter, and ruled that the president’s Christianity has NOTHING in common with theirs.

    When people see evil in the church in the form of Dobson, Schafly, Scarborough, Reed, etc., it is not hard to see why more and more people are turning away from organized religious groups.

    Information on their responses can be found on the following site. The God’s Own Party site also has a post about it.
    http://www.rightwingwatch.org/

  9. Well stated. These Dominionists’ revision of history with their extreme fundamental propaganda has already caused so much damage in our society. It feeds into the Us and Them culture wars that has us all taking our eyes off the ball. They are succeeding in creating their army, but it isn’t an army “for God” it is an army on behalf of a handful of power hungry monsters to establish a powerful, authoritarian theocratic regime. Dobson being one of the most public.

  10. You’re absolutely right, Jennifer and it’s a terrifying threat that too few people seem aware of or concerned about.

  11. As I say often, many Christians on the day the Religious Right seizes control, are going to find out they are the wrong kind of Christians and then they will wish they had said something when they had a chance.

  12. I really appreciate this article and all the intelligent comments and now do not feel I am alone in my thoughts. Lately I have been doing a lot of reading about the Dominionists/Reconstructionists and, to put it midly, I am appalled at what is going on in this country. In order to justify their positions, these groups are trying to rewrite history and putting words into the mouths of our Founders Fathers that they never uttered.

    One of my favorite quotes is, “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” Blaise Pascal

    With respect to James Dobson, we must not forget that his Family Research Council was founded with his friend, George Alan Rekers of “Rent Boy” fame.

  13. How is Focus on the Family a “hate” group because they are pro-life???
    It seems this website “hates” any beliefs opposite of its own.

  14. I don’t know a great deal about Focus on the Family or James Dobson. But the little I do know leaves me puzzled why both are attacked so commonly with such vehemence. I’ve seen much less outrage, indignation and scorn directed against say the kkk than focus on the family. For example, looking at their website, I can’t find any examples of disparaging anyone, much less advocating hate or violence.

    Just for comparison I did look up the KKK”s webpage, and it’s filled with long diatribes about the superiority of white christian people/culture. When I look at focus on the family i see parenting and marriage advise. Where is the hate? Frankly I see a lot more in a glance at the above post than anywhere in a (admittedly superficial) look at focus on the family’s site.

    I may be wrong. I don’t have any close knowledge of the people or organization involved but on the surface they appear to be reasonably sane and polite human beings who have certain beliefs and urge people to live according to those beliefs. None of which appear to be hateful or oppressive to me.

    The entire tone of the article above seems to be putting words into James Dobson’s mouth. There are a lot of assertions of things he believes or is trying to do that aren’t well backed up. Not much to object too in what he’s directly quoted as saying. And given the article opens with “James Dobson, dominionist and head of the Christian hate group known as Focus on the Family” I think its fair to say the quotes picked weren’t picked with the intention of making him look good.

    “While most cultures share ideas of taboo behavior, it would be a mistake to assume that one idea of morality can function as a guide to every person on earth. ” There has been a great deal of philosophical and religious thought on the subject of universal morality. I know it’s out of favor with a great many modern people, but I don’t think its something to be dismissed lightly out of hand as an obvious mistake. If such a thing does not and can not exits, how then universal human rights? Its a deep subject, not something to be throw aside causally.

    I don’t know what James Dobson asserts about what the constitution was written for, only that the article mocks him and says “Dobson’s claim that Christianity is essential to the American republic or to liberty are absurd” Even if he does claim that, and there would have been a great place to quote him btw, he wouldn’t be the first person to think something similar. John Adams, a name somewhat respected in our country’s history, once said “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other”

    Finally, a challenge for Hrafnkell Haraldsson. If James Dobson is as you charge the leader of a hate group, give me a direct sourced quote. Just one example of him spewing malice and hatred towards anyone. Heck most people aren’t saints, its easy enough to find one ugly outburst in public by any normal person, how much more so by someone like you claim he is. If he is anyway, i’m very doubtful.

    For example Maurice Heath aka King Samir Shabazz is infamous for his hate filled speeches in which he advocates violence against caucasians. ““We keep begging white people for freedom. No wonder we’re not free. Your enemy can not make you free fool. You want freedom you’re going to have to kill some crackers. You’re going to have to kill some of their babies.” There’s an unambiguous example of hate speech for you from a public speech by him, and its not an isolated example.

  15. The problem with Focus on the Family and other evangelical groups is that they interpret the undeniable fact that the constitution is a theistic document. This does not mean it is a Protestant Christian Document. If this was the intention of the founders, they would have explicitly mentioned that. Many people forget the historical significance of the reformation in relation to this. Catholicism and Protestantism were seen as two separate faiths. In fact, the official Roman Catholic position was and is to this day that if you hold to the evangelical maxims you are anathema. Also, the protestant position was that the office of the papacy was the seat of the Antichrist.

    Having been acutely aware of this, the founders still stressed freedom of religion and stressed no establishment of a state church. They fully understood implications of this. Specifically that other faiths, other than Protestant Christianity. They wanted to let a faith flourish or die on its own. Without the help or hindrance of the state.

  16. James Dobson should know all about “reaction formation” the defense mechanism. If I am not mistaken, one of his colleagues was recently arrested on a sex offense. Goodness, this lends a different perspective on “Focus On The Family” doesn’t it? In my opinion, when a zealot is on a mission, you’d better check in the closet. You never know what you’ll find. Yes, we want the government out of our lives as long as it fits our world view. I too would like government out of my life as well. I fully support abortion. In fact, I embrace it since I am pro-death. I believe in the death sentence and abortion. In fact, if abortion were more widespread, Dobson might not be with us.

  17. i wish that christians like Focus on the Family would realize that no one really cares about their private beliefs as long as they are just that – private. keep them to yourself and live your life the way you want, just don’t force others to live like you.

  18. “Christian Hate Group”?
    hahahahahahah

    I get it, so someone “hates” if they disagree with you? Awesome, so then that mean YOU are a hate group. This website is a hate website and all those who agree with this are then haters? Or is there a double standard? Hmmm, great article…moron.

    Talk about leaving your brain at the door…if only you could say you were as smart as a Christian…at least they know right from wrong.

  19. To me, no government has any business getting in between a doctor and their patient. Period. Our constitution limits the federal governments rights, all non stated rights being reserved by each state and ultimately by the people. This is why we have juries. So no government or whoever buys them, can carry away with their agenda of imposing their will on the free citizenry. I am sick of hearing our politicians spending without consequence, and moralizing the masses to the whims of the ignorant. While I believe all life is precious, because we all benefit from each other and nobody knows who will be the next Einstein, I do not relish a government regulating who may live and who may not. In this, the abortion debate has far reaching implications about quality of life and euthanasia than most would like to admit.

    That being said, I’d like to voice my own opinion about religion, the religious leaders, and the pious zealots. Religions attempt to answer the question “how should we behave”. I value the roots of this effort in shaping a harmonious society. I fear when a religion moves from “should” to “must”, be it in the definition of life, or the doctrine of Jihad.

  20. @Darklady – Agreed!

    For too long now these so called Christians with their so called Moral leadership have come in and unwittingly marched against Christ and everything Jesus taught. Christ taught us to turn the other cheek, Love they neighbor, etc. They seem to think its 2000 years ago (rise of Christianity), 200 years ago (civil war, south side!) and 50 years ago (Jim Crow and Anti-feminist laws, etc.) all wrapped in one. That they can just force their beliefs and opinions onto everyone else and that they are the true Americans and we’re all just a bunch of pansy liberal, socialist, communist, nazi’s. I say to those fools, Remember in the end of days, the ones you believe are righteous are really evil in disguise as false-righteous. Just something to think about while you’re watching your extremist fundamentalist Australian owned TV channel [F(au)X News] that waves the American Flag (to mock) and parrots your moral beliefs as a complete ruse to fool you all into thinking they are the good and the heart of the country, when they are just funneling American dollars into Australia so they can fund their movement there and here you into thinking they are “folksy” *wink* *wink* – meanwhile you’re thinking you’re still a better American than the rest of us, cause your pro-outsourced Republican’t companies continue to fight job protecting unions and send your jobs overseas, [sarcasm]oh yeah, they are definitely more American than the rest of us! Nothing more American than sending an American job overseas![/sarcasm] and then you cut taxes, which is code for Cut military spending, which is code for Not protecting and arming our soldiers. Yet our soldiers continue to back the majority of the right wing, its like supporting the man who eventually kills you. *sigh* [sarcasm]Yeah I got an idea, lets just cut the government down to bare minimal so when the real bad guys show up, we have nothing left and nobody but a much of armed rednecks and the like to protect us, that’ll work![/sarcasm] and one last rant, for the love of god, Stop citing that our “Founding Fathers” said anything till you take a college class at a mainstream college, it’s a solid fact that in our constitution it clearly states that we’re free from your believes and religions and it was our founding fathers that put it in there (almost unanimously I might add) in the first place and that was of course over a couple hundred years ago!

    Here is a nice little factoid: What do Nazi’s have to do with liberals and socialists? Well nothing really, except Nazi’s were a Right Wing Dictatorship that stressed the failures of Liberal, Socialist and Democratic societies and also tried to build a master race because they felt white people were more superior to any other race. Sound like any group of people we know? lol

  21. I should think it is pretty obvious from what was said in the article, but here is more of FOTF’s “enlightened” thinking:

    Michael Ridgeway in an article in Focus on the Family Magazine calls Taiwan the “land of false gods” – certainly not a tolerant assessment. Moreover, he asserts that “lifeless idols” have “taken the rightful place of the living God.” He shows a remarkable lack of knowledge of his own religion when he states that the “true nature of idol worship” debases the human soul. “Idolatry is more than just serving lesser gods. It is as much about a false understanding of worship as it is about a false object of worship.”

  22. If anything I’ve read today is hate speech, David Whitten’s comment above is. Congratulations, its right up there with the new black panther and kkk stuff i was wading through to give the example i posted last night.

    A couple of the comments I find much more insightful and useful than the “article” The point about a theistic constitution vs a Protestant christian one is a good one, as is should vs must. Very very few people would actually want to live in a theocracy, and I can’t think of one in history which has worked for any large nation. Heck the record of small communities that tried it is abysmal. Freedom of religion is a good thing, something our founding fathers definitely got right. It isn’t however the same thing as freedom FROM religion, which is what a very vocal minority in our country would like to make it. champagnetony’s comment feels like one of those. People ought to be free to practice their religion in public, at least so far as that doesn’t step on anyone else’s rights. And people who have strong faith live that faith. Its not something you leave at the door when you go out, its an essential part of who your are.

    I’m a Catholic. I’ve had the privilege in life of knowing people from a great number of different backgrounds. My best friends are a Mormon and a Druid. A great number of other close friends are various stripes of protestant. One is a virulent atheist. Funny thing is we disagree so much about theology, but not significantly about how people ought to live. In my experience at least, good people have a great deal in common regardless of religious background.

    To call Focus on the Family a hate group, and be unable to sustain it with nothing more than disparaging idol worship, amounts to slander. Quoting from wikipedia here

    The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is an American “nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society.”The SPLC is internationally known for its tolerance education programs, its legal victories against white supremacists, and its tracking of hate groups, militias, and extremist organizations. The SPLC classifies as hate groups those organizations which it has determined “have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”

    I talk about the splc because they’re a good authority on hate groups, especially in the US. They describe Focus on the Family as “one of a dozen major groups which help drive the religious right’s anti-gay crusade”, but DO NOT list Focus on the Family as a hate group. I’d say that’s a fair criticism.

    You may disagree completely with much, or even everything Focus on the Family says and does, but that doesn’t make them a hate group. Certainly I don’t agree with everything they have to say about how families should be. But they don’t have a message of hate, only advocacy and support of the lifestyle they see as right. And they shouldn’t have to apologize to anyone for that, much less be labeled a hate group.

    The new black panthers are a hate group. The kkk is a hate group. Focus on the Family isn’t.

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