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Focus on the Family is an American evangelical Christian tax-exempt non-profit organization founded in 1977 by psychologist James Dobson, and is based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Focus on the Family is one of a number of evangelical parachurch organizations that rose to prominence in the 1980s. A component of the American Christian right, it is active in promoting interdenominational work toward its views on social conservative public policy.

Focus on the Family's mission is "nurturing and defending the God-ordained institution of the family and promoting biblical truths worldwide."[1] Some of the core promotional activities of the organization include a daily radio broadcast by Dobson and his colleagues, providing free resources and family counseling according to Focus on the Family views, and publishing a variety of magazines, videos, and audio recordings. The organization also produces specialized programs for targeted audiences, such as Adventures in Odyssey for children, dramas, and Family Minute with James Dobson. Both Focus on the Family and Adventures in Odyssey are broadcast on Trans World Radio in the UK.

History and organization

From 1977 to 2003 James Dobson served as the sole leader of the organization. In 2003, Donald P. Hodel became president and chief executive officer, tasked with the day-to-day operations.[2] This left Dobson as Chairman of the Board of Directors, with chiefly creative and speaking duties.

In March 2005, Hodel retired and Jim Daly, formerly the Vice President in charge of Focus on the Family's International Division, assumed the role of president and Chief Executive Officer.[3]

In November 2008, the organization announced that it was eliminating 202 jobs, representing 18 percent of its workforce. The organization also cut its budget from $160 million in fiscal 2008 to $138 million for fiscal 2009.[4]

On February 27, 2009, Dobson officially announced he was stepping down as chairman of the Board of Directors, but would continue to serve as host of the Focus on the Family broadcasts and write a monthly column.[5]


Marriage & family

The primary ministry of Focus on the Family is to strengthen what it considers to be traditional marriages and families.[6] Much of the underlying theory comes from the published works of Dr. James Dobson, who has written a number of books on subjects ranging from raising children to taking steps to prevent divorce by helping couples with conflict management. One key theme of this ministry is helping couples understand the negative consequences of divorce on their children. The organization maintains a toll-free telephone counseling service available to anyone in a family crisis.

Political positions and activities

Position on Same-Sex Marriage

Focus on the Family works to preserve its interpretation of the biblical ideals of marriage and parenthood, and therefore the organization takes a strong stance against homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Founder James Dobson expressed great concern for the institution of marriage in a 2003 letter to the Christian community. In reference to the same-sex marriage movement, Dobson says that the institution of marriage “…is about to descend into a state of turmoil unlike any other in human history.” Focus on the Family believes that marriage should be defined as being between a man and a woman. Dobson supported the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman. It also would have prevented courts and state legislatures from extending marriage rights to all Americans.[7]

In the same letter Dobson says that traditional marriage is the cornerstone of society, and he states that the goal of the gay and lesbian movement is not to redefine marriage but to destroy the institution itself. “Most gays and lesbians do not want to marry each other…the intention here is to destroy marriage altogether.” Dobson makes the argument that without the institution of marriage everyone would enjoy the benefits of marriage without limiting the number of partners or their gender. Focus on the Family sees allowing same-sex marriage as “…a stepping-stone on the road to eliminating all societal restrictions on marriage and sexuality.”[7]

Focus on the Family asserts that the Bible lays out the correct plan for marriage and family. Dobson says that God created Eve to complement Adam physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Dobson also uses the biblical figure, Paul, to affirm his views on marriage. He states that Paul maintained that men and women mutually complete each other, and to exchange a natural relationship for an unnatural one is sinful.[7]

In reference to same-sex marriage and same-sex couples with children, Dobson states, “Same-sex relationships undermine the future generation’s understanding of the fundamental principles of marriage, parenthood, and gender.” He also claims that the alleged destruction of the traditional family by permitting same-sex marriage will lead to unstable homes for children.[7]

Focus on the Family became more active in the same-sex marriage opposition movement after the Canadian Supreme Court declared the exclusivity of marriage between one man and one woman to be unconstitutional in 2003.[7]

Dobson spoke at the 2004 rally against gay marriage called Mayday for Marriage. It was here for the first time that he endorsed a presidential candidate, George W. Bush. Here he denounced the Supreme Court rulings in favor of gay rights, and he urged rally participants to get out and vote so that the battle against gay rights could be won in the Senate.[8]

In an interview with Christian Today magazine, Dobson also explained that he was not in favor of civil unions. He agreed that civil unions are just same-sex marriage under a different name. The main priority of the opposing same-sex marriage movement is to preserve the traditional definition of marriage at the federal level and combat the passage of civil unions later.[9]

The group's message has been controversial. In particular, groups who support gay rights, including some educational, medical, and mental health organizations, have criticized the organization for its stance on homosexuality and related legislation and for its Love Won Out ministry, an ex-gay movement in cooperation with Exodus International and NARTH.[10] Additionally, Focus on the Family has been charged with manipulating research to support their stance on homosexuality.[11][12][13][14][15][16]

The American Psychological Association and the Royal College of Psychiatrists expressed concerns that the positions espoused by Focus on the Family are not supported by the science and create an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish.[17][18]

SPLC's findings

The Southern Poverty Law Center an American legal advocacy organization, has described Focus on the Family as one of a "dozen major groups which help drive the religious right's anti-gay crusade" but does not list it as a hate group.[19]

Recognitions and awards

In 2008, Dobson's "Focus on the Family" program was nominated for induction into the Radio Hall of Fame.[20] Nominations were made by the 157 members of the Hall of Fame and voting on inductees was handed over to the public using online voting.[21] The nomination drew the ire of gay rights activists, who launched efforts to have the program removed from the nominee list and to vote for other nominees to prevent "Focus on the Family" from winning.[22][23] However, on July 18, 2008, it was announced that the program had won and would be inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in a ceremony on November 8, 2008.[24] Truth Wins Out, a gay rights group, protested the ceremony with over 300 protesters.[25]


  1. Focus on the Family's Foundational Values. Focus on the Family. Retrieved on 2010-02-08.
  2. "James Dobson no longer a manager, just an orator", Reading Eagle, May 17, 2003, p. A9. 
  3. "Hodel retiring as president of Focus, succeeded by James Daly", Baptist Press, Southern Baptist Convention, February 25, 2005. 
  4. Bill Reed. "Focus on the Family eliminating 202 jobs", Colorado Springs Gazette. 
  6. Nieves, Evelyn. "Family Values Groups Gear Up for Battle Over Gay Marriage", Washington Post, August 17, 2003. "Focus on the Family, which Dobson...began 25 years ago to strengthen and promote the traditional family unit using conservative Christian interpretations of scripture...." 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 James Dobson (September 2003). Marriage on the Ropes. Newsletter Archive. Focus on the Family Southern Africa. Retrieved on 2010-01-26.
  8. KirkPatrick, David D. (16 October 2004), “THE 2004 CAMPAIGN: SAME-SEX MARRIAGE; Rally Against Gay Marriage Draws Thousands to Capital”, New York Times: 12, <>. Retrieved on 25 January 2010 
  9. Rutledge, Kathleen K. (2005), “Dobson on the Gay Marriage Battle”, Christianity Today 49 (1): 60, <>. Retrieved on 25 January 2010 
  10. Straight Like Me
  11. American Psychological Association: Just the Facts About - Sexual Orientation & Youth "was developed and is endorsed by the following organizations:American Academy of Pediatrics, American Counseling Association, American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American Psychological Association, American School Health Association, Interfaith Alliance Foundation, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Social Workers and the National Education Association"
  12. American Psychiatric Association Position Statement on Therapies Focused on Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation (Reparative or Conversion Therapies)
  13. Paulson, Steven K.. "Gay Rights Group: Dobson Manipulated Data", Washington Post, 2006-08-17. Retrieved on 2008-05-21. 
  14. Scientists fume after Focus on the Family chief Dobson 'misrepresents' work on gays Raw Story, December 15, 2006.
  15. James Dobson Slammed By Professor For Distorting Her Research In Time Magazine, news release from Truth Wins Out, retrieved December 15, 2006.
  16. Yale Professor Says James Dobson 'Cherry Picked' His Research in Time Magazine Article, news release from Truth Wins Out, retrieved December 15, 2006.
  17. Statement of the American Psychological Association
  18. Royal College of Psychiatrists: Statement from the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Gay and Lesbian Mental Health Special Interest Group
  20. Williams, Devon (2008-05-01). Dr. Dobson's Broadcast Nominated to Radio Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 2008-05-03. Retrieved on 2008-07-25.
  21. Barna, Mark (2008-07-21). Dobson garners hall of fame honor. The Gazette. Retrieved on 2008-07-25.
  22. Dr. Dobson Blasted by Gay Activist. (2008-07-11). Archived from the original on 2008-08-17. Retrieved on 2008-07-25.
  23. Besen, Wayne (2008-07-09). TWO Launches Drive to Keep James Dobson Out of the Radio Hall of Fame. PR Newswire. Retrieved on 2008-07-25.
  24. Cuprisin, Tim (2008-07-20). FCC commissioner wants more concessions in satellite merger. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved on 2008-07-25.
  25. Religion News in Brief. Associated Press (2008-07-25). Retrieved on 2008-07-25.

External links

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