Focus on the Family

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Focus on the Family is a cult-like "not-for-profit" evangelical Christian hate group founded by Dr. James "Show your children your penis in the shower so they don't become gay" Dobson[1] in 1977. Jim DalyWikipedia is its current president.[2] It is based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It specializes in family issues approached from a fundamentalist standpoint, espousing anti-family views like homophobia and strongly supporting corporal punishment for children. Its meddling attitude can be summed up by the bumper sticker slogan "Focus on your own Damn Family!". In 2012, the group had an annual budget of $98 million and employed a staff of 655.[3]

Political advocacy[edit]

Focus on the Family's logo, depicting the battle between loving parents and the evil Big Government that wants to steal their children.

Although Focus on the Family itself is technically apolitical (in accordance with federal requirements for a tax-exempt religious organization), it created a political action committee called Citizen Link, which is utterly committed to ensuring that biblical values prevail in Washington. These values literally always line up with the Republican party line, not just on standard Christian issues which have a minute biblical basis (abortion, homosexuality, divorce) but on things which have no biblical basis (health care reform, taxation, labor unions). Citizen Link has also been very vocal in the ENDA controversy, arguing constantly for the right of Christians to discriminate against gays and Muslims. The group has not yet become famous for its ability to find "anti-Christian discrimination" in anything that happens anywhere, but rest assured that this will happen any day now. Focus on the Family has specifically been involved in trying to stop the legislature and the (then) governor of Colorado, Bill Ritter, from signing a bill that would extend non-discrimination protections to LGBT people, using the common scare tactic that men will come into the girls' restroom.[4]

Although federal law would seem to require Dobson to limit his political outbursts to Citizen Link-related media, Dobson has, on several occasions, branched out into politics on the Focus on the Family Daily Broadcasts, doing everything from asking radical Republican lawmakers what hate crime legislation is really about (outlawing disliking homosexuals, obviously) to attempting to rehabilitate Tom Delay's image.

Focus on the Family also created a website called "True Tolerance," which is, of course, dedicated to intolerance and also features some of the Alliance Defense Fund's typically-idiotic free legal documents.[5] In 2009, they crafted "Stand for Christmas," which provides shoppers with a list of which retailers are "Pro-Christmas" (the site was very useful, inasmuch as it told a secularist which shops to avoid).[6]

Children's ministry[edit]

Focus on the Family has a long-running children's adventure series Adventures in Odyssey which is broadcast by radio, published on audio cassettes and CDs (often given away for free in kids' meals at Chick-Fil-A since 1990[7][8]), and available online (an animated TV series is also available on DVD). It mostly takes place in the fantasy of every fundamentalist, a small American town full of almost exclusively deeply religious people who never got the notice that the 1950s ended. Wacky hijinks inevitably lead the one new kid in town who isn't a Real True Christian to a saving knowledge of his Lord and Saviour. In the words of a pastor's testimonial on their website, "The stories provided a much-needed balance to the 'critical' method of approaching faith that I was being taught in the classroom." Who needs critical thinking when the cartoon that came with your 8-piece chicken nugget meal (with a small Coke® and fries) answers all the fundamental questions of the universe? In addition, the series has a Very Special Collection called "For God and Country" which teaches a... unique perspective on American history.

And surprisingly, despite being a product of Focus on the Family, Adventures in Odyssey is actually pretty good and has gained a huge cult following even among Focus on the Family's detractors, likely owing to co-creator Phil Lollar's claim that the show's goal is not to be "a preaching program" but to be an "entertaining program". There's also the fact that, as Focus on the Family's core entertainment line, it runs the gamut of genres: drama, comedy, adventure, science fiction, and even as close to fantasy as Christian fundamentalists are willing to get.

Focus on the Family also put out a series of teen novels that re-imagined Old Testament events as steampunk, giving the lunatics Jesus and God had to deal with on a regular basis access to 1800s technology and (white, very white) European sophistication. Like with Odyssey, they were actually quite good, as it turns out that whitewashing the tale of King David to make him not seem like a homicidal maniac, while also giving him a gun, vastly improves the original story.

Ted Bundy[edit]

In 1989, Dobson interviewed notorious serial killer Ted Bundy shortly before Bundy was executed for murdering dozens of women. Rather than trying to persuade Bundy to confess to all his crimes and give the families of his victims some closure, all Dobson was interested in doing was promoting his evangelical anti-pornography campaign.[9]

"Dr. Dobson wanted someone to testify against booze and pornography, and Ted wanted to leave us all talking about him. He wanted to blame someone else for his crimes, and by saying it was us who left all those bad magazines on the racks, he became innocent in his own mind".[10]

"I’m not blaming pornography,"[11] Bundy stated, before going on to blame pornography.

"Pornography made me do it" is the essence of Ted Bundy's last interview.[12]

Of course, as with everyone else who met him, Bundy was simply manipulating Dobson.

[Bundy] noted in a letter in 1977 that he almost never looked at porn magazines, telling future biographer Ann Rule, "Who in the world reads these publications? ... I have never purchased such a magazine, and [on only] two or three occasions have I ever picked one up."[13]

The very same day that Dobson interviewed him, Bundy assured two other researchers "that pornography was in no way the prime causal factor"[14] for his crimes.

Using a brutal psychopath's manipulative ramblings to promote your own moral crusade? Not a good look.


Child sex scandal[edit]

In 2009, Focus employee Juan Ovalle was arrested on two felony accounts of soliciting sex with a child via the internet. Ovalle was arrested when he drove to Lakewood, Colorado, to meet a 15-year-old girl who he had cybered with online — the "girl" turned out to be an undercover police detective.[15][16] Ovalle worked in Focus's Spanish broadcasting department and was FOTF's Spanish-language narrator of their Bible in Spanish CDs and their "Adventures in Odyssey" radio show. However, no other employees are known to have done anything similar or tried to excuse his offenses, so this is more of a statement of the failings of an employee, rather than the organization.

Defender of Trump and Moore[edit]

During accused sexual predator Roy Moore's campaign for the US Senate, Dobson spoke out in defense of both Trump and Moore in a radio ad:

You know, last November I believe God gave America another chance with the election of Donald J. Trump. But he now needs the presence and leadership of Judge Roy Moore to make America great again.[17]

Jack Abramoff casino scheme involvement[edit]

In 2006, Media Matters reported:

On the February 17 broadcast of his radio program, Focus on the Family president James C. Dobson and Tom Minnery, the organization's vice president of public policy, sought to fend off questions arising from reports of their alleged collusion with convicted felon and former gambling industry lobbyist Jack Abramoff in a scheme to shut down competition to his [Abramoff's] clients' casinos.

While both Dobson and Minnery deny working with Abramoff, email exchanges between Abramoff and associates Ralph Reed and Michael Scanlon appear to contradict Dobson and Minnery's claim that Focus on the Family's activities in opposition to the expansion of a Louisiana casino had nothing to do with requests from Abramoff or Reed.[15]

Guns don't kill people, gay marriage and abortion do![edit]

According to Dobson, the Sandy Hook massacre was caused by abortion and same-sex marriage.[18] Because, of course, everything bad is caused by them.

Related organizations[edit]

Nebraska Family Alliance[edit]

The Nebraska Family Alliance is a conservative lobbying shop that seeks to make Evangelical Christianity into the law of Nebraska. When it was founded in 1988, it was just a bunch of local busybodies worried that people were getting divorced too often, but these days it is a state branch of Focus on the Family.[19]

Women's Liberation Front (WoLF)[edit]

As well as founding Focus on the Family, Dobson was also responsible for funding Women's Liberation Front (WoLF), a TERF astroturf site disguised as a "feminist" organization — one that has little apparent interest in women's issues unrelated to transgender people somehow causing problems just by existing.[20][21] Considering how hurting transgender persons has become "the way" for the Religious Right following the legalization of gay marriage in the United States, this should hardly come as a surprise. Such is their fixation on trans people, that WoLF opposes the Equal Rights Amendment.[22][23] This was a shift — which suddenly came once the ERA looked like it had a chance at recognition by Congress — from their previous pro-ERA position, after they saw that pro-trans activists were also in favor of the ERA.[24][25][26]

Emails leaked in 2023 also revealed that WoLF's Board Chair, Natasha Chart, collaborated extensively as part of a multi-organizational network of activists promoting anti-trans laws across America. Others involved include people affiliated with the Alliance Defending Freedom (another Dobson project), the American College of Pediatricians, and Liberty Counsel, for example.[27][28] WoLF has also collaborated in the past with Concerned Women for America, the Heritage Foundation, Parents of ROGD Kids, and the Family Policy Alliance (which was founded by Dobbs).[29][30] There is an overlap between WoLF and Women's Declaration International, another TERF group, with WoLF co-chair Kara Dansky also being President of WDI USA.


Plugged-In is Focus on the Family's pop culture review site. The site covers movies, music, television shows, and video games from the perspective of an evangelical "think of the children!" prude. The site is like Capalert without the dodgy clip art and dubious attempts at quantifying every naughty word.

Plugged-In is interesting in the sheer variability of the reviews. Some reviewers will actually manage to understand and show some basic grasp of the meaning of the works they are reviewing, while others will just list the number of swear words and other bits of naughtiness. The usual fallacy of believing that everything depicted or described in a movie or song is an endorsement of that practice crops up a lot.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. James Dobson's Patented Cure for the Gay
  2. James Dobson Was Pushed Out Of Focus On The Family, Says Influential Evangelical
  3. Samuel G. Freedman, Focus on the Family Works to Change Its Message. Archived from The New York Times, 8 March 2013.
  4. Moreno, Ivan "Focus on the Family: Law allows men to use women's bathrooms" in the Denver Post on 30 May 2008.
  5. True Tolerance website.
  6. Stand for Christmas website, which since 2011 has been replaced by a health news blog.
  7. "Fast meals with kid frills". Houston Chronicle. September 21, 1990. p. 1.
  8. "Chick-fil-A Samplers" on Adventures in Odyssey Wiki
  9. Rachel Whetsone (October 16, 2016). "It's not surprising that evangelical James Dobson is still supporting a sex offender for president". Patheos. "Specifically, [Dobson] believes that men, especially 'baby Christians' like Trump, are often pushed and pulled by external influences, and sometimes they just can’t help themselves. Sex is an addiction, and women are a drug. For more insight into this mindset, we can look at Dobson’s famous interview with another 'baby Christian,' serial killer Ted Bundy." 
  10. "Last Bundy Interview Called 'Con Game'". Deseret News. 12 September 1989. 
  11. Elizabeth Garber-Paul (3 October 2016). "Flashback: Ted Bundy Says Porn ‘Fueled’ Him in Bizarre Last Interview". Rolling Stone. 
  12. Al Goldstein (18 February 1989). "Ted Bundy's Last Lie". The New York Times. 
  13. Zed Simpson (16 February 2016). Ted Bundy: The Life and Crimes of One of America's Most Notorious Serial Killers. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 1530071321. 
  14. Stephen G. Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth (1999). The Only Living Witness: The True Story of Serial Sex Killer Ted Bundy. Authorlink. ISBN 1928704115. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 "Focus on Family" Employee Allegedly Sought Sex with Teenager. Buck Naked Politics, 7 April 2009.
  16. Howard Pankratz, Ex-Focus worker sentenced in Internet child luring. Denver Post, 20 October 2009.
  17. James Dobson Releases Radio Ad Endorsing Roy Moore by Michael Stone (November 27, 2017) Patheos.
  18. Dobson: Connecticut Shooting was God Allowing 'Judgment to Fall Upon Us' for Turning Our Back on Him, Right Wing Watch
  19. Nebraska Family Alliance
  20. Fake “Radical Feminist” Group Actually Paid Political Front For Anti-LGBT James Dobson Organization. TransAdvocate.
  21. Rani Baker (April 12, 2017). "Fake 'radical feminist' group a paid political front for anti-LGBT organization". LGBTQ Nation.
  22. WoLF (March 17, 2021). "The Equality Act will end female-only sports and accommodations. The ERA is likely to end freedom of association for women. The Violence Against Women Act will put men in women's shelters and prisons." Twitter.
  23. WoLF (October 7, 2022). "The Feminist Argument Against the #EqualRightsAmendment - What is the ERA, and why is it bad for women and girls?". Twitter.
  24. WoLF (March 16, 2021). "Apart from its other proponents, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) has two non-feminist groups who express enthusiastic support for its passing which should give women serious pause: extremist factions of the men’s rights movement, and the gender identity activists." Twitter.
  25. Circa 2018–2019, they had spoken in support of the ERA. Examples are here, here, and here.
  26. Carrie N. Baker (February 10, 2022). "Fifty Years Later, the Equal Rights Amendment Is Ratified. Now What?". Ms. Quote: "The House of Representatives has twice passed a joint resolution declaring the ERA validly ratified—in February 2020 and March 2021—but Republicans have used the filibuster to block the measure in the Senate."
  27. The emails. (PDF download)
  28. Madison Pauly (March 2023). "Inside the Secret Working Group That Helped Push Anti-Trans Laws Across the Country". Mother Jones.
  29. Tim Fitzsimons (January 29, 2019). "Conservative group hosts anti-transgender panel of feminists 'from the left'. NBC Out. NBC News.
  30. Sian Norris (September 30, 2021). "The Far-Right Co-Option of the Transgender Rights Issue. Byline Times.