Focus on the Family
What is Focus on the Family?
Focus on the Family is a non-profit organization founded in 1977 by psychologist James Dobson, based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It is active in promoting an interdenominational effort toward its socially conservative views on public policy. Focus on the Family is one of a number of evangelical parachurch organizations that rose to prominence in the 1980s.
Focus on the Family's stated mission is "nurturing and defending the God-ordained institution of the family and promoting biblical truths worldwide." Focus on the Family opposes abortion, divorce, gambling, LGBT rights, LGBT adoption, pornography, pre-marital sex, and substance abuse. It supports abstinence-only sexual education, non-LGBT adoption, corporal punishment, creationism, school prayer, and strong gender roles. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and social scientists have accused Focus on the Family of misrepresenting their research to bolster FOTF's political agenda and ideology.
The core promotional activities of the organization include a daily radio broadcast by its president, Jim Daly, and his colleagues, providing free resources according to Focus on the Family views, and publishing magazines, videos, and audio recordings. The organization also produces programs for targeted audiences, such as Adventures in Odyssey for children, dramas, and Family Minute.
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. 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.
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.
In February 2009, Dobson resigned his chairmanship, and by early 2010 he was no longer the public face of Focus on the Family, nor hosting the daily radio program.
Marriage and family
The primary ministry of Focus on the Family is to strengthen what it considers to be traditional marriages and families, based on an evangelical view of Biblical teachings. The group is strongly opposed to same-sex marriage. Their website offers online tracts on topics regarding marriage and parenting.
Love Won Out
Focus on the Family formed Love Won Out, an ex-gay ministry, in 1998 and sold it to Exodus International in 2009. (Exodus ceased activities in June 2013, issuing a statement which repudiated its aims and apologized for the harm their pursuit has caused to LGBT people.)
Wait No More
Focus on the Family's Wait No More ministry works with adoption agencies, church leaders and ministry partners to recruit families to adopt children from foster care. The program co-sponsors several adoption conferences throughout the country each year. Since November 2008, more than 1,700 families have started the adoption process through Wait No More.
In Colorado, the number of children waiting for adoption dropped from about 800 to 350, due in-part to the efforts of Wait No More. Focus on the Family's efforts to encourage adoption among Christian families is part of a larger effort by Evangelicals to, in their perception, live out what they see as the "biblical mandate" to help children. Focus on the Family supports laws to prevent couples from adopting who are cohabiting together outside of marriage as well as homosexual couples.
Option Ultrasound Program
Focus on the Family’s Option Ultrasound Program (OUP) provides grants to qualifying crisis pregnancy centers to cover 80 percent of the cost of an ultrasound machine or sonography training. As of February 2012, the program has provided 536 grants to centers in all 50 states and Bucharest, Romania. Focus on the Family began OUP in 2004 with the goal of convincing women not to have abortions. FOTF officials said that ultrasound services help a woman better understand her pregnancy and baby's development, creating an important "bonding opportunity" between "mother and unborn child".
The Option Ultrasound Program reported in 2012 that it has helped prevent more than 120,000 abortions since 2004. A study released in February 2012 shows that ultrasounds do not have a direct impact on an abortion decision. In 2011, FOTF President Jim Daly announced that while FOTF will continue to fight for the overturn of Roe v. Wade, in the meantime he would like to work with pro-choice groups like Planned Parenthood who state they want to make abortion "safe, legal and rare" towards the shared goal of making abortion less common. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) introduced a sonogram bill in 2011 and — citing Focus on the Family — told Congress that “78 percent of women who see and hear the fetal heartbeat choose life.” She was later corrected by Focus on the Family, which released a statement saying her data was not accurate.
Focus on The Family Radio Theatre is a series of audio dramas adapting classic literature, mystery mini-series and biographical productions, extending its reach to the mainstream as well as the Christian audience. The endeavor began through the efforts of former Adventures in Odyssey producers Dave Arnold and Paul McCusker, along with casting director Philip Glassborow based in England.
Radio Theatre began in 1996 with a 90-minute radio drama based on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, which was produced and aired as a broadcast special. The drama continued with historical biographies of Squanto ("The Legend of Squanto"), Jesus ("The Luke Reports") and Dietrich Bonhoeffer ("Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Freedom"). In 2003, Focus on the Family Radio Theater released an audio dramatization of C. S. Lewis' epic novel series The Chronicles of Narnia, with David Suchet providing the voice of Aslan, and over 100 English actors rounding out the cast. Lewis' stepson, Douglas Gresham, serves as host—sharing his personal stories at the beginning of each audio drama.
Radio Theatre also released an original miniseries, the Father Gilbert Mysteries, which tells of the spiritual mysteries encountered by Louis Gilbert, a cop-turned-Anglican-priest, who lives in Stonebridge, Sussex, and ministers to the people of the town from St. Mark's Church. Nine episodes have been produced in four volumes available on cassette and CD.
FOTF also produces a children's radio drama entitled Adventures in Odyssey. It began in 1987 as Family Portraits, starring John Avery Whittaker (aka "Whit"). It was renamed "Odyssey USA" in November 1987 and took on its present name, Adventures in Odyssey, in April 1988.
FOTF also produced a radio miniseries based on their videos, The Last Chance Detectives.
In 2009, FOTF's Radio Theatre produced an audio drama of C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, starring Andy Serkis (who played Gollum from the Lord of the Rings movies) as the voice of Screwtape. The audio drama was also accompanied by the release of www.screwtape.com, the only site authorized by the C.S. Lewis estate to represent The Screwtape Letters.
Boundless is Focus on the Family’s podcast for young adults in response to the increasing number of single adults in today’s society. The ministry’s web magazine, blog and podcast cover topics from navigating singleness, dating, relationships, popular culture and sex. Boundless promotes what they call a biblical model for marriage, including that men and women should adhere to distinct roles within marriage. Boundless also recommends online dating as one of the ways Christian singles can find a potential spouse.
Day of Dialogue
The Day of Dialogue is a student-led event which takes place April 16. Founders describe the goal of the event, created in opposition to the anti-bullying Day of Silence, as "encouraging honest and respectful conversation among students about God's design for sexuality." It was previously known as the Day of Truth and was founded by the Alliance Defense Fund in 2005.
National Day of Prayer
The National Day of Prayer Task Force is an American evangelical conservative Christian non-profit organization which organizes, coordinates, and presides over Evangelical Christian religious observances each year on the National Day of Prayer. The main office of the NDP Task Force is located at the headquarters of Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The website of the NDP Task Force states that "its business affairs are separate" from those of Focus on the Family, but also that "between 1990 and 1993, Focus on the Family did provide grants in support of the NDP Task Force" and that "Focus on the Family is compensated for services rendered." Shirley Dobson, wife of James Dobson, has been chairwoman of the NDP Task Force since 1991.
Focus on the Family has a number of additional ministries. Many are aimed at specific demographics including teenage boys and girls, children, college students, families, young adults, parents, while others are aimed at specific concerns, such as sexual problems, entertainment, and politics. Many have their own regular publications.
Political positions and activities
Focus on the Family's 501(c)(3) status prevents them from advocating any individual political candidate. In its radio broadcast, it often discusses political issues and current events, usually from a Christian conservative point of view. Dobson is among the Christian conservative leaders who met with and advised former President George W. Bush. Focus on the Family's magazine Citizen is exclusively devoted to politics. FOTF also has an affiliated group, Focus on the Family Action (a.k.a. Focus Action), though the two groups are legally separate. As a 501(c)(4) social welfare group, Focus Action has fewer political lobbying restrictions. FOTF's revenue in 2005 was USD $142 million, and that of FOTF Action was $14.7 million.
Focus on the Family supports teaching of what it considers to be traditional family values. It advocates school sponsored prayer and supports corporal punishment. It strongly opposes LGBT rights, abortion, pornography, gambling, and pre-marital and extramarital sexual activity. Focus on the Family also embraces and reflects the wider political agenda of its audience, for instance promoting a religiously-centered conception of American identity and the support of Israel.
Focus on the Family maintains a strong pro-life stand against abortion, and provides grant funding and medical training to assist crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs; also known as pregnancy resource centers) in obtaining ultrasound machines. The organization has been staunchly opposed to public funding for elective abortions. According to the organization, this funding, which has allowed CPCs to provide pregnant women with live sonogram images of the developing fetus, has led directly to the birth of over 1500 babies who would have otherwise been aborted.
Focus on the Family broadcasts an eponymous national talk radio program hosted by Dobson or his aides. The program has a range of themes, such as Christian-oriented assistance for victims of rape or child abuse; parenting difficulties; child adoption; husband/wife roles; family history and traditions; struggles with gambling, pornography, alcohol, and drugs. Listeners often respond to programs dealing with civic issues by contacting political leaders.
Focus on the Family has been a prominent supporter of intelligent design, publishing pro-intelligent design articles in its Citizen magazine and selling intelligent design videos on its website. Focus on the Family co-published the intelligent design videotape Unlocking the Mystery of Life with the Discovery Institute, hub of the intelligent design movement. Focus on the Family employee Mark Hartwig is also a fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, a connection which has helped to publicize intelligent design extensively; James Dobson often featured intelligent design proponents on his Focus on the Family radio program. Focus on the Family's Family.org is a significant online resource for intelligent design articles.
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